Fallout 4 Graphics, Performance & Tweaking Guide

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GeForce.com Fallout 4 Graphics, Performance & Tweaking Guide

In Fallout 4 there's a massive new story to explore, along with the largest and most detailed world Bethesda Game Studios has ever constructed, plus new crafting mechanics, settlement construction, and a great deal more.

Behind the scenes, Skyrim's Creation Engine has received a significant upgrade, adding deferred lighting, Physically Based Shading, Ambient Occlusion shadowing, Screen Space Reflections, Tonemapping, and NVIDIA Volumetric Lighting, a completely dynamic, tessellated, volumetric lighting technology that transforms the appearance of innumerable scenes throughout the world of Fallout 4 on PC and consoles.

To unearth and detail every aspect of Fallout 4's graphics technology, we've invested over a hundred hours testing every single game setting, config file tweak, and console command to reveal their impact on image quality and their relative performance cost. Every setting and tweak of note is further detailed by our patented interactive comparisons, enabling you to instantly determine which settings you should and should not enable with a couple of mouse clicks.

So set aside some time and check out the info, images and videos below to see why you should play Fallout 4 on PC, and preferably with a GeForce GTX GPU.

Guide Contents:

 

System Requirements

Bethesda's Fallout 4 system requirements reflect the game's scalability, enabling you to reduce graphical detail to previous-generation levels, and up to and beyond the capabilities of current-generation consoles:

Bethesda's Minimum Specifications

 
  • OS: Windows 7 64-bit
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-2300 2.8 GHz/AMD Phenom II X4 945 3.0 GHz or equivalent
  • Memory: 8GB RAM
  • Graphics: GeForce GTX 550 Ti with 2GB VRAM

Bethesda's Recommended Specifications

 
  • Processor: Intel Core i7 4790 3.6 GHz/AMD FX-9590 4.7 GHz or equivalent
  • Memory: 8GB RAM or above
  • Graphics: GeForce GTX 780 with 3GB VRAM

Neither of these previous-generation graphics cards are available to purchase, however, so if you're looking to build a system for Fallout 4 today, or to upgrade an older rig, what GeForce GTX GPUs should you be targeting for High setting gameplay?

According to our comprehensive benchmarking, the GeForce GTX 970:

Fallout 4 NVIDIA Recommended GPUs

In addition to giving you the performance to play Fallout 4 at a High level of detail, and with NVIDIA Volumetric Lighting enabled, the GeForce GTX 970 supports our vast array of critically acclaimed technologies, giving you the definitive gaming experience, unmatched by any other platform.

Of these technologies, G-SYNC is particularly beneficial in Fallout 4, delivering a smoother, more responsive experience thanks to innovations that changed the inner-workings of computer monitors. Learn the specifics of how G-SYNC can enhance your Fallout 4 experience on our G-SYNC technology page.

Regardless of your system configuration, all NVIDIA GPU users will automatically receive Optimal Playable Settings for Fallout 4 through GeForce Experience, and those with sufficiently-speedy, compatible GPUs will have NVIDIA Volumetric Lighting effects enabled in-game. With a single-click, Fallout 4's 20 settings will be auto-configured for your system, with a target of 60 frames per second, delivering a responsive, smooth experience.

With our Optimal Playable Settings, Game Ready drivers, and Volumetric Lighting effects, the definitive Fallout 4 experience will be on GeForce GTX PCs.

Fallout 4 Graphics Settings

Fallout 4's filled with settings. 20 in total, in fact. And within the majority of settings there are multiple detail levels, or sliders with nearly two-dozen notches. We've thoroughly examined each in countless locations and scenarios, grabbed examples of their impact on image quality, created interactive comparisons so you can easily observe the differences, and benchmarked their performance so you can see how much each costs when you turn it on or off, or alter the detail level.

Actor Fade

An "Actor" in Fallout 4 is an NPC, animal, or enemy. And "Fade" is Bethesda's word for "view distance". In other words, the distance at which NPCs, animals and enemies can be seen. With a bazillion notches on a setting's slider you've got plenty of control over the option, but given the necessity of finding characters or navigating around Legendary enemies, it's a setting well worth having on half or higher.

Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Interactive Comparison #001

Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 021 Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 020 Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 019 Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 018 Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 017 Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 016 Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 015 Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 014 Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 013 Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 012 Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 011 Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 010 Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 009 Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 008 Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 007 Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 006 Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 005 Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 004 Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 003 Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 002 Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 001

Interactive Comparisons
Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 18 Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 12 Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 6
Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 1 Detail Level 18 vs. Detail Level 12 Detail Level 18 vs. Detail Level 6
Detail Level 18 vs. Detail Level 1 Detail Level 12 vs. Detail Level 6 Detail Level 12 vs. Detail Level 1
  Detail Level 6 vs. Detail Level 1  

As you can see from our screenshots it takes a good long while for characters to disappear from view, but at that point actors are no more than a few pixels in size, making them difficult to discern anyway. As such, you can safely turn the setting down a few notches without any real loss of fidelity.

Fallout 4 - Max View Distance of Actors
Using the command console we flew away from our screenshot location to determine the maximum view distance of actors. Pretty far.

Performance: As you'd expect, there's a progressive reduction in performance as the view distance of actors is increased. And as the more visible, nearer actors are rendered, the performance cost per detail level increases because the characters are larger and more detailed, requiring additional horsepower to render.

Fallout 4 PC - Actor Fade Performance
Note: the number of detail levels in each "Fade" setting changed during the course of our testing, raising from 15 to 21. Having conducted some choice re-testing, our results show that the minimum and maximum frame rates remained the same, with merely some additional detail levels added in between to add even great configurability.

If you wish to tweak Actor Fade to increase the view distance of characters and enemies, check out our tweaking section.

Ambient Occlusion

Ambient Occlusion (AO) adds contact shadows where two surfaces or objects meet, and where objects block light from reaching another nearby game element. The AO technique used and the quality of the implementation affects the accuracy of AO shadows, and whether new shadows are formed when the level of occlusion is low. Without Ambient Occlusion, scenes appear flat and unrealistic, and objects float on surfaces.

In Fallout 4 we see Screen Space Ambient Occlusion (SSAO) employed, which adds a small amount of fidelity to scenes in most circumstances, and a moderate amount occasionally. And while far from the best technique available, SSAO is nonetheless a welcome addition; without its inclusion image quality would be diminished as the following comparisons demonstrate.

Fallout 4 - Screen Space Ambient Occlusion Interactive Comparison #1

Given the right conditions, AO can enhance Fallout. Here, the tire is grounded, the truck gains some very visible shadows, and other subtle improvements can be seen.

Fallout 4 - Screen Space Ambient Occlusion Interactive Comparison #3

Indoor locations can benefit, too, though often to a lesser degree. In this scene we observe improvements around the pipes, primarily.

Fallout 4 - Screen Space Ambient Occlusion Interactive Comparison #2

Ignoring the randomly-generated debris and grass, look to the distant buildings, which are apparently out of AO's range of influence, limiting improvements to the foreground's tires and truck.

Performance: For the most part, Ambient Occlusion's impact on image quality is a subtle one, and though its implementation costs up to 7 frames per second it's worth enabling on many a system given its extensive use throughout the game.

Fallout 4 PC - Ambient Occlusion Performance

Anisotropic Filtering

As you're likely aware, Texture Filtering, Anisotropic Filtering, and other similarly named options affect the sharpness of textures, especially those in the distance or on the sides of the screen. Without Anisotropic Filtering, surfaces lose definition, understandably degrading image quality.

