Darksiders II And Sleeping Dogs: A Tale Of Two Very Different PC Ports

I played two PC ports of two big, exciting new games this week. One of them worked. One of them didn't. The two big games in question were Square Enix and United Front's Hong Kong crime game Sleeping Dogs and THQ and Vigil's comic-booky fantasy game Darksiders II.

Both games came out on Tuesday, both were released on Xbox 360, PS3 and, in an increasingly uncommon but welcome move, simultaneously on PC (hooray!). But while Sleeping Dogs has a robust, customisable PC version, Darksiders II's PC port has more than its share of problems.

Let's start with the good. Sleeping Dogs is, as Tina raved in her review of the Xbox 360 version, a darned cool game. I've played four or five hours, and I'm enjoying myself quite a bit. I like the story, I like the characters, and I like busting heads and breaking legs in nightclubs.

While Sleeping Dogs isn't a graphical powerhouse like The Witcher 2 or Crysis 2, it's still a darned good-looking game. Its Hong Kong setting is colourful and sprawling, and it's the first time in a good long while that a game has given me that wonderful sense of disoriented tourism that the best open-world games can inspire.

I run a middle-of-the-road gaming PC these days, an i5 with 8GB of RAM centered around an AMD Radeon 6870 graphics card. I run Sleeping Dogs somewhere between its middle and high settings, and have got it dialled in to a near-perfect setting.

Sleeping Dogs hums along at a solid 60 frames per second, with its HD resolution and long draw-distance bringing Hong Kong to bright, colourful life on my PC. I haven't had time to put together a side-by-side comparison of how the PC version stacks up to consoles, but the friendly folks at Revision3 have made a video (off to the side here) that about sums it up. Everything on PC — the colours, the framerate, the textures (if you use the PC-exclusive HD texture pack), and the DirectX 11 features to enhance the shadows and anti-aliasing, make the game look and run well on PC. Best of all, it's got a built-in benchmark tool that lets you know how the game is handling your settings without your having to go in and see for yourself.

In fact, I used the word "port" in the headline here, but that word raises the ire of many PC gamers — a "port" is thought to be a shoddy rip of a console game straight to PC, with little thought to the extra horsepower and customisation options afforded by modern DirectX 11 PCs. Sleeping Dogs would be more accurately called a PC version of the game. It's not without its bugs and weirdnessness — one time, adjusting the graphics caused my characters to "fall into the world" and tumble unendingly until I restarted the game — but by and large, Sleeping Dogs runs smoothly and looks great.

Darksiders II, however, is resolutely a port. And unfortunately, it's not a very good one.

I'll start out by saying that I actually don't mind straight-up PC ports of console games. I play most of those kinds of games with a plugged in Xbox controller, and I frequently play them on my big TV. Really, I like when a PC game feels like a console game played in true 1080p. Arkham Asylum on PC, for example, ran so smoothly and cleanly that it almost felt like a different thing than its console sibling, even though it was basically a direct port of the game.

So, I was ready for Darksiders II to be a port, but when I booted it up, I was surprised at just how bare-bones the PC version was. (Really, things didn't get off to a good start when the game made me create an account and sign into THQ's proprietary gaming network, blerg, but that's a story for another day.) The in-game menus are essentially indistinguishable from an Xbox 360 game — I couldn't even get into the settings until I'd played through the opening cinematic, and when I did, I was surprised at what I found. No detail settings, not even a high-medium-low graphics dial. Just one setting for screen resolution and a checkbox for v-sync.

I'd seen a lot of screen-tearing in the intro cinematic, so I thought "Well, better turn on v-sync." So I did. I also bumped the resolution up to 1920x1080, since it had defaulted to something much lower. The settings menu stated that I'd need to quit the game and restart it for the changes to take effect (grumble), so I did that, and before long was back in the introductory segment. Despite the fact that I'd turned on v-sync, at 1080p screen tearing had become rampant.

Huh.

I went into the settings again and checked the v-sync box. Yup, it was checked. Double-huh. It would appear that the v-sync option in Darksiders II does not work, at least for me.

I started playing the game, but the tearing was so intense that I couldn't get into it. Every time I'd pan the camera around my character's head, the screen would roll and clip onto itself, a spastic dance of graphical jitters that were distracting and disorienting.

Eventually, I found something of a solution — I bumped the resolution all the way down to 1280x720, where the tearing became much less noticeable. You might notice that's 720p, or, the same resolution at which most console games run. And even then, the tearing is minimised, but still present.

