We've grumbled about having to wait another few weeks for Watch Dogs 2 but it's with us at last. First impressions are that the sequel is better in just about every conceivable way than the original. Ubisoft has pulled an Assassin's Creed 2, so to speak. Like any AAA game however, Watch Dogs 2 comes with some AAA system requirements. A lot of you are going to have to do some tweaking with the graphics options to achieve perfect performance.

In total there are 20 different graphics settings which can be tweaked in Watch Dogs 2, and each of these has several options within it. If you want to squeeze out extra performance then there’s plenty to mess around with. The obvious question however, is what do all of these settings do? Well, we’ve got you covered there. Using the chart below you can find out just how demanding each setting is. Along with this, we've given priority scores based on how important we believe it is to enable these graphics options.

For the benchmark results below we used an MSI GeForce GTX 1060 Gaming X 6G, an Intel Core i7-5820K processor, and 16GB DDR4 memory.

Watch Dogs 2 Graphics Options Performance Breakdown

The further right the bar goes, the more demanding the graphics option is. The only exception is Temporal Filtering, which actually improves the frame rate.


Watch Dogs 2 Graphics Settings

Ambient Occlusion

Ambient Occlusion applies to the contact shadows where two objects meet. It's quite a subtle feature but it lends an additional layer of depth and realism to the environments. AO is most prominent on the exterior facades of Watch Dogs 2's buildings, where it gives wall edges and piping additional substance.

Performance Impact - 3/5

Priority - 4/5

Bloom

Another one which definitely comes down to taste, Bloom makes bright lights bleed out into the surrounding area. You may find it a little strong for your tastes, but it does help with dynamic images.

Performance Impact - 1/5

Priority - 1/5

Depth of Field

An effect similar to Motion Blur, Depth of Field distorts anything which is out of the player's focus. Pick up a can and look at it, for example, and everything in the background will distort. It's designed to replicate human vision.

Performance Impact - 1/5

Priority - 2/5

Extra Details

The main impact of level of detail is in terms of draw distance. The higher you set this, the greater the distance at which objects pop-in. This setting will put a great strain on your CPU as well as your graphics card.

Performance Impact - 4/5

Priority - 3/5

Geometry

Geometry affects the level of detail and draw distance on just about every structure in Watch Dogs 2. This setting does not alter vegetation but it does improve buildings, objects in the street and scenery items.

Performance Impact - 2/5

Priority - 4/5

Headlight Shadows

A setting pretty much unique to Watch Dogs 2, Headlight Shadows is, appropriately enough, whether cars cast realistic shadows from the their headlights. This is currently capped at four cars so not every vehicle on screen is going be rendered correctly. The illumination effects give Watch Dogs 2 a much more realistic feel during nighttime.

Performance Impact - 2/5

Priority - 3/5

Motion Blur

Not to everyone's tastes, Motion Blur simulates camera movement. If you are struggling with poor performance this can paper over stuttery frame rates.

Performance Impact - 1/5

Priority - 1/5

Multisample Antialiasing

Multisample Antialiasing, or MSAA, is an extremely resource intensive form of antialiasing. The only time this should come into play is when you have excess performance while playing at your monitor's native resolution. MSAA is essentially a luxury setting. If you have an Nvidia graphics card then TXAA is much less demanding. 

Performance Impact - 5/5

Priority - 2/5

Post-Process Antialiasing

Performance Impact - 1/5

Priority - 2/5

Pixel Density

Pixel Density is an incredibly demanding setting because it is essentially performing its own version of resolution scaling. Set it to 1.25 for example and you are rendering a 1080p image at 2400 x 1350. I don't recommend you set Pixel Density above 1.00, while anything below is going to severely hamper image quality.

Performance Impact - 5/5

Priority - 5/5

Reflections

Reflections affects the reflections cast on buildings, vehicles, and water. It is separate from screen space reflections in that it affects water sources such as fountains and the sea, while it is also unaffected by weather condition.

Performance Impact - 2/5

Priority - 3/5

San Francisco Fog

Whatever stting you play on, San Francisco can occasionally be steeped in fog. Turning up the San Francisco Fog setting does however provide more realistic volumetric fog which swirls and has differing densities in different areas.

Performance Impact - 4/5

Priority - 2/5

Screen Space Reflections

Screen Space Reflections impacts the reflections of objects on water and other wet surfaces. Without this enabled it looks as if an object is just cut off when it meets the water's surface, but when enabled you see a realistic reflection. The number of screen space reflections varies wildly depending on the weather conditions and where you are. If it's night time and raining then this setting can become extremely demanding.

Performance Impact - 3/5

Priority - 3/5

Shadows

Pretty straightforward this one. Shadow Quality increases the resolution of shadows in Watch Dogs 2. Set to ultra and they will appear crisp and sharp. Set to low and they will appear blocky.

Performance Impact - 4/5

Priority - 4/5

Temporal Filtering

Temporal Filtering is a unique method similar to the checkerboard rendering applied by the PlayStation 4 Pro. A customised Ubisoft setting, this can simultaneously improve image quality and frame rate. Provided you prefer the look, this is a must have setting in Watch Dogs 2.

Performance Impact - 0/5

Priority - 5/5

Terrain

The Terrain option affects the level of detail on terrain at a distance. This is most noticeable while out and about in the countryside in Watch Dogs 2. I personally think when this set to low, hillsides can look extremely ugly from afar.

Performance Impact - 1/5

Priority - 4/5

Texture Filtering

A gaming staple by now, Texture Filtering affects the sharpness of textures towards the edge of screen. Textures you're looking at straight on will normally look fine, but when you look at them from an angle they can look blurred and messy. Texture Filtering, or Anisotropic Filtering, sharpens these textures up and leads to a cleaner image.

Performance Impact - 1/5

Priority - 4/5

Texture Resolution

Texture resolution affects the quality of Watch Dogs 2's textures. The higher the texture quality, the more VRAM used on your graphics card. Set this too high and the game is likely to crash or become extremely choppy.

Performance Impact - 2/5

Priority - 5/5

Vegetation

Basically the same as the Extra Detail setting but applying exclusively to vegetation such as plant-life and trees. In truth there isn't an absolutely huge difference between Low and Ultra, aside from draw distance. 

Performance Impact - 2/5

Priority - 2/5

Water

Yet another option relating to reflections. Water exclusively affects how other objects such as boats and bridges reflect onto the surface of the water. Usually this is very demanding, but in Watch Dogs 2 the performance impact is minimal. Considering this, you may as well slide it up to High on all but the most struggling of systems.

Performance Impact - 1/5

Priority - 2/5