In Fallout 4, various levels of Anisotropic Filtering (AF) are available, with the top-end 16x variant doing an excellent job.

Fallout 4 - Anisotropic Filtering Interactive Comparison #001

Fallout 4 - Anisotropic Filtering Example #001 - 16x Anisotropic Filtering Fallout 4 - Anisotropic Filtering Example #001 - 12x Anisotropic Filtering Fallout 4 - Anisotropic Filtering Example #001 - 8x Anisotropic Filtering Fallout 4 - Anisotropic Filtering Example #001 - 4x Anisotropic Filtering Fallout 4 - Anisotropic Filtering Example #001 - 2x Anisotropic Filtering Fallout 4 - Anisotropic Filtering Example #001 - Off

Interactive Comparisons
16x vs. Off 16x vs. 12x 16x vs. 8x
16x vs. 4x 16x vs. 2x 12x vs. Off
12x vs. 8x 12x vs. 4x 12x vs. 2x
8x vs. Off 8x vs. 4x 8x vs. 2x
4x vs. Off 4x vs. 2x 2x vs. Off

Performance: High-quality Anisotropic Filtering is a must in every game, and as is often the way it has a minimal performance cost, making its use suitable for every system.

Fallout 4 PC - Anisotropic Filtering Performance

Anti-Aliasing

Fallout 4's new lighting system and upgraded engine mean a move away from MSAA hardware anti-aliasing options. In their place we find "TAA", a post-process temporal anti-aliasing technique that functions similarly to our own TXAA, in that it tackles shimmering on anti-aliased edges whilst also reducing general aliasing. To demonstrate, here are 3 video clips (right click, Save As...) showing Fallout 4 with anti-aliasing disabled, with standard post-process FXAA anti-aliasing enabled, and with TAA enabled.

In these high-quality, albeit compressed video clips, you can immediately see a significant improvement in image quality when TAA is enabled. And when moving your character the improvement is even more pronounced. True, the image is softer, but in every other regard it is dramatically better, and after an hour or so you'll likely be used to the softness.

In addition to the advantages outlined above, TAA has a lesser impact on texture clarity than FXAA, as shown below.

Fallout 4 - Anti-Aliasing Interactive Comparison #001

Fallout 4 - Anti-Aliasing Example #001 - TAA Anti-Aliasing Fallout 4 - Anti-Aliasing Example #001 - FXAA Anti-Aliasing Fallout 4 - Anti-Aliasing Example #001 - Anti-Aliasing Off

Interactive Comparisons
TAA vs. Off TAA vs. FXAA FXAA vs. Off

And its edge anti-aliasing is superior, too.

Fallout 4 - Anti-Aliasing Interactive Comparison #002

Fallout 4 - Anti-Aliasing Example #002 - TAA Anti-Aliasing Fallout 4 - Anti-Aliasing Example #002 - FXAA Anti-Aliasing Fallout 4 - Anti-Aliasing Example #002 - Anti-Aliasing Off

Interactive Comparisons
TAA vs. Off TAA vs. FXAA FXAA vs. Off

There's a stark difference in aliasing and texture clarity in static shots, but in-game you tend not to notice the loss of texture fidelity. You do appreciate the near-complete elimination of temporal aliasing, however.

Fallout 4 - Anti-Aliasing Interactive Comparison #003

Fallout 4 - Anti-Aliasing Example #003 - TAA Anti-Aliasing Fallout 4 - Anti-Aliasing Example #003 - FXAA Anti-Aliasing Fallout 4 - Anti-Aliasing Example #003 - Anti-Aliasing Off

Interactive Comparisons
TAA vs. Off TAA vs. FXAA FXAA vs. Off

Performance: Given the massive increase in image quality with TAA, we would have endorsed its use even if it cost 20 frames per second. At only 2 frames per second it's a no-brainer.

Fallout 4 PC - Anti-Aliasing Performance

If you're concerned about TAA's softness, downsample from a slightly higher resolution using NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution, or follow these steps to inject sharpening that counteracts the softness.

Decal Quantity

Decals are bullet holes, blood spatter, scorch marks, and incidental details on surfaces. And with this setting you can adjust the maximum number that appear on surfaces and objects, and bodies.

Creating true comparisons is next to impossible because of the random nature of firefights, so please take us at our word when we say the difference between detail levels is slight, and in the majority of instances you're primarily affecting the time old decals are visible because new decals are generated across an area during the course of a battle, rather than in one spot in front of your character. In other words, at higher detail levels old decals are more likely to still be rendered when you walk back across a scene after a firefight.

According to the game files, 1000 decals can be rendered simultaneously on objects and the environment on max settings, and a further 100 on actors, with a maximum of 40 per actor. This decreases to 100/35/20 on Medium, which is still a fair number given that only larger and more explosive weapons generate particularly visible decals.

Fallout 4 PC - Decal Quantity Screenshot

On bodies, the blood spatter is ever-so-subtle until you get up close after the fact for a spot of ol' lootin'.

Fallout 4 PC - Decal Quantity Screenshot

Performance: In a specially concocted test that maximized the number of decals visible in one area, the performance impact was up to 15 frames per second. During general gameplay, however, the number is more like 5 frames per second at the very most.

Fallout 4 PC - Decal Quantity Performance

With 250, 50 and 40 decals, respectively, High offers a good balance between performance and detail, generating more than enough decals during most engagements. If you feel you require more decals than Ultra offers, manually tweak the maximum values.

Depth of Field

For dialog, VATS combat, and other select scenes, Fallout 4 employs Depth of Field blurring to emphasize action, characters, and certain game elements. Players can chose between a basic depth of field blur, or a more advanced Bokeh implementation that can apply custom shapes to blurred game elements for a stylized cinematic presentation.

In practice, the most visible benefit of the Bokeh implementation is a higher-quality blur, with Bokeh shapes being briefly seen during VATS action-cam shots.

Fallout 4 - Depth of Field Interactive Comparison #002
Please note: HUD glitches are a result of switching between settings in-game using the command console, which was required to create our comparisons.

Fallout 4 - Depth of Field Example #002 - Bokeh Depth of Field Fallout 4 - Depth of Field Example #002 - Standard Depth of Field Fallout 4 - Depth of Field Example #002 - Depth of Field Off

Interactive Comparisons
Bokeh vs. Standard Bokeh vs. Off Standard vs. Off

In dialog you'll have more time to appreciate the higher-quality Bokeh implementation, though you can disable this up-close chat cam in the options menu.

Fallout 4 - Depth of Field Interactive Comparison #001

Fallout 4 - Depth of Field Example #001 - Bokeh Depth of Field Fallout 4 - Depth of Field Example #001 - Standard Depth of Field Fallout 4 - Depth of Field Example #001 - Depth of Field Off

Interactive Comparisons
Bokeh vs. Standard Bokeh vs. Off Standard vs. Off

Performance: During dialog Depth of Field helps focus the camera and your attention on the conversation, which is certainly nice to have, but far from essential. During combat a wider blur is applied; personal preference will dictate whether you like or dislike it.

Fallout 4 PC - Depth of Field Performance

At 5 frames per second for the higher-quality Bokeh effect, during moments of gameplay where twitch reactions and blistering framerates aren't required, you have little to lose in giving Depth of Field a shot.

Distant Object Detail

Distant Object Detail controls the quality of buildings, pylons, highways and other predominantly large objects, and the visibility of these and other game elements in the far distance.