It's a shame that the only way to make the PC version of Darksiders II run OK on my machine is to effectively turn it into the Xbox 360 version. I don't ask for much in a PC port! But I do ask to be able to run the game in my monitor's native resolution without a fuss. Reader Andy Pavolillo wrote in with this involved but theoretically feasable workaround for the V-sync and stutter issues, but it requires an NVIDIA graphics card, so I haven't been able to try it. Regardless, that kind of involved solution shouldn't be necessary for something as basic as v-sync!

Some perusal of both the Steam forums and the official Darksiders II forums have turned up a lot of gamers having problems similar to mine — the nonfunctional v-sync option, in particular. Other PC owners, however, report that while the game may be lacking customisation options, it is at least running smoothly and without graphical issues. It sounds as though AMD cards have the v-sync problem while on some NVIDIA graphics cards, v-sync works as it should.

But the overarching vibe among PC gamers is one of discontent. Mouse and keyboard control customisation is lackluster, and perhaps even worse, the camera auto-centers on to Death (the protagonist)'s back. There's no "free-look" option when using a mouse, resulting in a vertiginous flying camera that players must fight in order to look around while moving.

A large part of the anger is that some PC gamers feel they were mislead — people working on the game had ensured PC owners that the .config file that would allow them to tinker and tweak the game to their liking would be available, but now that the game has launched, it's nowhere to be found. In a post to the game's official forums, community manager Matthew Everett (to his and Vigil/THQ's credit) apologized for giving gamers bad information:

During the Community Summit both Jay Fitzloff and I (Mathew Everett) were under the impression that full .config files and final keyboard/mouse and controller hookups were going to work as promised when the PC version of the game launched. That was the plan at the time from a specifications perspective.

Unfortunately, especially at the end of the development cycle, sometimes things change at the last minute, and this was one of them. This puts us in an uncomfortable spot as we were acting on the best information we had at the time, and it has turned out not to be in the final game (at this point).

Since it was always the intention to implement these features, as I type this, the development team is checking to see what items can get added into the game. While I can't promise what can be done, I can promise we are working with the proper teams and have expressed the importance of including them in a patch.

When I asked THQ about the problems with the PC version, a spokesperson told me that "Vigil is tracking these issues closely and is keeping their collective ear close to the forums." And to their credit, a first patch has already been released for the PC version, addressing a number of game-crashing bugs more serious than anything I've encountered.

This is all a real shame, since Darksiders II is a fun game. Most reviews, including Kate's review for Kotaku, report it to be a fun and generally successful mashup of Prince of Persia, Zelda and Diablo. Everything I've played so far backs that up. But even when reviewing the PlayStation 3 version, Kate advised that players not buy the game just yet, as a number of significant bugs detract enough that it'd be worth waiting until they get patched. I asked Kate about screen-tearing issues in the console version, and she said that the display was fine on her version — the bugs she ran into were mostly functional.

Of course, this tale of woe is nothing new for PC gamers — it's common for this sort of thing to happen. But the contrast between the two games feels like a great example of how to do a PC version right, and how to get it wrong. Furthermore, there's a chance that you'll get Darksiders II to run perfectly fine on your system. But it also might be a mess. It's great that Vigil is working to fix their game, but when it comes down to it, a game shouldn't be released in the state that Darksiders II on the PC was. We PC players may grump about having to wait an extra couple weeks for a PC version, but if that's what it takes to give us a game that works immediately after we install it, so be it.

The overarching narrative of this week has been "Sleeping Dogs or Darksiders II?" Console gamers can't really go wrong, but PC gamers have a clearer choice — pick up Sleeping Dogs now, and you'll get a robust PC gaming experience with HD textures and all manner of DirectX 11 bells and whistles. But you might want to hold off on Darksiders II for a little while, at least until Vigil makes good on their promises to get the game up to snuff.


Comments

    Just another case of PC Gamers getting the short end of the stick...

    When I got sleeping dogs on Steam the other day, it crashed upon the first running and had graphical glitches coming out its proverbial dogs ass. I reset my PC (Duh, I should ALWAYS do this after an installation in theory) and voila, not one single problem since. It's obvious it was also designed with the PC in mind. Thanks for the heads up about DS2, will now wait til it hits bargain basement prices on Steam before even indulging in the pc version.

    I hate to use the buzzword "fun", but I have to use that in Darksiders 2's case, as the game is so damn fun, that I couldn't care less about it's port problems. It's aesthetically pleasing as well, even though the graphics aren't all that great. As long as a port can be at native resolutions and run a smooth 60+ fps, that's all that matters to me. Sometimes I think PC gamers sit on the graphics options for games longer than actually playing the game.

