So, with all the noise about some games being buggy on launch and horribly hard on even the best hardware available, how’s about tainting your Monday with some news that two of this year’s biggest hitters do not properly support dual-core processors? Eh, eh? I bet you’re confused now, but so are a lot of other gamers who bought the games for their systems, only to learn that things weren’t exactly working as they should be. This affects Far Cry 4 and Dragon Age: Inquisition, so follow me after the jump to see what the hell’s going on here.
The news comes off the back of a report by PCWorld that people on Reddit and Ubisoft’s forums were reporting that in their testing of Far Cry 4, they weren’t able to launch the game on any dual-core system for both Intel and AMD hardware. This led to some people calling it a hoax and further investigation revealed that the minimum requirement for Far Cry 4 to have a Core i5-750 was actually legitimate – the game really does need more than two cores to function.
One thread in the /r/PCGaming subreddit revealed that a lot of people noticed an abnormal load on the third core for their quad-core processors. There’s no telling what the game is actually doing with that third core, but it’s being utilised for a reason, and rather heavily at that. Running the game on a system made to mimic a dual-core processor would result in a black screen and a system freeze. Rebooting into the BIOS and enabling just one extra core allowed everything to function normally.
Its a similar case for Dragon Age: Inquisition, although its a more interesting issue because it is powered by the Frostbite 3.0 engine, which also powers games like Need for Speed: Rivals and Battlefield 4, both games which have handled dual-core processors fine so far. Numerous gamers on the EA forums report that Inquisition fails to launch on their dual-core systems and some have reported that reverting to an older version of the Intel HD Graphics driver fixes their problem, although it only works for Ivy Bridge and Haswell-based systems.
Now, the question is why weren’t people made aware of this?
For at least a decade now, minimum system requirements implied that developers only recommended particular sets of hardware to give gamers playable performance. The idea was that if a Core 2 Quad Q6600 was the lowest requirement for a game, a modern-day Pentium G3220 would be plenty powerful because it is the better performer overall. There’s never been a precedent of a game that only launches on systems with a quad-core processor. There has been previous incidences of games only launching on systems that meet minimum memory requirements like Call of Duty: Ghosts or Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs which both demanded 6GB of RAM.
But, you know, memory upgrades aren’t a difficult thing to accommodate. Ghosts even had it’s requirement lowered to 4GB to accommodate gamers who only used their computers for gaming and nothing else. Still, it was a sign that the goalposts of what is considered a “minimum hardware requirement” was changing. There were also reports that Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare was having trouble launching on systems with dual-core processors, but this was quickly patched out by Sledgehammer Games.
This change must have been communicated to reviewers and not the general public because there haven’t been many websites complaining about this in their performance testing. Techspot’s benchmarking tests for Far Cry 4 and Dragon Age: Inquisition both start with the quad-core AMD FX-4100, so they knew. Why didn’t anybody else?
This changes things somewhat for budget gamers
If this is going to become a permanent change to the way games are developed for the PC, I can no longer recommend dual-core processors even for budget rigs. Both AMD and Intel’s low-cost processors start with dual-core offerings. Intel’s most popular budget processor, the Pentium G3258, now no longer commands a spot in my recommendations list because two big games this year won’t run on it.
Sure, it’ll run on a lot of other things, but now Ubisoft and EA have crossed the line. We can’t go back now, just like we couldn’t go back when Crytek launched Crysis and proceeded to dominate benchmarking for five years as well as driving new hardware sales to allow gamers to play it with the highest settings possible (an ambitious plan, even with lots of money for 2007-era hardware). Even in 2014, it’s still a strain on mid-range hardware and the Crysis series continues to be used in benchmarks for multiple websites.
From now on, if you’re building a budget rig, you’ll have to aim for a processor that at least identifies itself to the game as a quad-core CPU. That puts Intel’s Core i3 and quad-core Bay Trail families on the table, as well as AMD’s A8, A10 and FX-4xxx processors. Dual-core chips will still have their place in the world, but you can no longer skimp on the CPU and maintain playability in all games because, suddenly, not all games will run on a dual-core.