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The Crew Performance – Frame Caps Suck!

Want to know how not to build a good cross-platform title that's worth testing? The Crew from Ubisoft is a good answer. I'm not sure if I should blame Ubisoft or Ivory Tower, but someone in the product management side of the equation needs to have their butt kicked. Why the negativity? Simple: frame rate caps are stupid and lazy, and what's more they can artificially limit the game in question, particularly on the PC platform. It's one thing to try to target 30 or 60 FPS on a console game, as everyone will presumably connect the console to an HDTV, but PCs have a lot of other options... like for example a 2560x1440 G-SYNC display that can refresh at up to 144Hz; run The Crew on that bad boy and you're going to lock in at 60 FPS, just like everyone else. In a word, it's stupid. It also makes a game pretty useless as a benchmark, but since I have a copy of The Crew I wanted to at least play around with some testing....

The Crew - Performance and Analysis

I'm not going to spend too much more time going over the details of The Crew, as the combination of a 60 FPS frame rate cap combined with pretty mediocre gameplay (Metacritic lists it at 71% composite score, which is nothing special) means this isn't a really important title. If you've played any of the Need for Speed games you've arguably already played better than this -- and without a frame rate cap. Still, maybe those who like multiplayer racing will find this to be more interesting. The game itself uses the Babel engine, developed by Ivory Tower, and Ivory Tower has some racing game veterans that have worked on games like Need for Speed, Test Drive, and V-Rally in their house. Color me surprised.... Anyway, let's see how much GPU is required to hit the 60 FPS mark. (Also, I put all the minimum frame rates at 60 once the average was at 60, just to avoid splitting hairs -- there are technically plenty of frames that still render at 45-55 FPS, if you're wondering).


So here's the good news: none of our test configurations can hit 60 FPS at 4K Ultra settings! The bad news is that four of our rigs already max out the frame rate at 2560x1440 Ultra. If you have two Radeon R9 GPUs -- it doesn't matter if they're the R9 280, 280X, 285, 290, or 290X -- you're going to hit 60 FPS. Similarly, while I only have one SLI setup (GTX 970), it's pretty obvious that SLI GTX 780 and above will also hit the 60 FPS limit. For that matter, even a GeForce GTX 980 comes very close to 60 FPS with just a single GPU, and considering the frame cap the average would be above 60 if the maximum frame rate were allowed to scale higher.
So why would Ivory Tower have used a frame rate cap in the first place? Probably the most likely answer is that it was simply easier than trying to have the online component and network code deal with potentially unlimited frame rates. The thing is, tons of other games manage to have physics and network code work at higher frame rates, so that's basically a weak excuse. More likely is that this game was made for consoles first, and as such targeting 30 FPS seemed like a good idea. When it came time for the PC version, no one had the guts to stand up and say, "Hey, I think putting a frame rate cap on PCs is a bad idea -- we should fix this!" Part of the reason for that is timing; The Crew was a victim of the yearly holiday rush, and Ubisoft proved this past season that getting titles on shelves was more important than getting a fully baked game out the door. Besides The Crew, Ubisoft also released rather questionable "beta" level versions of Assassin's Creed: Unity and Far Cry 4 end up on store shelves just prior to Christmas. I've got early benchmarks for both games (as well as updated benchmarks in the works), and let's just say that the releases from Ubisoft in Q4'2014 were more than a little suspect.
TheCrew IQ1 (1) Ultra TheCrew IQ1 (2) High TheCrew IQ1 (3) Medium TheCrew IQ1 (4) LowTheCrew IQ2 (1) Ultra TheCrew IQ2 (2) High TheCrew IQ2 (3) Medium TheCrew IQ2 (4) LowTheCrew IQ3 (1) Ultra TheCrew IQ3 (2) High TheCrew IQ3 (3) Medium TheCrew IQ3 (4) Low
Overall, it's not that The Crew is a bad game, but it does demonstrate the problem with short-sighted thinking on cross-platform games. You can have a reasonably fun time racing around the city, completing objectives and taking part in other competitions ranging from timed races to jumps and precision driving courses. The Crew also looks fairly decent, though I don't know if I would rate the graphics as being any better than some of the other options (e.g. GRID Autosport). The graphics quality also doesn't really scale much; other than a clear lack of shadows and a loss of some geometric detail at the Low and Medium settings, you could run at High and never really notice that you're not maxed out on image quality -- not that there's much need to lower the quality a step with most GPUs, unless you're trying to run on a 4K display.
One final note is that I've been busy of late, with other work. However, I've got a bunch of benchmarks that I'm ready to upload, and I've also worked on some tools to help me with getting scores into the database. If you check the system benchmarks, we're now up to 25 or so games tested (and a couple were tested more than once), which means the overall average performance delivered by each GPU is really starting to be meaningful. I still need to work on some other projects, but I should have a post for a new game pretty much every day this week if you can believe it. We'll see if that ends up being worth my time or not, but if you want this site to continue, at least consider going shopping at Amazon for me? Thanks!

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