Fallout 4 - Distant Object Detail Interactive Comparison #001

Fallout 4 - Distant Object Detail Example #001 - Distant Object Detail Ultra Fallout 4 - Distant Object Detail Example #001 - Distant Object Detail High Fallout 4 - Distant Object Detail Example #001 - Distant Object Detail Medium Fallout 4 - Distant Object Detail Example #001 - Distant Object Detail Low

Interactive Comparisons
Ultra vs. High Ultra vs. Medium Ultra vs. Low
High vs. Medium High vs. Low Medium vs. Low

As you can see, the fidelity and visibility of the aforementioned game elements gradually decreases as the detail level is lowered, before they are removed entirely, which significantly decreases image quality.

Performance: As the majority of the game detail affected by the setting is already of a comparatively low quality, the adjustment of Distant Object Detail has a minor impact on performance, even when great swathes of detail are removed.

Fallout 4 PC - Distant Object Detail Performance

If you're truly struggling for performance, the extra 4 frames per second afforded by Low may help, but for the majority of systems Medium should be the lowest level selected to avoid complete removal of detail.

If you've got performance to spare, instead consider increasing the draw distance of Distant Object Detail by tweaking the setting.

Godrays Quality

For Fallout 4, we've worked hand-in-hand with Bethesda to introduce NVIDIA Volumetric Lighting on PC and consoles. Visible in almost all promotional screenshots and videos, right from the moment of the game's announcement at E3 2015, NVIDIA Volumetric Lighting is key to achieving Fallout 4's unique look, and its spectacular lighting effects.

Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Interactive Comparison #006

Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Example #006 - God Rays Quality Ultra Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Example #006 - God Rays Quality High Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Example #006 - God Rays Quality Medium Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Example #006 - God Rays Quality Low Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Example #006 - God Rays Quality Off

Interactive Comparisons
Ultra vs. High Ultra vs. Medium Ultra vs. Low
Ultra vs. Off High vs. Medium High vs. Low
High vs. Off Medium vs. Low Medium vs. Off
  Low vs. Off  

Generally, when folks refer to Volumetric Lighting they mean God Rays, Light Shafts, or Light Rays, but in the case of Fallout 4 NVIDIA Volumetric Lighting is so much more, reflecting light and adding illumination, shadow volume and considerable style to every outdoor scene, as exemplified by the interactive comparisons presented on this page.

Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Interactive Comparison #002

Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Example #002 - God Rays Quality Ultra Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Example #002 - God Rays Quality High Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Example #002 - God Rays Quality Medium Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Example #002 - God Rays Quality Low Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Example #002 - God Rays Quality Off

Interactive Comparisons
Ultra vs. High Ultra vs. Medium Ultra vs. Low
Ultra vs. Off High vs. Medium High vs. Low
High vs. Off Medium vs. Low Medium vs. Off
  Low vs. Off  

Furthermore, NVIDIA Volumetric Lighting enhances many an indoor area, too, with shafts of light emanating from bright lights, spotlights, and other light sources.

Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Interactive Comparison #001

Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Example #001 - God Rays Quality Ultra Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Example #001 - God Rays Quality High Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Example #001 - God Rays Quality Medium Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Example #001 - God Rays Quality Low Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Example #001 - God Rays Quality Off

Interactive Comparisons
Ultra vs. High Ultra vs. Medium Ultra vs. Low
Ultra vs. Off High vs. Medium High vs. Low
High vs. Off Medium vs. Low Medium vs. Off
  Low vs. Off  

The key advantage of NVIDIA Volumetric Lighting, and the reason it's so pervasive throughout Fallout 4, is that it is constructed using tessellation rather than post process effects. With GPU-accelerated tessellation, Volumetric Lighting is truly dynamic, enabling it to be seen from any angle or view point, and from behind objects that occlude the casting light source. Using post-process effects, God Rays are visible solely when looking at their point of origin, and cannot enhance the entire world, as is the case in Fallout 4.

Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Interactive Comparison #001

In addition, NVIDIA Volumetric Lighting effects are affected by weather conditions, the dynamic day-night cycle, visual effects, and other factors, giving the world a truly dynamic appearance.

Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Interactive Comparison #007

On PC, NVIDIA Volumetric Lighting effects can be rendered at a significantly higher detail level, improving the visibility and separation of light shafts, the number of light shafts rendered, the intensity of the light shafts, the general fidelity of the effect, and the temporal stability of light shafts during movement. And furthermore, their fidelity scales with resolution, giving gamers with 4K displays or NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution activated an even greater level of detail.

Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Interactive Comparison #004
Note how the building shadows are accentuated by the Volumetric Lighting, and how the lighting is itself shadowed, an impossible feat with post-process effects.

Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Example #004 - God Rays Quality Ultra Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Example #004 - God Rays Quality High Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Example #004 - God Rays Quality Medium Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Example #004 - God Rays Quality Low Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality Example #004 - God Rays Quality Off

Interactive Comparisons
Ultra vs. High Ultra vs. Medium Ultra vs. Low
Ultra vs. Off High vs. Medium High vs. Low
High vs. Off Medium vs. Low Medium vs. Off
  Low vs. Off  

With NVIDIA Volumetric Lighting enabled the overwhelming majority of scenes are transformed into dynamic environments filled with light and shadow, and a level of detail that would be otherwise impossible to feature in an expansive game like Fallout 4, where players can go anywhere and approach objectives from multiple angles (post-process volumetric lighting is hand-placed and is generally visible from a single angle or direction).

In screenshots you don't get the complete picture, however: in-game, decreasing the quality level introduces temporal flickering that can occasionally be observed when God Rays shift with a time of day change, or when viewed through moving objects, such as trees blowing in the wind. Furthermore, blurring can be seen around gun sights, characters, and transparencies, decreasing fidelity. For a comparison, check out this Ultra-quality video, and compare against this Low-quality clip. Note how the God Rays flicker and dance around the screen as the swaying branches intersect with the light shafts, and how foliage (transparencies) that are struck by the Low-quality God Rays are blurred.

By raising the tessellation level applied to the God Rays, and by keeping their rendering at half-resolution rather than quarter-resolution, these artifacts are avoided, creating a consistent high-quality appearance throughout Fallout 4.

Performance: The way Fallout 4 was meant to be played was with NVIDIA Volumetric Lighting effects enabled, but this being a PC game you can turn it off if you really wish, or if you're in desperate need of performance.

Fallout 4 PC - God Rays Quality Performance

At its lowest level of detail, which still looks extremely impressive, the God Rays setting costs 6.5 frames per second in a graphically intensive benchmark. With the significant image quality enhancement that it applies, transforming almost every outdoor scene throughout the entire game, a mere 6.5 frames is a small sum for such a far-reaching improvement.

For greater control over the setting's detail levels, and to increase image quality even further, check out the tweaking section.

Grass Fade

If you wish to adjust the visibility of grass, this is your go-to setting. With many notches on its configuration slider, the view distance of grass can be fine-tuned to your liking.

Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Interactive Comparison #001

Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 021 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 020 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 019 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 018 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 017 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 016 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 015 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 014 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 013 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 012 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 011 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 010 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 009 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 008 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 007 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 006 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 005 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 004 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 003 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 002 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 001

Interactive Comparisons
Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 18 Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 12 Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 6
Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 1 Detail Level 18 vs. Detail Level 12 Detail Level 18 vs. Detail Level 6
Detail Level 18 vs. Detail Level 1 Detail Level 12 vs. Detail Level 6 Detail Level 12 vs. Detail Level 1
  Detail Level 6 vs. Detail Level 1  

As with other similar settings there's a gradual increase in the visibility of grass as the detail level is raised, helping cover the terrain when viewing from an elevated position. From ground-level, the difference is typically much less pronounced as other pieces of foliage are unaffected by the setting and remain visible regardless of the selected option.

Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Interactive Comparison #002

Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 021 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 020 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 019 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 018 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 017 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 016 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 015 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 014 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 013 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 012 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 011 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 010 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 009 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 008 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 007 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 006 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 005 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 004 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 003 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 002 Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 001

Interactive Comparisons
Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 18 Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 12 Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 6
Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 1 Detail Level 18 vs. Detail Level 12 Detail Level 18 vs. Detail Level 6
Detail Level 18 vs. Detail Level 1 Detail Level 12 vs. Detail Level 6 Detail Level 12 vs. Detail Level 1
  Detail Level 6 vs. Detail Level 1  

Performance: As observed when testing Actor Fade earlier, the increase or decrease of the Grass Fade detail level has a small impact on performance at each step, with the highest detail levels having a minimal extra cost due to the small size of the most-distant tufts of extra grass.

Fallout 4 PC -  Performance

Learn how to further increase the visibility of grass in our tweaking section.

Item Fade

Fallout 4 defines an item as anything you can place in your inventory, from buckets to bottlecaps, to bags of cement and bones. And as you've likely guessed already, the Item Fade setting adjusts the view distance of these game elements. To demonstrate, here's a contrived scenario featuring a thousand or so buckets.

Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Interactive Comparison #001

Fallout 4 - Item Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 021 Fallout 4 - Item Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 020 Fallout 4 - Item Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 019 Fallout 4 - Item Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 018 Fallout 4 - Item Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 017 Fallout 4 - Item Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 016 Fallout 4 - Item Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 015 Fallout 4 - Item Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 014 Fallout 4 - Item Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 013 Fallout 4 - Item Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 012 Fallout 4 - Item Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 011 Fallout 4 - Item Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 010 Fallout 4 - Item Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 009 Fallout 4 - Item Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 008 Fallout 4 - Item Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 007 Fallout 4 - Item Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 006 Fallout 4 - Item Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 005 Fallout 4 - Item Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 004 Fallout 4 - Item Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 003 Fallout 4 - Item Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 002 Fallout 4 - Item Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 001

Interactive Comparisons
Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 18 Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 12 Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 6
Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 1 Detail Level 18 vs. Detail Level 12 Detail Level 18 vs. Detail Level 6
Detail Level 18 vs. Detail Level 1 Detail Level 12 vs. Detail Level 6 Detail Level 12 vs. Detail Level 1
  Detail Level 6 vs. Detail Level 1  

In reality, the density and placement of items is far sparser, and the majority of items are significantly smaller and less visible, resulting in only a minor loss of fidelity when Item Fade is dialed down to half. Beneath the midway mark on the setting's slider, items visibly pop into view, so we'd recommend going no lower unless you're in desperate need of performance.

Performance: Again we see minor changes in performance at each detail level, though in this case the deltas are even smaller as items aren't visible throughout the entirety of a scene, like grass or city buildings are.

Fallout 4 PC - Item Fade Performance

Discover how to further increase the visibility of items in our tweaking section.

Lens Flare

A fond favorite of J.J. Abrams, Lens Flare adds halos and highlights when the camera is pointed in the direction of a bright light. In the context of Fallout 4, lens flares are an occasional sight that add variety and style to bombed out buildings and illuminated areas.

Fallout 4 - Lens Flares Interactive Comparison #001

Performance: Being a post-process effect, Lens Flares cost less than a frame per second, making them an inexpensive way to increase image quality on all but the slowest systems.

Fallout 4 PC - Lens Flare Performance

Lighting Quality

In many games a 'Lighting Quality' setting adjusts the fidelity of lighting, the quality of shaders, and perhaps the quality of light-material interaction. In Fallout 4, High ever-so-slightly improves skybox and world lighting in very select circumstances, and Ultra enables subtle Subsurface Scattering (SSS) on actors.

Fallout 4 - Lighting Quality Interactive Comparison #002

Fallout 4 - Lighting Quality Example #002 - Lighting Quality Ultra Fallout 4 - Lighting Quality Example #002 - Lighting Quality High Fallout 4 - Lighting Quality Example #002 - Lighting Quality Medium

Interactive Comparisons
Ultra vs. High Ultra vs. Medium Ultra vs. Medium

With your microscope you may be able to observe the subtle improvement in lighting in this scene, visible on the upper left on the skybox.

Fallout 4 - Lighting Quality Interactive Comparison #001

To accurately render skin in games, additional techniques and technologies are required. In real and virtual worlds light bounces from most objects and surfaces, which we can accurately and easily render with any number of technologies. In comparison, light striking skin is absorbed and diffused, with some rays being emitted, though at a lower intensity. Without a suitable technology simulating this effect character skin is uniformly lit, detracting from the quality of the picture.

In Fallout 4, the impact of the effect is subtle, and only truly observable during dialog when characters and the action are static, and the camera's close to an actor's face.

Performance: The marginally improved lighting enabled by High costs just a couple of frames per second, and Subsurface Scattering another frame per second.

Fallout 4 PC - Lighting Quality Performance

With such a low cost you may as well enable them both, but if you're in need of performance you can safely turn them off without appreciably degrading image quality.

Object Fade

Fallout 4's objects are those larger items you can't pilfer, along with air conditioning units, post boxes, garden furniture, fences, cars, trucks, trees, and much, much more. As you'll see below, the quantity of objects is gradually decreased, before entire buildings are removed on the lowest detail levels, diminishing image quality quite considerably.

Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Interactive Comparison #001

Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 021 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 020 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 019 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 018 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 017 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 016 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 015 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 014 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 013 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 012 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 011 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 010 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 009 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 008 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 007 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 006 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 005 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 004 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 003 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 002 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #001 - Detail Level 001

Interactive Comparisons
Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 18 Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 12 Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 6
Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 1 Detail Level 18 vs. Detail Level 12 Detail Level 18 vs. Detail Level 6
Detail Level 18 vs. Detail Level 1 Detail Level 12 vs. Detail Level 6 Detail Level 12 vs. Detail Level 1
  Detail Level 6 vs. Detail Level 1  

In our second set of images and comparisons you'll also note the removal of certain shadows as the detail level is decreased, in addition to the removal of collapsed highways, details on roads, and rubble around objects.

Fallout 4 - Actor Fade Interactive Comparison #002

Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 021 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 020 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 019 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 018 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 017 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 016 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 015 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 014 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 013 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 012 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 011 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 010 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 009 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 008 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 007 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 006 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 005 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 004 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 003 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 002 Fallout 4 - Object Fade Example #002 - Detail Level 001

Interactive Comparisons
Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 18 Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 12 Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 6
Detail Level 21 vs. Detail Level 1 Detail Level 18 vs. Detail Level 12 Detail Level 18 vs. Detail Level 6
Detail Level 18 vs. Detail Level 1 Detail Level 12 vs. Detail Level 6 Detail Level 12 vs. Detail Level 1
  Detail Level 6 vs. Detail Level 1  

To extend the draw distance of objects there's a simple tweak detailed later in this guide.

Performance: Like the other Fade settings, the mid-point offers a good balance between image quality and performance, and keeps pop-in to a minimum on ground-level, where you'll spend the vast majority of your time.

Fallout 4 PC - Object Fade Performance

In our Grass Fade scene, cracks in the road and minute foliage details were removed half way down the slider, followed by cones, traffic signs and rock details at three-quarters down. Just before minimum we lost the vehicles, sand bags, and smaller details. And finally, on minimum, rocks, trees, buildings, and their shadows were removed. This was one of the more noticeable instances of visuals being changed and had a slightly higher performance cost than the majority of other areas.

