Date: Sunday , February 12, 2017
Fallout 4, developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks was released on November 10th 2015 to PC gamers everywhere. When the game was released we were immediately on its trail and provided a Performance and Image Quality Preview of the game. You can check out that evaluation to learn about the graphics features supported in the game.
Do to the immense popularity of this game we set about to explore the modding nature of this game in our very thorough and detail oriented Modding Fallout 4 for Image Quality & Immersive Gameplay evaluation. We have long been proponents of improving this game in any way possible, via mods or official game patches or DLC to improve the gameplay experience. There is no question the modding power of this game is what has made it, and will continue to make it, stand the test of time.
We have been using this game since its launch in our video card evaluations. In the last few months we have beefed up our own run-throughs by having spent time to create custom settlements (using no mods, just default objects and textures) to create more GPU challenging situations to test in. Our new run-through path in this game takes us through several different custom made settlements. In that vein, these settlements use both Workshop DLC and Vault DLC textures along with the base game textures. For the topic we are exploring today, it makes for an excellent test with what we have to talk about that has just been released to the game officially from Bethesda in DLC form.
Bethesda has released an official High Resolution Texture Pack DLC for free for this game. Keyword here is "free," you do not need to purchase this DLC, you do not need to have the Season Pass, all you need is to own the base game.
The catch? The only catch is that this particular High Resolution Texture Pack DLC is a 58 GB download. For some with data caps, this could be an issue. The other issue is of course hard drive space. Thankfully this texture pack is of course optional, so if you are able to download it easily and have the hard drive space, then why not?
The other thing to consider are the quoted specs above. You will see this High Resolution Texture Pack "Requires" Intel Core i7-5820K or better, 8GB of RAM and a GTX 1080 with 8GB of VRAM. Naturally, this isn’t exactly true, this is more "recommended" than required. It will work on lower specs and other video cards. Our goal today in this evaluation is to see how it performs and if there actually are performance differences with and without it. We will also look at VRAM utilization and image quality.
How can you tell if the High Resolution Texture Pack is installed? First is to see that it is check-marked in the Fallout 4 DLC properties tab. Second, you can check the size of your Fallout 4 directory in STEAM. Before installing the High Resolution Texture Pack our base game install was 25GB, after installing the High Res Texture Pack it is now 83.5GB. Finally you can open the "Data" folder inside your Fallout 4 install directory and look for the "DLCUltraHighResolution" texture files and ".ESM" file. If those are there, then you have the textures installed.
You will actually find that no changes to your Fallout 4 graphics options are present or changed. The highest level of Texture Quality with or without the texture pack is "Ultra." That said, definitely make sure you have it on "Ultra" if you want those textures to display.
Finally, along with this texture pack update you need to make sure you are using the latest game patch. The game was just updated to 220.127.116.11.0, you must make sure it updates for the texture pack to work.
While testing we found a few quirks we want you to keep in mind if you are trying to find differences between the default textures and the High Resolution Textures in this game. The first one is obvious, make doubly sure the High Resolution Textures are installed. We’ve seen people in our forums with issues trying to get this installed and knowing if it is installed truly or not. Use the suggestions we posted above for that.
If you are wanting to compare the game’s default textures with the High Resolution Textures we suggest first taking all your screenshots before installing the High Resolution Texture Pack. We have heard from others on our forum that simply "Un-Checking" High Resolution Texture Pack will not fully disable the High Resolution Textures. You will need to go as far as to manually delete the "DLCUltraHighResolution.ESM" file itself to ensure this. If you are un-checking the High Resolution Textures and thinking you are now viewing just the default textures, you may not actually be doing so. This could create people posting screenshots that aren’t depicting what is true.
What we did for our testing is to install the game fresh on another hard drive and not even install the High Resolution Texture Pack at first. First we took all our screenshots without the texture pack even installed to make sure no remnants got in its way. Then we installed the texture pack and took new screenshots, this worked perfectly.
We found that when loading a game from our saved game lists it took up to 10 seconds most of the time to load in all of the texture detail and the level of detail and meshes to set correctly. In some cases we had loads as long as 15 seconds just sitting there waiting for the textures to "catch up."
What this means is that you cannot snap your screenshot immediately upon loading your saved game, you will only be capturing the default game texture. Wait 10+ seconds, then snap your screenshot so that the right textures are all loaded in. This is on an SSD mind you, so it could take even longer on a spinning disk. This seems to be directly related to hard drive loads.
Finally, the idea of High Resolution Textures is that it improves texture detail up-close. If you are looking at or snapping screenshots of textures far away, or with great landscape view distances you aren’t going to see much of a difference. However, if you look up-close at textures at the detail and clarity and quality you will find this is where the changes take place the most. Therefore, the distance to the object or texture makes a big difference on how much of a difference you actually notice.
Keep all these things in mind as you test the texture quality yourself and you should be successful. We have a feeling most people out there who have compared image quality in this game already might not have taken these things into account. If not, they might be representing false comparisons.