Fallout 4 is a strong contender for game of the year with its immersive post-apocalyptic world and nifty crafting system – it’s already making millions of users miss school, work and as reported by The Daily Mail recently on the day of it’s launch Pornhub experienced a 10% drop in website traffic!
Our first experience of using Fallout 4 was that the graphics could look better, so we tested everything we could to tweak it beyond its default settings to make it look as beautiful as possible.
We’ve also seen many users with older PCs or integrated graphics locked in at low resolutions and low detail, and yet still struggling to have a smooth gameplay.
In this guide we’ll show you the ins and outs of Fallout 4’s hidden settings to make it run hassle-free, smooth and beautiful if your hardware is capable enough.
Can your PC even run Fallout 4?
Since it’s based on a modified engine from Skyrim, it’s not the most demanding game of 2015 (that dubious award certainly goes to The Witcher 3), yet its requirements are nothing to scoff at either:
OS: Windows 7/8/10 (64-Bit)
Processor: Intel Core i5-2300k 2.8 GHz or AMD Phenom II X4 940
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 550 Ti 2 GB/AMD Radeon HD 7870 2 GB
OS: Windows 7/8/10 (64-Bit)
Processor: Intel Core i7 4790 3.6 GHz or AMD FX-9590 4.7 GHZ
Memory: 8 GB
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce 780 GTX 3GB/AMD Radeon 290x 4 GB
No matter whether you’ve got the lower specs or a high-end gaming PC, we’ll show you how to get the highest quality and much smoother frame rates.
1 – Performance 101: 9 Tweaks to Optimize Your PCs and Laptops Performance
Before you start tweaking performance settings for Fallout 4, I recommend that you follow our previous guide on 9 essential steps to boost your PC or laptop speed that we published a while ago.
This covers the basic steps to get your machine in top shape, including how to:
- Upgrade your graphics drivers and even use beta drivers
- Overclock your graphics card (safely!)
- Use our AVG PC TuneUp to turn off all performance-sapping background activity
- Defrag your hard disk
If Fallout 4 takes is too demanding on your hardware, you’ve got to be sure that it’s tweaked to its absolute limit if you want top performance, before you jump into the game-specific settings.
2 – Get the NVIDIA & AMD Fallout 4 Drivers
As usual, both NVIDIA and AMD have prepared a special driver that’s optimized for Fallout 4, which also enables dual GPUs for the best possible performance.
- As of November 23, version 15.11 is available as a Beta driver and supports Fallout 4 as well.
- NVIDIA users click here to grab the latest drivers from the official page. Version 359.00 has been optimized for Fallout 4 so anything newer should be fine.
Intel Iris: Owners of the mobile or desktop Intel HD Graphics chip, should go to this thread (jump to the latest page) and find the latest drivers to get optimal performance or the official Intel site (which sometimes don’t have the very latest beta drivers that help improve gameplay). However, because this is an integrated graphics processor don’t expect Fallout 4 to perform as well as on a dedicated graphics card.
3 – Tweak Fallout 4’s Basic Settings
The in-game settings in Fallout 4 are very straightforward: You’ll find them both under the Options menu and Post-Processing and Graphics. You can choose between presets ranging from Low to Ultra and you should find a configuration that matches the performance capability of your computer.
By default, Fallout 4 still selects the FXAA anti-aliasing technique even for the low-presets. If you’re planning on running F4 on integrated graphics, turn Antialiasing to Off and go to Advanced to turn off Ambient Occlusion.
I can run the game at around 15-20fps on a very low-end Intel HD 5500 with these tweaks if I set the resolution to 720p (1280x720p). Note: On another machine with an Intel Iris 5100, the game crashed at every resolution other than 1366×768, so this tweak might be worth considering if you run into any performance hassles.
On my dedicated gaming rig, an Alienware Area 51 with 2×970 GTX graphics cards, I’m able to crank up the settings to Ultra and still play at a smooth 60fps. So let’s take a look at how you can get this type of performance on high-end rigs and improve the frame rate on the lower-end PC’s.