Object Detail Fade

Object Detail Fade has a very, very, very minor impact on the fidelity of objects rendered by Object Fade. Most commonly this occurs at long range, making the differences between detail levels nigh on impossible to note during gameplay, or even in comparison screenshots without 500% enlargements.

Performance: Unsurprisingly, the near-indistinguishable image quality adjustments have next to no impact on performance, with only a 1.6 FPS delta between minimum and maximum detail levels.

Fallout 4 PC - Object Detail Fade Performance

Rain Occlusion

With this setting enabled, rain won't be rendered around your character if you're beneath an elevated highway or in a dilapidated building, and rain drops and splashes won't be rendered on the floor.

Performance: As the game has to calculate occlusion and track the player's position to ensure accurate rendering, this setting costs a few frames per second during storms.

Fallout 4 PC - Rain Occlusion Performance

Screen Space Reflections

Given the right conditions, and a suitably reflective surface, real-time Screen Space Reflections are rendered in Fallout 4, adding an extra level of detail in certain scenes. For the most part, you'll find these reflections on nearby bodies of water (water reflections aren't rendered beyond a fixed distance), though there are a few other locations and surface types that benefit from the feature.

Fallout 4 - Screen Space Reflections Interactive Comparison #001

Out in the open world, water reflections are often subtle.

Fallout 4 - Screen Space Reflections Interactive Comparison #002

Other reflections in the world come courtesy of inexpensive, pre-baked, faked, static cube maps, and can be most readily seen on the surface of your shiny robo-butler at the start of the game.

Performance: Fallout 4's reflections typically cost around 4-5 frames per second, raising to at most 9 frames per second in the most detailed locations.

Fallout 4 PC - Screen Space Reflections Performance

With their added detail Screen Space Reflections are certainly nice to have, but are by no means essential for those in search of performance.

If you wish to adjust the look of Screen Space Reflections, you can learn how in the tweaking section.

Shadow Distance

Shadow Distance controls the view distance of shadows, unsurprisingly, adding some much-needed depth to distant detail. The trade-off is a reduction in the detail of shadows as the setting is raised, as you can see in our images and comparisons below.

Fallout 4 - Shadow Distance Interactive Comparison #001

Fallout 4 - Shadow Distance Example #001 - Shadow Distance Ultra Fallout 4 - Shadow Distance Example #001 - Shadow Distance High Fallout 4 - Shadow Distance Example #001 - Shadow Distance Medium

Interactive Comparisons
Ultra vs. High Ultra vs. Medium High vs. Medium

The slight loss of shadow fidelity seen on Ultra can be counteracted by tweaking the Shadow Quality, though this does reduce performance that bit further. If you instead prefer to run an all-stock experience you'll need to chose between increased shadow draw distance, or higher-quality mid-to-long range shadows.

Performance: Enabling some degree of shadowing costs around 8 frames per second, and stepping up to Ultra Shadow Distance costs a further 2.7 frames per second. Given that shadows are essential, you'll be wanting to use at least High.

Fallout 4 PC - Shadow Distance Performance

Shadow Quality

Another self-explanatory setting, Shadow Quality adjusts the visibility, detail level, and fidelity of shadows throughout the game, making it one of the most important settings for those seeking a good-to-excellent level of image quality.

Fallout 4 - Shadow Quality Interactive Comparison #001

Fallout 4 - Shadow Quality Example #001 - Shadow Quality Ultra Fallout 4 - Shadow Quality Example #001 - Shadow Quality High Fallout 4 - Shadow Quality Example #001 - Shadow Quality Medium Fallout 4 - Shadow Quality Example #001 - Shadow Quality Low

Interactive Comparisons
Ultra vs. High Ultra vs. Medium Ultra vs. Low
High vs. Medium High vs. Low Medium vs. Low

Interestingly, Medium offers a better experience than High in certain circumstances as High's shadows are occasionally too soft, resulting in barely-visible shadows, as you can see under the car in our first set of screens.

Fallout 4 - Shadow Quality Interactive Comparison #002

Fallout 4 - Shadow Quality Example #002 - Shadow Quality Ultra Fallout 4 - Shadow Quality Example #002 - Shadow Quality High Fallout 4 - Shadow Quality Example #002 - Shadow Quality Medium Fallout 4 - Shadow Quality Example #002 - Shadow Quality Low

Interactive Comparisons
Ultra vs. High Ultra vs. Medium Ultra vs. Low
High vs. Medium High vs. Low Medium vs. Low

Performance: Maximum quality shadows cost over 20 frames per second, which is well worth the increase in fidelity in every single scene for the duration of your time with Fallout 4, in our opinion. If 20 FPS is a step too far for your system, High-quality shadows are around 10 frames per second cheaper, and Medium 13 cheaper.

Fallout 4 PC - Shadow Quality Performance

For even better shadows, head on over to our tweaking section.

Texture Quality

Viewing the screenshots and comparisons below you'd be correct in assuming they're identical. No, there hasn't been a mix-up, there genuinely aren't any differences.

Fallout 4 - Texture Quality Interactive Comparison #001

Fallout 4 - Texture Quality Example #001 - Texture Quality Ultra Fallout 4 - Texture Quality Example #001 - Texture Quality High Fallout 4 - Texture Quality Example #001 - Texture Quality Medium

Interactive Comparisons
Ultra vs. High Ultra vs. Medium Ultra vs. Medium

According to Fallout 4's config file only iTexMipMapSkip= changes between detail levels, which has no visible impact on textures outside of a few locations, and even then the difference in image quality is near-imperceptible.

Fallout 4 - Texture Quality Interactive Comparison #002
Visible differences between detail levels in this comparison are a result of the game's randomly generated grass, debris and puddle system, along with persistent tree and foliage sway, even when the game is frozen using console commands.

Fallout 4 - Texture Quality Example #002 - Texture Quality Ultra Fallout 4 - Texture Quality Example #002 - Texture Quality High Fallout 4 - Texture Quality Example #002 - Texture Quality Medium

Interactive Comparisons
Ultra vs. High Ultra vs. Medium Ultra vs. Medium

Fallout 4's system requirements call for 3GB of VRAM for 1920x1080 Ultra textures, though in our testing usage only came close to 3GB after extended sessions. If you've got that 3GB you'll of course want to use Ultra to maximize texture detail, but as we've demonstrated even the lowest detail appears identical to Ultra (in our pre-release Press build), so give Ultra a shot regardless of your system configuration and see how you fare.

Performance: As is the case in almost all games, adjusting texture detail has no perceptible impact on performance.

Fallout 4 PC - Texture Quality Performance

Wetness

Fallout 4's final setting makes surfaces appear wet when it rains. Moreover, it adds shine to illuminated surfaces and character clothing, and generally improves image quality by a significant degree.

Fallout 4 - Wetness Interactive Comparison #001

Fallout 4 - Wetness Interactive Comparison #002

Performance: As shown above, the world looks flat and far less interesting with Wetness disabled, making the setting worthwhile for those occasions that it rains.

