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Ghost of Tsushima on PC delivers impressive upgrades over PS5

Four years after its initial PS4 release, Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima arrives on PC, ported by Nixxes Software. Initial impressions of the port were favourable, but having now spent around a week with the game we’re able to give you a much more nuanced appraisal of the conversion, suggest some optimised settings and offer up those all-important PS5 comparisons.

This may be a new engine for Nixxes to deal with, but the overall framework of the game has much in common with its prior ports – which is generally a very positive thing. It means you get a settings menu that lets you tweak as you like, your changes reflected in the background in real-time – no restarts required! And as usual for Nixxes, there’s support for dynamic resolution scaling and all major upscaling technologies, along with both FSR 3 and DLSS 3 frame generation (though the new FSR 3.1 spatial upscaling upgrades are not included). Nixxes has also liberated FSR 3 frame-gen from requiring FSR 2 spatial upscaling, which is a welcome change.

In terms of the quality of the upscalers, we see the usual hierarchy, though DLSS has some issues in this title with depth of field effects, with some off-putting jitter. This manifests itself with XeSS but to a lesser extent, while it’s not a problem at all with FSR. It would be nice to see this remedied in due course.

Ghost of Tsushima on PC – the Digital Foundry tech review.Watch on YouTube

In terms of fluidity and smoothness, I’ve got good news and bad news. On the plus side, there’s no shader compilation stutter, but even so, the smoothness of the presentation is compromised with a curious camera issue that sees the movement update out of step with the frame-rate. I find it distracting using v-sync and the game does not look smooth to my eye. This does not happen on the PS5 version as far as I can tell and it gives Ghost of Tsushima PC a less stable appearance. I hope that can be looked at for future patches.

Also problematic is how Ghost of Tsushima can saturate PCI Express bandwidth – the crucial interface between system and GPU. Basically, the higher your bandwidth is, the more stable your frame-times are. PCI Express 3.0 at 8x has very poor frame-time performance compared to 16x. So, if you have a modern GPU that only operates with eight lanes, and you’re using an old board with only PCIe 3.0 support, you may have issues. However, even PCI 3.0 at 16x – tested on an RTX 3070 – has issues. This is a pattern noted by other users and seems to apply to Nixxes PlayStation ports and I do think it needs addressing.

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Another improvement Nixxes needs to look at is performance with a memory-constrained graphics card. If you have an 8GB GPU with display and texture resolution set too high, you’ll get sporadically worse performance that would be hard for a user to troubleshoot. At the very least, I’d recommend that Nixxes implement a VRAM meter within the settings to inform the user of what’s going on, or simply handle VRAM more intelligently. For example, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora doesn’t even have a texture setting. The game itself handles mip streaming quality, utilising DX12 tiled resources in an automated way, based on available GPU memory. This minimally degrades textures if it needs to and never allows the user to tank their performance or frame-times.


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In terms of PC vs PS5 comparisons, the most obvious differences are in image quality and frame-rate. Cutscenes on PS5 are locked at 30fps and can run at any frame-rate on PC, dramatically increasing their smoothness at 60fps and above. Not all elements of the game have been upgraded to run at arbitrary frame-rates though, as a number of particle effects awkwardly animate with low frame-rates like the dust along the ground or other distant particle effects and this can sometimes give the game an awkward look.

Image quality is also a lot better since the PS5 version has a TAA-style ghosting effect that PC does not. However, the biggest IQ win comes from PC’s access to more modern upscaling solutions compared to the PS5’s checkerboard rendering. Nvidia DLSS and even DLSS performance mode offers a substantial improvement – quite the thing bearing in mind the latter uses half the native pixel-count of the checkerboard solution.

Unlike Horizon Forbidden West, Ghost of Tsushima upgrades other aspects of the presentation in meaningful ways. One of the biggest is in foliage LOD, where on PS5, foliage draws pretty close to the camera so you can see barren hills in the distance. PC pushes that out much much further, even at just the high setting, preventing pop-in. Based on the comparison to PC settings, the PS5 version has distance draw that’s lower than PC’s medium, but density similar to the high setting for the close tufts of grass. On PC this setting for foliage draw is annoyingly handled by a generic LOD setting, which also affects opaque geometry LOD as well. Those elements see PS5 look much like PC’s high. I’d love to see Nixxes split out foliage from the existing LOD setting.

PS5 ‘Higher Res’ Settings PC Optimised (60fps Target)
Texture Quality High/Very High High (8GB GPUs until 1440p+)
Texture Filtering 4x Anisotropic 16x Anisotropic
Shadow Quality High High
Level of Detail High (lower than medium foliage) High
Terrain Quality High High
Volumetric Fog High High
Depth of Field High High
Screen-Space Reflections High High
Screen-Space Shadows High High
Ambient Occlusion SSAO Quality SSAO Quality

Another more obvious upgrade over the PS5 verison is in shadow quality. Console shadows turn quite mushy close to the camera with an obvious shadow map cascade, but you can push that up higher on PC. I’d say that PS5 is equal to the PC’s high shadows setting, with very high and ultra above that. For mid-spec GPUs I recommend the high setting in general to keep VRAM in check and to save performance where possible. Screen-space reflections are also upgraded on PC, with PS5 equivalent to the high setting, which looks just fine. I just wish ray traced reflections were available to eliminate the standard SSR issues.

After these more obvious upgrades, the visual improvements on PC become harder to spot. For example, screen-space shadows on the very high setting have a more complete penumbra effect to them, where the high setting (equivalent to PS5) resolves them in a more dithered way. It’s not a huge difference, though it does cost a tiny bit to use the very high setting on PC for that more minimal return, so I recommend high instead. It’s the same story with volumetric quality, where PS5 looks like the high setting. You can scale beyond that, but the visual return is not that impressive.

One area that did not see a great upgrade over PS5 is in texture quality – here the PS5 resolves the same texture quality as high or very high, which appear identical in the views I have found. This is a shame, as the texture quality is probably the game’s weakest aspect next to the indirect lighting, where many game textures are blurry, especially those used for terrain. Another issue is that on PC, the anisotropic filtering setting does not seem to meaningfully affect terrain texture quality at a distance – even when maxed out at 16x at 4K. Either it’s not working, or something else is afoot.

Digital Foundry’s original PS5 review for Ghost of Tsushima: Director’s Cut.Watch on YouTube

Another dubious upgrade comes with ambient occlusion – like other Nixxes ports, other AO options are available, but the game’s art does not seem designed around them as they more conservatively apply AO to the environment. For that reason, I can’t recommend using XeGTAO or HBAO+ as they have a cost over the quality SSAO option that PS5 uses, and don’t deliver a quality boost beyond less aliasing. Again, RT could have helped immensely here.

With all these optimisations working, we can see some grand performance wins in certain scenarios – anything up to 33 percent in our tests vs out-of-the-box ultra settings. This can be improved further by using DRS or DLSS which I definitely recommend for older and slower GPUs.

In summary, I think we are looking at a generally competent port of this game on PC. I am particularly fond of how it has meaningful graphical upgrades in key areas of the graphics like foliage LOD, which was definitely lacking on PS5. The elimination of checkerboard rendering in favour of more modern reconstruction techniques is huge. Otherwise, it has a lot of the Nixxes hallmarks that generally deliver a quality experience. That said, this is the studio’s fifth PC port since the acquisition and maybe it’s time for some more general improvements – a VRAM counter, or better yet an automated system, along with a solution for the PCI Express bandwidth issues I’ve highlighted. I do feel that this is a GPU-heavy game at ultra settings bearing in mind the visual return, though I imagine most will be happy on the high preset or at the very-similar optimised settings alternative.

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