      Or they want a game that looks better than a console....because you know.... its on PC... and should be treated as such.

        Spot on. I'm sure the game is fun, the reason for this article is, why even make a bloody PC version if they aren't going to take advantage of the PC's features? Why not just play it on your xbox or whatever

          Because not all of us waste our money on a console. And when it comes to other ports with online features we want to play with those we currently play with on PC

      Giving someone a port of a game for PC and then limiting it to 720p is like giving an admiral a tugboat instead of a destroyer. If they cant even get 1080p running without screen tearing (assuming kirk has the hardware to support it) then thats a pretty big issue and shouldnt of been released.

      Why should someone 'pay for/release' something that cant do what it should?

        It's not limited to that and as he stated native resolutions ie that of the users monitor

        There are some annoying gripes I have with the game primarily that when in the inventory screen(which you might spend a bit of time in) has a model of death that is ridiculously low resolution(way worse than the ingame model) which is stupid considering they already have a higher resolution model to use.

        But otherwise the game is great you wanna get technical the texture resolutions are a bit too low which is a shame because the actual world has had some awesome aesthetics built for it. With high res textures it would make the games world look amazing instead it just looks good. But good is nothing to be ashamed of

          limit - as in it is not possible to play in a higher resolution effectively (based on this articles review alone), not the technical limit itself.

      Did you read the article? He couldn't even play it on low settings without the graphics being all glitchy.. so it's not even basic graphic options being performed, let alone the ones you're going on about. It's certainly not aesthetically pleasing when the screen is tearing itself to shreads.

      Yes, what you've said is all the matters but in this case, it's not happening and that's also what matters.

    I personally haven't had any problems with Darksiders 2 on PC. I was disappointed by the lack of video settings but it's still an enjoyable game. Plus, I use an xbox controller when playing most third-person shooters on PC so the controls are fine.

      So, you run the game on console resolutions while using a console controller... why not just play the damn game on a console? The issue is that a PC version should take advantage of all the advantages a PC has over a console

        I'm running it on an AMD HD 6880 at 1080p with no issues whatsoever graphically. I haven't encountered any bugs either, and it looks pretty lush at that resolution, with the glaring exception of Death in the menu screen being unbelievably low res/textured.

        You can play Darksiders 2 at 2560x1440, that in no way is a console resolution. Gamepad doesn't immediately mean console trash, some games just play better on a game pad. You can't partially press WASD keys, therefore, you can only ever run or nothing. Control sticks have this thing called a throttle.

          Resolution or not, how do them low res textures look on a higher res? Pretty terrible Im betting...

    DS2 has been running flawlessly in 1080p with no tearing or any bugs (graphical or functional) so far. Im only up to the second world/area though. I still have to say, graphically its pretty horrible as far as current pc games go. I can look past most things, but PLEASE give us an option for better shadows, these shadows are worse then the shadows in vanilla Skyrim at release.

    Sleeping Dogs PC:

    ☑ Fairly regional priced for Australians
    ☑ Higher definition textures for PC
    ☑ DirectX 11 features
    ☑ Skippable startup logo screens
    ☑ Optimised and polished
    ☑ Game focusing on area not really covered in games before

      To be fair, Sleeping Dogs and Dark Stalkers 2 are both priced comparitively. 69 brand new in shops and 49 each on Steam. Damn good pricing on both. Not arguiing any other of your points at all as they're incredibly valid, just saying give DS2 credit for being a budget priced AAA title.

    DS2 is running fine for me and I have a pretty decent AMD card. No tearing at all. The camera is whats really bothering me though.

    Sleeping Dogs will be the surprise hit of the year, word of mouth is gonna ship them 3M extra units.

      I hope so. It really deserves to do well. it's not perfect, but it is a great game, a lot better than I thought it would be.

    I dunno I have my fair share of issues with the PC version of Sleeping Dogs.

    Such as not being able to make it full screen (only plays in windowed mode), a couple of white screen crashes and the fact that I can't map movement to the arrow keys. Yes I am one of those people who still use arrow keys, I have tried to switch to WASD but I find it much more uncomfortable and occasionally get cramps :(

      to play full screen, press alt+enter

        Yeah, i tried that. it just reverts straight back to window mode... also edited the displaysettings.xml to try and force it there... it worked once then after the game crashed it wont go into full screen.

        So its hardly a great port. I appreciate the extra work with the DX11 and High res textures (though you have to download them separately) but something as simple as fully customizable controls and being able to play games at full screen is a pretty big letdown.

