Nathan Drake is the latest PlayStation star to join the migration of Sony’s catalog to PC. The Legacy of Thieves collection, which launched on PS5 last year with enhanced versions of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and its expansion, The Lost Legacy, arrives this week on PC.
With many at Sony’s internal porting studio, Nixxes, otherwise engaged, the honours here fell upon Iron Galaxy, which has also made a name for itself as a proficient porting studio. The task was to take the roots of the older Naughty Dog engine used on the PS5 remasters and port them over to PC running under the DirectX12 API. It’s a considerable challenge, given the varied nature of the PC platform being the polar opposite to the bespoke nature of the engine designed for PlayStation hardware directly.
Shaders of the Lost Ark
One big hurdle for developers in the PC space with DirectX12 is that of shaders, and more specifically shader compilation. These chunky GPU code routines are required on a platform-by-platform basis with consoles and even fixed hardware such as the Steam Deck. But on PC, you will require all or some bespoke shaders to be compiled, depending on the generation, make, and model of your GPU. These may be as simple as drawing the UI for 3D objects when you click the stick, to rendering in an explosion with GPU particles and more.
As such, the team has taken an Async approach, just as we saw in Horizon Zero Dawn and Spider-Man. Essentially, they create these across one or more CPU threads as soon as you load into the game and during play. The aim here is to create all the required GPU shaders for every possible area of the game, store them in a local cache on your hard drive, and call them when needed. Due to this cost, you will need a fast CPU to enable the game to play without too much hitching as these are built – something you can easily check in the game menu. Once these shaders are created, you should have a mostly smooth experience unless you update your GPU driver. I did note a few stutters from time to time, but I applaud the way the team has done this as it maximises the hardware whilst enabling you to dive into the game straight away.
Unearthing the Treasures
Both games in the collection are based on the PS5 remasters from last year, meaning unlocked framerates, 4K resolutions, faster input times, and multiple modes on consoles. On PC this means a selection of graphical options, higher than 4K resolution, ultrawide aspect ratios, and access to either AMD’s FSR 2.0 or Nvidia DLSS in addition to the games’ own TAA solution.
The benefits over the PS5 version include a small boost in shadows that resolves one of the weaker aspects of the PS4 and PS5 version, offering a higher resolution map with a softer feathered edge to them. It’s certainly not a huge boost, but can clean up some shadow aliasing in certain scenes, and can come at a medium impact to performance depending on your hardware. It can also boost the level of detail for foliage and geometry over PS4 and PS4 Pro, bringing it close to the PS5 upgrade, but not always, although I suspect this is a bug.
In many sections you can notice a small boost to bushes, shrubs and other distant foliage. This lines up exactly with the PS5, as does the small bump in medium to far geometric construction, meaning that some rocks or trees sport a higher polygon count. The problem on PC is this is not always present, with some sections on PC’s best showing a shorter LoD level coming in lower than the PS5. I suspect this is also a bug as other scenes are a direct match.
The overall Ultra settings align exactly with PS5, aside from shadows which match High, meaning Ultra can see a 2 to 5% performance impact over High depending on the shadow map requirements per scene. In addition, another omission on PC – or another bug most likely – is that per-object and camera blur is not enabled, leaving the PC without the motion blur effect, which would also sport a couple of % impact to performance. This is more easily noticed in action over the LoD, so hopefully the team gets a patch out soon to get this working.
Here’s the main differences between graphics settings on PC, and how they compare to the PS5 version:
- Texture filtering lines almost exactly to High.
- Ambient Occlusion is closest to Ultra, with the High setting not standing out as very different.
- Reflections are also practically identical between High and Ultra with around a 1% performance cost, but noted as High on PS5 to be sure.The biggest gap comes from the Low setting which turns off all screen space reflections completely, offering the biggest boost of around 8%. It must be noted the game does allow SSR to be on or off on a per-surface/material basis, with many pools of water only using cubemaps reflections even on Ultra.
- Textures unsurprisingly match Ultra on PlayStation 5. These are the same as High, other than it allocates higher mipmaps in VRAM so the higher quality is used further away. Be aware that on an 8GB card, such as my RTX 2070, you will run over the limit when resolution is above 1440p.
Final Settings to PS5:
- Textures – Ultra
- Model Quality – Above Enhanced
- Shadows – High
- Ambient Occlusion – High(Ultra)
- Reflections – High
- Anisotropic Filtering – High
- Note: A disparity of the current PC build means Level of Detail is lower than PC Maximum and Per Object Motion Blur does not currently work.
