My colleagues have been playing Stray on PS5 and by all accounts it has been an absolute joy. I, however, have been playing on PC, where things aren’t quite as rosy.
It’s not a disaster; even on my middling PC I can run it perfectly at 4K and 60FPS, which is always appreciated, and of course it looks amazing most of the time, but throughout the game I’m being hit with instances of annoying little stutters that aren’t bad enough to torpedo the experience, but are just bad enough to remain a thorn in my side.
As always happens with PC performance woes I was wondering whether that was just me or if the problem was more widespread. Turns out it’s very widespread. Like, it’s affecting pretty much everyone.
The culprit, as Digital Foundry explain below, is a familiar one for PC gamers: it’s Unreal Engine 4's shader compilation, an issue that feels like it is increasingly plaguing every game that is developed on the engine these days. On consoles, which are pre-built and standard across the board, developers are able to precompile a game’s shaders, meaning anyone playing the game on PS5 won’t suffer from this.
But because every PC is different, developers are never afforded that luxury on the platform (with some rare exceptions, like the recent Horizon port), and so most games are forced to compile shaders on the fly.
The result is a constant stream of micro-stutters, which over the course of hours of gameplay can start to get kinda annoying! The video below (which provides some examples) goes into a lot of detail about this, and I’ve set it to autoplay at the part about PC performance, but if you want to see how the PS4 and PS5 editions fared, you can can see them earlier on as well.