        All that said i am still enjoying the game and Darksiders 2 for that matter (though on PS3)

      This isn't an arrogant post. Have you thought of getting a wired 360 controller? Sleeping Dogs plays beautifully with it. Plus the ergonomics of the controller may suit your hand as well if cramps are an issue.

        Yeah that's what I am using... but I typically don't buy a PC game to use a console controller.

        Unfortunately it seems a bit too much these days to expect that a PC game makes proper use of the native KB and Mouse controls :(

    Sleeping Dogs is fun, buuuuuttttttt.... It feels incomplete. It's one of those games where you can tell its been through various different teams with various different idea's. When they switched teams and didn't have time to fully flesh out the idea's, they applied patch work to cover the holes. Its very good patchwork for the most part, but it does show in some places, such as the girlfriends feature. Most of the game looks like it was intended to be released with a fully fleshed out story for each girlfriend, and the option's that went with them, except after the first mission you get a few lines of dialog as the screen fades out, most of which makes absolutely no sense with the story up to that point. Furthermore, there are parts where you'll notice a phonecall come in from one particular girlfriend, which then disappears and is replaced by one of the main NPC's. It looks like they missed some code for cutting it out.

    This kinda happens in many places in the game. The ending is a good one, I think the game was intended to go much longer, but BAM, there's the ending.

    A shame really. Its and awesome game, but those plotholes and obvious patchwork to feature's I'd like to have seen more of really bite at my sensibilities.

    I decided to finally crack open my copy of Darksiders 1 today. It has the exact same issues. The exact same. Obviously THQ couldn't give a shit.

    What the hell, PC and PS3 allways seem to get the worst ports, we should all just game on our 360s cos that clearly what these lazy devs want us to do :P

    Playing DS2 on a PS3 and have had my fair share of frame rate chop as well, if anyone who just got through the dungeon where you have to light the orbs to clear the corruption from the 3 water flows can report whether they got sub 5fps when they got near the glowing orbs while the skybox was visible, I am curious to know whether it is a PS3 thing or whether it extends to the xbrick and PC too?

    I always just figured if you wanted to play a console game it would be best to do it on a console.

    Maybe they should have paid more attention to the development of the game instead of shamelessly "pumping up" the media (the kotaku article about the author recieving a darksiders 2 tombstone made me worry about the game) maybe it wouldn't have been so bad.

    I found Sleeping Dogs really fun on PC. Ghost Recon Future Soldier was a different story. Press Blue X to throw a flash bang... I'll get right to it bud.

    Sleeping Dogs has really set the bar high for future ports. It's awesome!

      Agreed, but I believe Max Payne 3 is better, at least as far as AA options go. hopefully we see more games like this for the PC.

      Sleeping Dogs is NOT a great port. The fact that it's functional is great, but the UI and controls are horrible.

      It can't really be played effectively with a keyboard and mouse. It's the little things which shit you off, like limited keybinds, inconsistent menus (can use escape or mouse-click for exiting/entering SOME menus, but not all of them), the fact that both mousewheel AND moving the mouse scrolls through menu options, and fight with each other, the wild and dramatic difference in the sweeping drive-camera that makes 3-point turns almost impossible, compared to the tug-of-war you have to play with the on-foot camera, constantly dragging your mouse in the direction you want the camera to TRY and face, as if you were using an analogue stick which DOESN'T run out of room.

      These things are not fucking rocket science, but apparently the port team couldn't get it done.

    I've been playing Darksiders 2 on Xbox and was loving it until 9 hours in I hit a gamebreaking glitch and now have to start the whole thing over again. Looking at THQ community forums, i'm far from being alone. Very poor form THQ.

      Getting sick of multiplat devs that dont put in the polish or effort of other devs...

    Sleeping Dogs is awesome, plays well and nothing is overly tedious yet. I bouht Snipr Elite V2, it was 66% on steam so about $20, shit it is fun, there isn't a whole lot to it but do enjo the xray kill shots

    I had that issue with the vsync not working in DS2 but I use Direct3D overrider to force vsync and it is has been fine since.

    Maybe this is enough for pre-orders or day-one purchases will come to an end; but more likely it won't be, and people will just whinge when their game doesn't work on day one.

      Yeah, crying babies, those consumers. It's like cars! Who expects THOSE to work on day one? Jesus. The manufacturers need to get your purchase to pay for mechanics to come out to your house and finish things up as they figure them out first. Just because a tiny percentage of the population dies in fiery auto-explosion is a shit reason to dump on released cars. The realities of the business are they can only spend so long in R&D and testing before the manufacturer HAS to push them out the door, working or not.

    I almost preordered this for PC.