4 – Hidden Performance Tweaks for Slower PCs & Laptops
You want to play Fallout 4 on your dated PC or Ultrabook with slower graphics? Like to optimize the graphics beyond Bethesda’s official settings and make it look ultra-gorgeous? Then here are a few steps worth considering. First of all, you’re going to be modifying the Fallout4prefs.ini file in your Documents folder:
First, let’s start with the visible LoD (Level of Detail) for objects and shadows at a distance. For that, open up the Fallout4Prefs.ini and change the following settings:
fShadowLODMaxStartFade=1000 -> 500.0
fSpecularLODMaxStartFade=2000 -> 1000.0
If you’ve got a high-end system, we suggest increasing the GridsToLoad level from 5 to 7 (or higher). This will drastically increase the quality of faraway objects, but will also have quite an effect on performance. On lower-end systems you may try to decrease this value to 3 or 4 to squeeze an extra bit of performance out of your machine, although on our Intel HD graphics test bed this didn’t make too much of a difference.
What made a difference, however, is the resolution of shadows which we suggest you drop from 2048 to 256 or 512 on low-end machines:
iShadowMapResolutionPrimary=2048 -> 512
or increase on higher-end rigs:
iShadowMapResolutionPrimary=2048 or 4096 -> 8192
Once you made these changes, we advise you to right-click on the file you saved, go to Properties and check Write-Protect checkbox. If you don’t and launch Fallout 4, it will revert back to the original settings once you’ve opened up the launcher and change anything.
On the lowest Fallout 4 settings, it looks like an early 2000 game but it really runs at 20+fps. On the other hand, our tweaks had some effect on overall picture quality as seen in this screenshot below:
Notice how trees and bushes are rendered much more smoothly and without a lot of jaggies. Plus, the texture level of the ground is tremendously better, which also applies to the smoothness of shadows.
5 – Fix: Fallout 4 Crashes on Startup
Is your lower-end rig constantly crashing when you try to play Fallout 4? Try these two fixes:
- Open up the Fallout4.ini described in #4 and change the line iPresentInterval=1 to 0. This removes the framelock which causes some problems on lower-end systems.
- Go to your Fallout 4 folder under your C:\Program Files directory and right-click on exe. Select the compatibility mode for Windows 7 and hit OK.
6 – Reduce Mouse Lag
The first thing I noticed when I played Fallout 4 on both my high-end gaming rig as well as my laptops was the significant mouse lag.
I fixed this easily by going to Fallout4prefs.ini and Fallout4.ini and adding the entry bMouseAcceleration=0 to the Controls section respectively.
7 – Use the Fallout 4 Texture Optimization Project
A Modder, who goes by the name of Torcher has created the Fallout 4 Texture Optimization Project which reduces the resolution of some of the games textures drastically without too much of a visual impact. To install the mod, head over to NexusMods and download the pack (you need to be registered): http://www.nexusmods.com/fallout4/mods/978/
Once you’ve downloaded and extracted the pack, go to Documents\My Games\Fallout 4 and change the following line in your Fallout4.ini:
sResourceDataDirsFinal=STRINGS\, TEXTURES\, MUSIC\, SOUND\, INTERFACE\, MESHES\, PROGRAMS\, MATERIALS\, LODSETTINGS\, VIS\, MISC\, SCRIPTS\, SHADERFX\
Next, open up the Fallout4Prefs.ini and add this line under the [LAUNCHER] section:
Once that’s done you can copy all the extracted files you downloaded from NexusMods to your Fallout 4 folder, usually: C:\Program Files\Steam\SteamApps\Common\Fallout 4\Data
Check out this video to see the mod in effect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tRTt2ZX4Do. Once I installed the mod I had a close look and while I could see some reduction in some cases (when really looking up close), I didn’t think the loss in fidelity had any impact on the game’s immersion.
We hope this guide has helped improve your gaming experience with Fallout 4, and in the meantime I’ll get back to playing the game if you don’t mind!
December 17, 2015