Performing On the Job
When it comes to performance, the PC can break free of the 120fps maximum of the PS5 if your hardware is powerful enough. For my tests, I have set everything to High, which gives the PC a potential performance gain of 2-13% with the caveat that the MB and LoD differences on PS5 round out the shadow boosts. The PS5 has 3 modes that all track to a fixed resolution: Fidelity is native 4K, Performance offers 1440p and Performance+ is fixed to 1080p. If you have a VRR screen, then you can unlock both Fidelity and Performance to 60 or 120fps as a maximum and it is these modes we will compare to the PC.
Starting with the native 4K Fidelity mode, the PC is some 37% behind the PS5 in the RT cinematic. These fluctuate over the section, meaning the PS5 can be 9 to 15fps higher framerate than my PC’s RTX 2070. Due to the low CPU demands and high GPU ones, we are nowhere near CPU limits here meaning at these high settings at 4K we are 100% GPU bound on both. Covering a wide-open drive and then the action-packed raiders homage action sequence, the RTX 2070 comes in with an average fps of 35.2 versus a 47.5 on the PS5, a 34% average advantage in favor of the PS5. With my AMD RX 6800 at Ultra settings, we can get close to a locked 60fps at 4K. It can dip below at some points into the 50s, but with FreeSync enabled it would be all but invisible without this kind of frame rate test. That comes out to an improvement of approximately 24% over the PS5 at 4K ultra settings.
The 1440p mode does not change any of the settings, but the resolution drops by 55% compared to that 4K fidelity mode, meaning we edge closer to being CPU rather than GPU bound. The API and driver cost of PCs is significantly higher than on PS4 and PS5 and we can see this with the CPU demands. Even with a 6 core/12 thread Zen 3 5600x at 4.6GHz we can become limited by the CPU even at 1440p on the RX 6800. This is not always the case, and the dips can come at sector points or sometimes without any real discernible cause for them. We see this on the PS5 120fps 1080p mode also, with certain areas dipping into the 90s when travelling, which suggests that the engine still relies on the CPU for some of its data streaming work. This translates to a far more powerful CPU also being bottlenecked at the same points.
The Lost Legacy in Fidelity mode on PS5 can hit 60fps in rare points, but this game is more demanding than Uncharted 4 at points, and we can see this mode dip into the high 30s in brief heavy moments. As such the RX 6800 is still approximately 25% faster than the PS5 in like for like sections, and the PS5 is approximately 30% faster than the RTX 2070. The boost for PC comes in FSR2.0 or DLSS 2.0, which can help solve the GPU limits. Be aware though that quality mode in DLSS runs at 1440p, but is more demanding on the GPU than just running at 1440p. It does offer a small increase in fidelity, but still presents some ghosting artifacts on particle effects not present without. As such, I recommend the balanced setting if you are running around this level of GPU, as it can close up that 30% gap, albeit at a lower resolution and image quality, but worth the impact to gain the performance.
I would recommend that most set the game to High on all areas and then use DLSS or FSR to gain the best balance of 60 or 120fps if you have the CPU and GPU to hit that. The small visual gains made in Ultra, aside from shadows, are practically invisible, and this includes the extra foliage and geometry the PS5 version sports. Still, the engine scales exceptionally well across various hardware specifications, including the Steam Deck, but that obviously requires some bigger cuts to gain a smooth 30fps level.
The Uncharted games have been a diamond for the PlayStation platform, and nothing has dulled their shine on PC. Despite lacking a level of tweaking we are accustomed to on PC, the port here is accomplished and still offers enough choice to personalize the game to your needs. The boost to framerates, resolutions and shadows can vary in how much they matter, but the choice is good. As are the ultrawide display options being right in the menu, and full FSR 2 and DLSS 2 support to help you gain more from your GPU. But they are predominantly the same as last year’s PS5 version, and in most regards they are both not a huge leap over the 6 and 5 year old PS4 Pro versions. The CPU demands to get and exceed 120fps may be higher than you expect, and without a very high level CPU and GPU, a locked 120fps even at 1080 was not always possible, at least with the current build. That said, you can run the game at 160+ fps and even 8K if you have the required hardware. Some minor bugs do remain, but hopefully Iron Galaxy has patches due soon that will resolve the ones I noted here and to the team during my review.