What may be the biggest game of 2015 is finally here with the launch of Fallout 4 this week. Set in Boston 200 years after a nuclear war, Bethesda’s latest open world action-RPG is the Fallout series’ fifth major instalment and along with touting a list of new features, the developer has teased gamers with details about the graphics technology in Fallout 4.

As expected, the game uses a modified version of the Creation Engine (first used for Skyrim in 2011), which now includes enhanced dynamic lighting thanks to a physically-based deferred renderer, allowing the developers to create natural reflections based on an object’s material.

The updated Creation Engine includes a range of other new graphics features, such as an updated materials system and new cloth simulations, as well as dynamic post-process techniques and upgrades to the virtual camera including depth of field.

Rendering technologies such as tiled deferred lighting, screen space reflections, bokeh depth of field, height fog, filmic tonemapping, dynamic dismemberment using hardware tessellation, gamma correct physically based shading have all been used.

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Fallout 4 also uses volumetric light effects from Nvidia, which creates a natural atmosphere in the game depending on the time of day and the weather. This effect uses hardware tessellation and although it was developed in partnership with Nvidia, Bethesda claims to have made it work great regardless of your platform.

Learning that Fallout 4 is a Nvidia GameWorks title was a little cringeworthy, but developer Bethesda has remained adamant that there is no funny business going on here and that the game is also well optimized for AMD hardware.

Therefore, we don’t expect the Fallout 4 launch to be anything like Assassin’s Creed Unity, Batman: Arkham Knight, Project CARS or The Witcher III: Wild Hunt (with HairWorks enabled). Fallout 4 should be more similar to GTA V, a game that is well optimized for a range of hardware thanks to collaborative efforts with Nvidia and AMD.

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Bethesda has also stressed that Fallout 4 on PC won’t be held back by the console versions, i.e. there’s no frame rate cap and you can look forward to superior graphics.

Many eager PC gamers are undoubtedly waiting to see how the game looks and performs so we’ve put together our usual performance analysis to give you an idea of how Fallout 4 should play on your system...

Testing Methodology

Our test rig was outfitted with an Intel Core i7-6700K to remove CPU bottlenecks that could influence high-end GPU scores.

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Using Fraps we recorded 120 seconds of gameplay starting at the gas station where you meet your new best friend “Dogmeat”. We then walk down the road to the town of “Concord” where we did a lap of the town and ran through a skirmish with a few raiders, which is where the frame rate often fell to its lowest value.

Fallout 4 was tested at three resolutions: 1920x1080, 2560x1440 and 3840x2160 using the ultra quality preset. This means TAA was the anti-aliasing method used and anisotropic filtering was set to x16. “Bokeh” depth of field was used and ambient occlusion was set to SSAO (high). Additional rendering features such as screen space reflections, wetness, rain occlusion, motion blur and lens flare were also enabled.

Test System Specs

Benchmarks: 1080p

At 1080p we find that Fallout 4 in all of its ultra-quality glory isn’t that dependent on the GPU. Mid-range cards of years ago are able to deliver playable performance, albeit just. For instance, HD 7870 spat out 43fps and never dipped below 34fps while the old GTX 660 Ti was even more impressive with an average of 49fps and a minimum of 38fps.

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The modern budget graphics cards such as the GTX 950 provided very playable performance with an average of 51fps. The mid-range contenders such as the GTX 960 and R9 380 offered solid performance as well, though the GTX 960 was noticeably faster with an average of 63fps opposed to 55fps.

Benchmarks: 1440p

At 1440p we find that much of the field struggles to keep the minimum frame rate above 30fps and failing to do so results in very choppy performance. The HD 7970 GHz Edition and GTX 680 are borderline playable at this resolution. Ideally, 1440p calls for the GTX 780 or R9 290 — both delivered similar performance to that of the GTX 970 and R9 390.

Benchmarks: 2160p

Things get ugly at 4K — even the mighty GTX 980 Ti struggles to provide perfectly smooth gameplay. While some would argue that an average of 45fps and a minimum of 34fps is perfectly fine, we noticed plenty of input lag that made the game feel much worse than it does at say 60fps. As usual, we’d say 4K demands multi-GPU technology for acceptable performance.

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Steven Walton is a writer at TechSpot. TechSpot is a computer technology publication serving PC enthusiasts, gamers and IT pros since 1998.