PSA: No, Your New PC Can't Run That Game in 4K at Ultra

PSA: No, Your New PC Can't Run That Game in 4K at Ultra

I just want you to be protected against the major problem all new PC owners face.

If you haven't heard, I have a new PC. I priced out the parts, ordered them, put it all together, fixed the inevitable build issues, and now I have a new workhorse of a PC. Windows 10 has been installed, benchmarks and stress tests have been run, and I deem my new box "stable".

If you've never built or purchased a new PC, then you've missed a phenomenon unique to the platform. Unlike various consoles or handhelds, Windows PC is a single, long-lived platform. When you buy a PlayStation 4, you theoretically buy it for new PlayStation 4 games, not older PS One or PS2 games. You can play DS games on your 3DS, but that's an added feature, not the entire point.

Your games probably won't look like this.

On a PC, you can go back and play most of your old games. Sure, there's a line drawn in the sand - older games require services like GOG or DOSbox to run properly on a modern PC - but given enough time and effort, those titles are available to you. So that's what people do. They spend all this money upgrading to a brand-new machine, and then immediately turn around and play all the games they played on the old PC.

This is normal. A test to see how far you've come from where you were. It's a beautiful thing. I loaded up Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward (still reviewing that), World of Warcraft, Fallout: New Vegas, Cities: Skylines, Borderlands 2, Heroes of the Storm, Dota 2, Just Cause 2, Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II, Tomb Raider, Sleeping Dogs, and Minecraft. The feeling is similar to getting new glasses: you feel like you can see the world as it really is for the first time. Your shadows are real, your aliases are anti-ed, your occlusion is ambient, and your draw distances are long.

You feel invincible.

Through these screenshots, you too can taste heaven for a moment.

You are not invincible. This is the problem I warn you of, my people. Drunk off your new power, you start to get crazy. You load up relatively new games and turn the settings on Ultra. You believe you're a mighty winged god soaring the skies, but the hard ground is coming. Your new PC may be strong, but it's not top-of-the-line. Those people are a hardy few. Those unlocked i7 owners, those Titan and Fury X owners, those of the Quad-SLI persuasion. If you are one of those people, I honor your mighty rig. Those with these mega-PCs are not like the rest of us, scrabbling in the dirt, messing with settings to find the most playable framerate with great image quality. We are Icarus, straying too close to the sun.

To re-use the glasses metaphor, it'd be like getting new glasses and then thinking you could see across the Grand Canyon. No, you can just see better than before.

We are mainstream PC builders, my friend. We're not gaming at 1440 or 4K in 60 FPS with Ultra settings on, perfect shadows, high-res textures, 4xSSAA, tessellation, and all the other visual bells and whistles. No, we're running 1080 or 1440 at 30 FPS, maybe with the shadows on high and the draw distance brought in a bit. We're not the Titans and the R9 Fury X's; we're the GTX 760s or R9 270s of the world. We're the ones who drop from the i7 to an i5 to save some money.

I wish I could afford a Titan.

What I'm saying is don't punch above your weight class. It only leads to disappointment and slide shows. Overclocking will only take you so far. Ignoring these truths also leads to moments when you load up games that will never look worlds better. In my list above, you may have notice Minecraft was there. Why did I load up unmodded Minecraft? What did I think it would look like? I can't even tell you what was going through my mind when I made that decision. It's a weird PC psychosis.

Instead, be confident that your rig will outrun the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One your best friend just bought. Find solace there. That is where you find your superiority, might, and self-worth, in the framerate and resolution gulf between you and a console owner. You be unloved by the world, but you can see The Witcher 3 like CD Projekt RED intended. Let that be your warm blanket against the cold, dark night that is reality.

In the world of PC owners, you and I are middle-laners; don't hog the fast lane when your car can't reliably get above 60. These screenshots in this article? They were made by better people than us. Better people with better rigs. (Note: They were actually made in downsample/slideshow country, but I'm on a roll here.) Be the bro you know you are. Know your role. Temper your hubris. Turn those settings down to 1080 on High.

Don't chase abject disappointment like I did.

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Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

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