Fallout 4 PC -  Performance

Game Setting Conclusion

With 20 settings, and dozens of detail levels, it can be tricky to determine what you should and should not enable if your system can't max out every option. If it were us, we'd enable settings in this order, mostly using High settings for the best balance between image quality and performance:

  1. Texture Quality (Ultra)
  2. Anisotropic Filtering (16x)
  3. Anti-Aliasing (TAA)
  4. Shadow Distance (High)
  5. Shadow Quality (High)
  6. God Rays Quality (Low)
  7. Object Fade (50%)
  8. Distant Object Detail (High)
  9. Actor Fade (50%)
  10. Item Fade (50%)
  11. Grass Fade (50-75%)
  12. Wetness (On)
  13. Ambient Occlusion (On)
  14. Screen Space Reflections (On)
  15. Lens Flare (On)
  16. Depth of Field (Standard)
  17. Object Detail Fade (any)
  18. Lighting Quality (Medium)
  19. Rain Occlusion (On)
  20. Decal Quantity (High)

If you think we're on the right track, you can let GeForce Experience auto-configure your settings with a single click.

If you're instead aiming for a no-compromise max quality experience, you'll need some mighty fine hardware to maintain a smooth framerate in the game's most demanding moments:

Fallout 4 PC - GeForce GTX 900 Series Max Setting Performance

Fallout 4 Tweaking

With an accessible configuration file there's plenty of opportunity to tweak Fallout 4's settings, pushing them beyond their defined maximum values to further increase image quality, assuming you have the necessary hardware of course.

First, configure settings in the launcher to your liking, then exit out. Head to C:\Users\USERNAME\Documents\My Games\Fallout4 and backup Fallout4Prefs.ini. Open Fallout4Prefs.ini with a text editor, such as Notepad++, and edit one or more of the values described below. Save your modified file and reload the launcher, but this time simply press "Play" and do not re-enter the options portion of the tool, otherwise your changes may be overridden.

Actor Fade Tweak

Earlier we detailed the negligible improvement to image quality when utilizing the highest levels of the Actor Fade setting, due to the now-visible characters being only a few pixels in size as they are located some distance from the player. The one upside is the near-complete removal of fade-in and pop-in of these actors, but given the number of objects strewn about the world, and the undulating terrain, opportunities to see the full benefit of the setting are few and far between.

Nevertheless, if you wish to further increase the view distance of actors, modify fLODFadeOutMultActors= [Ultra-detail value: 15].

Decal Quantity Tweaks

With Ultra Decal Quantity enabled we've yet to encounter a situation where the setting needed to be raised. But higher it can go by modifying the following values:

uMaxDecals= [Ultra value: 1000]
uMaxSkinDecals= [Ultra value: 100]
uMaxSkinDecalsPerActor= [Ultra value: 40]

Distant Object Detail Tweaks

The first tweak of note in Fallout 4 enables you to increase the view distance, visibility, and quality of distant objects. With a few values doubled you'll see trees on distant hills, distant pylons, distant buildings, a higher level of detail on select game elements, and more detailed terrain.

Fallout 4 - Distant Object Detail Tweak Interactive Comparison #001

Caveat: some objects in the foreground may be negatively affected. As you can see in our comparison, the large white building regressed in quality, but this is the first and only time we saw that occur. If you're still happy to proceed, here are the values you need to change:

fTreeLoadDistance= [Ultra value: 75000.0000]
fBlockMaximumDistance= [Ultra value: 250000.0000]
fBlockLevel2Distance= [Ultra value: 110000.0000]
fBlockLevel1Distance= [Ultra value: 90000.0000]
fBlockLevel0Distance= [Ultra value: 60000.0000]

fSplitDistanceMult=1.5000 also exists within the same group of settings, but in our tests had no noticeable impact on image quality when the value was increased.

Performance: Doubling the Ultra values costs around four and a half frames per second in areas with oodles of extra distant detail.

Fallout 4 PC - Distant Object Detail Tweak Performance
Aforementioned config values were doubled for our tweaked screenshot and performance test.

Our verdict: a must have, assuming there are no further graphical anomalies.

Godrays Quality Tweaks

The presets for our Volumetric Lighting effects balance image quality and performance to enable a wide array of systems to enable the transformative Godrays Quality. Using the in-game console, accessible via tilde, the ~ key left of "1" on most English-language keyboards, you can adjust the parameters of the setting to increase or decrease image quality and performance.

     
  • GR on/off: enables and disables the setting
  • GR quality 0/1/2/3: switches between the Low, Medium, High and Ultra presets in real-time, in-game. Lower-quality presets use quarter-res downsampling, while Ultra (3) uses half-res downsampling
  • GR scale [number]: adjust the intensity of the light source and increase the size of God Rays and light volumes. Recommended only for screenshot taking
  • GR fog 0/1: enables and disables fog
  • GR fogcolor r g b: adjusts the fog absorption color, which affects scattering. Can be set to any RGB value
  • GR info: displays the current God Ray settings

The above options are useful for those examining Godrays Quality in closer detail, or wanting to test performance. GR grid, in contrast, enables actual tweaking of the setting's image quality and performance.

At its most basic, GR grid can be thought of as a way to improve the quality of existing God Rays and add additional rays, and vice versa. The default value is 64, and by increasing the value the quality of Volumetric Lighting is increased.

In addition to the obvious image quality improvement, tweaking can decrease the visibility of flickering that is occasionally observed when God Rays shift with a time of day change, or when viewed through moving objects, as we detailed earlier.

To demonstrate the tweak's impact in still screenshots, here are a new set of interactive comparisons:

Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size Tweak Interactive Comparison #006

Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size Tweak Example #006 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size Tweak 1024 Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size Tweak Example #006 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size Tweak 512 Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size Tweak Example #006 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size Tweak 256 Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size Tweak Example #006 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size Tweak 128 Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size Tweak Example #006 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size Tweak 64 Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size Tweak Example #006 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size Tweak 32

Interactive Comparisons
64 (Default) vs. 1024 64 (Default) vs. 512 64 (Default) vs. 256
64 (Default) vs. 128 64 (Default) vs. 32 1024 vs. 512
1024 vs. 256 1024 vs. 128 1024 vs. 64 (Default)
1024 vs. 32 512 vs. 256 512 vs. 128
512 vs. 64 (Default) 512 vs. 32 256 vs. 128
256 vs. 64 (Default) 256 vs. 32 128 vs. 64 (Default)
  128 vs. 32  

As you undoubtedly noticed there are diminishing returns above 64, the default value applied by the Ultra preset. Behind the scenes however fidelity is increasing greatly. You just can't see it:

Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #1) Tweak Interactive Comparison #006

Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #1) Tweak Example #006 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #1) Tweak 1024 Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #1) Tweak Example #006 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #1) Tweak 512 Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #1) Tweak Example #006 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #1) Tweak 256 Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #1) Tweak Example #006 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #1) Tweak 128 Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #1) Tweak Example #006 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #1) Tweak 64 Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #1) Tweak Example #006 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #1) Tweak 32

Interactive Comparisons
64 (Default) vs. 1024 64 (Default) vs. 512 64 (Default) vs. 256
64 (Default) vs. 128 64 (Default) vs. 32 1024 vs. 512
1024 vs. 256 1024 vs. 128 1024 vs. 64 (Default)
1024 vs. 32 512 vs. 256 512 vs. 128
512 vs. 64 (Default) 512 vs. 32 256 vs. 128
256 vs. 64 (Default) 256 vs. 32 128 vs. 64 (Default)
  128 vs. 32  

These wireframe comparisons show the ever-improving quality applied by GR grid, but as you can see in the Volumetric Lighting-only images below that improvement doesn't translate to an observable improvement beyond 256.

Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #2) Tweak Interactive Comparison #006

Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #2) Tweak Example #006 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #2) Tweak 1024 Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #2) Tweak Example #006 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #2) Tweak 512 Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #2) Tweak Example #006 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #2) Tweak 256 Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #2) Tweak Example #006 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #2) Tweak 128 Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #2) Tweak Example #006 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #2) Tweak 64 Fallout 4 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #2) Tweak Example #006 - God Rays Quality GR Grid Size (Debug View #2) Tweak 32

Interactive Comparisons
64 (Default) vs. 1024 64 (Default) vs. 512 64 (Default) vs. 256
64 (Default) vs. 128 64 (Default) vs. 32 1024 vs. 512
1024 vs. 256 1024 vs. 128 1024 vs. 64 (Default)
1024 vs. 32 512 vs. 256 512 vs. 128
512 vs. 64 (Default) 512 vs. 32 256 vs. 128
256 vs. 64 (Default) 256 vs. 32 128 vs. 64 (Default)
  128 vs. 32  

Performance: Tweaking down to 32 increases your performance by a few frames, and tweaking up to 128 decreases performance slightly. Beyond 128, performance rapidly plunges:

Fallout 4 PC - God Rays Quality Tweaks Performance

32 really isn't recommended due to the increase in flickering. If you're struggling for performance, instead select a lower-quality preset and then try increasing GR grid to counteract the loss of image quality. This may result in a superior experience.

For those with performance to spare, increase GR grid to 128. If there's still spare performance, look to raise another setting, like uGrids.

Grass Fade Tweak

In Bethesda's games, adding extra grass to the terrain in the distance improved image quality considerably as rural landscapes lack cities, clutter, and man-made objects. In Fallout 4 there are buildings, objects galore, trees, and pieces of foliage unaffected by the Grass Fade setting, creating a varied urban and semi-rural landscape that doesn't rely solely on grass for variety and detail. Nevertheless, those seeking the definitive level of image quality can increase grass rendering distance.

Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Tweak Interactive Comparison #001 - 14,000

The values to change:

fGrassStartFadeDistance= [Ultra value: 7000]
fGrassMaxStartFadeDistance= [Ultra value: 7000]

The maximum value that bestows any benefit is 14000, unless you tweak the uGrids value, which we'll get to later, to add additional full-detail gameplay cells. If you do tweak uGrids, you can increase the value to 28000 to blanket every millimeter of suitable terrain with grass.

Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Tweak Interactive Comparison #001 - 28,000 with uGrids 11

Performance: Adding some extra grass doesn't cost all that much. uGrids in this scenario, however...

Fallout 4 PC - Grass Fade Tweaks Performance

Item Fade Tweak

As was the case with Actor Fade, there's little benefit to tweaking Item Fade due to the ever-decreasing size of newly-added distant items (a bucket looks like a silver pixel at 200 meters, for instance).

If you wish to tweak it regardless, change fLODFadeOutMultItems= [Ultra value: 15].

Object Fade Tweak

As objects run the gamut from houses to cars, to vending machines and fences, tweaking Object Fade beyond the in-game maximum can increase detail on distant views if you tweak uGrids. Depending on the scene you may see additional vehicles, or only a trash can that looks like a dot at distance. Your mileage may very, in other words.

For the tweak to kick-in, change fLODFadeOutMultObjects= [Ultra value: 15]. And check out our tweaking summary to see the minor improvement in a max-setting scenario.

Particle Tweaks

Particles form the basis of many weapon effects, and other visual effects such as explosions, smoke, and fire. To adjust the maximum number that can be rendered simultaneously, tweak =iMaxDesired [Ultra value: 750].

We've yet to observe any benefit to raising the setting, but one likely exists, or will exist when modders create massive battles as they did in previous Bethesda games.

Screen Space Reflections Tweaks

Using the in-game console, accessible with the tilde key (~), left of "1" on most keyboards, you can adjust a number of Screen Space Reflection (SSR) parameters to modify their appearance:

     
  • SSRI [number] (default: 1): adjust the intensity of SSR
  • SSRBP [number] (default: 1): adjust the blending power of SSR
  • SSRAT [number] (default: 0.2): adjust the angle threshold of SSR
  • SSREFF [number] (default: 0.2): adjust the edge fade factor of SSR
  • SSRVBP [number] (default: 50): adjust the vertical blur power of SSR
  • SSRVAP [number] (default: 2): adjust the vertical alignment power of SSR
  • SSRVSP [0.0-1.0] (default: 0): adjust the vertical stretching power of SSR
  • SSRRSS [number] (default: 8): adjust the ray step scale of SSR

Once you've settled on a combination of settings that you like, take a note and add them to a text (.txt) file, with one command on each line. Place the file in your game install directory where the Fallout4.exe is located, and when you're next in-game type bat [filename] to execute the changes.

Shadow Distance Tweak

Earlier, we explained that as Shadow Distance increases the fidelity and detail level of shadows decreases. The maximum values set by the game launcher are fShadowDistance=20000.0000 and fDirShadowDistance=20000.0000, and on High the value is reduced to 14000.

At 20000 shadows begin to lose definition, and at 14000 a few too many distance shadows are removed. Instead, we'd recommend you tweak the value to 17000 for a better balance between distance and detail during general gameplay.

From overlooks, such as those shown in our comparisons below, some distant shadows are visibly removed, but during ground-level gameplay the improvement to image quality from 17000 is appreciable.

Fallout 4 - Shadow Distance Tweak Interactive Comparison #002

Fallout 4 - Shadow Distance Tweak Example #002 - Shadow Distance 40000 Fallout 4 - Shadow Distance Tweak Example #002 - Shadow Distance 30000 Fallout 4 - Shadow Distance Tweak Example #002 - Shadow Distance 20000 (Default) Fallout 4 - Shadow Distance Tweak Example #002 - Shadow Distance 17000

Interactive Comparisons
40000 vs. 30000 40000 vs. 20000 (Default) 40000 vs. 17000
30000 vs. 20000 (Default) 30000 vs. 17000 20000 (Default) vs. 17000

Note how 30000 and 40000 add a nice fat shadow around the highway, at the expense of shadow definition just about everywhere else.

Shadow Quality Tweak

To give shadow quality a big boost, and increase the visibility and fidelity of distant shadows, increase iShadowMapResolution= from 4096 to 8192.

Fallout 4 - Shadow Quality Tweak Interactive Comparison #001

Some nearby shadows are unnaturally sharp, but given the general screen-wide increase to image quality it's a minor quibble.

Fallout 4 - Shadow Quality Tweak Interactive Comparison #002

Performance: Shadow Quality is one of the most expensive Fallout 4 settings, and doubling its detail level once more understandably impacts performance by a fair margin.

Fallout 4 PC - Shadow Quality Tweak Performance

uGrids Tweak

In Skyrim, when you looked across a vista or down on a city from an elevated position you could see for miles and miles, albeit with a variable level of detail. If everything in the visible area were loaded at full quality the vast majority of systems would be unable to maintain any degree of performance, and may even crash. To limit what could and could not be shown, the game world was broken into squares (uGrids), and around the player 5 full-detail uGrids were loaded simultaneously.

With tweaking we could increase the number of uGrids loaded, but as Skyrim was a 32-bit .exe, and most GPUs had at max 2GB of VRAM, performance and stability was poor above 7 uGrids as players frequently ran out of RAM, VRAM, and general CPU and GPU horsepower.