    First I was going to get it for XBOX 360, because I like to avoid the DRM crap if I can help it. I also figured the game wasnt worth going through all the effort to install, and configure it on PC - I reserve that for games like Crysis, Battlefield, and even Dead Space. But then, abotu a month ago, I changed the preorder to the PC version, because I came to the conclusion that the games E3 showing, prioveded me with the image of a game that was much more epic than it's predessor, and so 'why get the XBOX 360 version, when you can play it with the same controller, but with better graphics on PC?'.
    Then 3 weeks ago, a friend suggested I get it for PS3, since the first game was best on PS3, and since, the GAMESTOP was bumping preorders to Limited Edition's, and with all that content, it's usually better to get the game for console, because you have less worry about losing that DLC in the future because of instability, or harddrive crashes. But really, what sold me on the PS3 version, was simply: the Dualshock 3. Considering how the God of War frachise 'feels' on PS3, and how much better Dantes Inferno & Castlevania: LOS was on the PS3, I figured a God of War clone would probably best be played on a PS3. Right?

    Now since the games been out I've heard that the XBOX 360 edition has a lower framerate than the PS3 and PC edition, and sudden FPS drops!? Even more so the XBOX 360 edition has noticable Screen tearing. NOW, I'm basically reasing here, that the PC edition has the SAME issues - just WORSE - AND aside from an adjustable video output, it lacks any desernable graphic settings?
    Well, Well, Well! It turns out I picked correctly. I know when this game cameout the PS3 version immediately got flack for its bugs, some control scheme layout issues, and it's sudden (and frequent) 'loading' in the middle of the game. But it only took a few days for people to start complaining of all this other stuff, that isnt even a issue in the PS3 version. My PS3 edition has '0' framerate drops, and runs between 30 - 60 fps (it isnt locked) depending on the area, and has absolutely '0' - Z.E.R.O. - screen tearing. And beyond the complaints of Bugs in my version, I personally havent incounted even a single one! I'm no alon in this either - more folks are playing the game without issues on PS3, than people who are. And any future patches will most likely fix any bugs that they have experienced, and mostlikely will fix the frequent 'loading' issue on the PS3 (perhaps with an optional HDD install. I'd also like to say, that I purchased a 2.5" (arent they ALL 2.5"?) Patriot SSD pretty cheap, and installed it in my PS3 yesterday. And even though the game doesnt have a HDD intall, I did notice a reduction in the frequency of ingame loading. So overall, I'm very pleased about my PS3 choice - and I highly advice any of you, who are on the fense about this awesome game to go ahead and get it for PS3.

    I love my gaming rig as much as the next guy, but some games just either arent worth a port, or are simply 'better' on console. Darksiders II is clearily a Console game, and is best experienced NOW, and on the PS3. Why wait for a update to play it on PC, when you arent even going to get anything beyond a minor bump in resolution?

    I could understand if we where taking about Medal of Honor: Warfighter here, or Sleeping Dogs (aka: Streets of Hong Kong), but Darksiders II, with its low res textures, and WoW art style? Not worth the wait or trouble in my opinon. Eveyone, get it for PS3 if it's an option for you. The XBOX 360 looks worse, and has annoying controls, and the PC edition is broken at this point.

    I can't understand why PC gamers are whining about a bad PC port - Vigil and THQ are having troubles, and they probably realised that creating a good PC port would require far more expense than they could justify. The good thing about developing for consoles is that you know the exact hardware configuration that the game will need to run under; for PC there are thousands of different configurations that need to be tested for and optimised for. Making a full-blown PC port likely would have meant sacrificing quality in the console version, which they were not prepared to do.
    Hell, I'm six hours in and I've seen screen tearing and full blown freezes on the Xbox version, so I hate to think how bad the PC version could be, but remember the situation the devs are in, and have some freaking empathy. Calmly let them know the problems (which they're likely already aware of by now) and keep your bitching to a minimum - it doesn't help anyone, and actively helps to portray PC gamers (and, by extension, gamers in general) as whiny kids, which is the last thing we need in this country.

      Yeah, a thousand different configurations and somehow they were able to get graphics right, but couldn't manage a fucking USB keyboard and mouse.

        From what I've heard, they didn't get the graphics right in many cases, tho - framerate issues, screen-tearing, low-res textures, crashes on many graphics cards. As far as I can tell, they put as much effort into the graphics as they put into making the kb/m controls usable.
        I honestly think they would have been better off not releasing the PC version at all, as all it says about the game is "you really should be playing this on a console". It would've saved them a lot of time, effort and money, and probably caused far less backlash...

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