For Fallout 4, the game engine has received a 64-bit upgrade, solving RAM issues; GPUs now have significantly more VRAM, and 2015 hardware is leagues ahead of what we had back in 2011. In other words, uGrids are now legitimately usable, and stable, all the way up to and including uGrids 13, improving image quality and detail draw distances substantially. Take a look at the comparisons below to see what we mean.

Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Interactive Comparison #001

Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Example #001 - 13 uGrids Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Example #001 - 11 uGrids Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Example #001 - 9 uGrids Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Example #001 - 7 uGrids Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Example #001 - 5 uGrids (Default)

Interactive Comparisons
uGrids 13 vs. uGrids 11 uGrids 13 vs. uGrids 9 uGrids 13 vs. uGrids 7
uGrids 13 vs. uGrids 5 (Default) uGrids 11 vs. uGrids 9 uGrids 11 vs. uGrids 7
uGrids 11 vs. uGrids 5 (Default) uGrids 9 vs. uGrids 7 uGrids 9 vs. uGrids 5 (Default)
  uGrids 7 vs. uGrids 5 (Default)  

At medium distances significant improvements can be found, too.

Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Interactive Comparison #002

Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Example #002 - 13 uGrids Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Example #002 - 11 uGrids Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Example #002 - 9 uGrids Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Example #002 - 7 uGrids Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Example #002 - 5 uGrids (Default)

Interactive Comparisons
uGrids 13 vs. uGrids 11 uGrids 13 vs. uGrids 9 uGrids 13 vs. uGrids 7
uGrids 13 vs. uGrids 5 (Default) uGrids 11 vs. uGrids 9 uGrids 11 vs. uGrids 7
uGrids 11 vs. uGrids 5 (Default) uGrids 9 vs. uGrids 7 uGrids 9 vs. uGrids 5 (Default)
  uGrids 7 vs. uGrids 5 (Default)  

And combined with the Grass Fade tweak, grass view distance and general image quality can be raised even at short range.

Fallout 4 - Grass Fade Tweak Interactive Comparison #001 - 28,000 with uGrids 11

Before you sprint off to change uGridsToLoad=, please note that uGrids can alter your game and save data, and reverting to a previous uGrids value at a later date may break your save. Mods like Stable uGridsToLoad were eventually developed for Skyrim to workaround these issues, and before that we had this manual fix, which appears to also work in Fallout 4:

  1. Start Fallout 4 and load up a saved game
  2. Use ALT+TAB to switch out of Fallout 4 and back to your Desktop
  3. Edit the Fallout4Prefs.ini file as normal, modifying the uGridsToLoad variable to the desired lower value. Save Fallout4Prefs.ini and close it
  4. Use ALT+TAB to switch back to Fallout 4
  5. Open the Command Console using the tilde (~) key and type refreshini
  6. Save your game to a new save slot, and it should now have the correct new uGridsToLoad value

If you're concerned about breaking your game and losing progress simply wait for a foolproof mod or script, as was developed for Skyrim. If however you like to walk on the wild side, backup your saves and config files and enjoy the massively improved image quality.

Performance: Loading extra uGrids adds additional high-quality detail across your field of view, and so has a sizable performance impact. It also requires vast amounts of RAM and VRAM - our tests frequently saw 6GB of RAM and VRAM in use at 1920x1080, with uGrids maxed out at 13.

Fallout 4 PC - uGridsToLoad Performance

If you have performance to spare, and the requisite hardware, tweaking uGrids will have the single largest impact on image quality of any Fallout 4 tweak or game setting.

Water Tweaks

You can't increase the quality of water in Fallout 4, which appears to have three set-in-stone LoD levels, but you can turn off several of its features to improve performance on slower systems. To do so, simply change "1" to "0" on the following config file lines:

bUseWaterDisplacements=1
bUseWaterRefractions=1
bUseWaterReflections=1
bUseWaterDepth=1

NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution

To increase the quality of your graphics even further, activate Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR) to receive up to 4K-quality graphics on your HD monitor. How it works is simple: compatible games, such as Fallout 4, are rendered at a higher, more detailed resolution, and the image intelligently shrunk back down to the resolution of your monitor using a custom-made filter, giving you up to 4K-quality graphics on your screen. The video below explains more, and the images show how to activate the setting in the NVIDIA Control Panel.

Fallout 4 NVIDIA Control Panel DSR #1 Fallout 4 NVIDIA Control Panel DSR #2

With DSR enabled, textures benefit from improved clarity, aliasing is almost entirely eliminated, objects have better definition, vegetation is more detailed, and distant game elements are significantly clearer. If you've used DSR in other games you'll know of these benefits already, but if you haven't had the chance here's a look at how Fallout 4's graphics scale with rendering resolutions.

Fallout 4 - NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution Comparison

Fallout 4 - NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution Example #1 - 3840x2160 Fallout 4 - NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution Example #1 - 2560x1440 Fallout 4 - NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution Example #1 - 1920x1080 Fallout 4 - NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution Example #1 - 1600x900 Fallout 4 - NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution Example #1 - 1280x720

Interactive Comparisons
1920x1080 vs. 3840x2160 1920x1080 vs. 2560x1440 1920x1080 vs. 1600x900
1920x1080 vs. 1280x720 3840x2160 vs. 2560x1440 3840x2160 vs. 1600x900
3840x2160 vs. 1280x720 2560x1440 vs. 1600x900 2560x1440 vs. 1280x720
  1600x900 vs. 1280x720  

Even though DSR is of great benefit, in the case of Fallout 4 we'd recommend tweaking uGrids first as it adds actual detail, rather than 'simply' improving what's currently visible. If after tweaking uGrids you have performance to spare, increase your rendering resolution with DSR for the definitive level of image quality.

Performance: Using a reference GeForce GTX 980 Ti, we increased the DSR rendering resolution in our demanding benchmark that incorporates almost all of Fallout 4's graphics settings, demonstrating the most demanding moments of this enormous game.

Fallout 4 PC - NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution Performance

Overclocking

If you need extra performance, overclocking your CPU and GPU will pay dividends in Fallout 4 demanding open world. Learn how with the help of GeForce Garage.

Tweaking Wrap-Up

Above we've documented what we believe to be the most useful of tweaks. Many old favorites from Skyrim no longer work, numerous lines in the configuration file have no noticeable or positive impact on image quality, and of the hundreds of in-game console commands we're expecting the majority to be locked down in the retail release of the game. Those that remain will undoubtedly be tested by experienced Skryim modders, and should they find anything of note we'll be sure to update the guide.

Using the tweaks we have verified so far, we've already gained a considerable amount of detail as the interactive comparison below demonstrates.

Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Interactive Comparison #001

Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Example #001 - 13 uGrids(Fully Tweaked) Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Example #001 - 13 uGrids Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Example #001 - 11 uGrids Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Example #001 - 9 uGrids Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Example #001 - 7 uGrids Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Example #001 - 5 uGrids (Default)

Interactive Comparisons
uGrids 13 (Fully Tweaked) vs. uGrids 13 (Ultra Settings) uGrids 13 (Fully Tweaked) vs. uGrids 11 (Ultra Settings) uGrids 13 (Fully Tweaked) vs. uGrids 9 (Ultra Settings)
uGrids 13 (Fully Tweaked) vs. uGrids 7 (Ultra Settings)   uGrids 13 (Fully Tweaked) vs. uGrids 5 (Ultra Settings)

Air conditioners and other objects are visible on distant buildings, trees are rendered on the distant hill, which is now of a higher quality; a turret can be seen across the river, a character can be seen on the river boat, and everything just looks better.

Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Interactive Comparison #002

Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Example #002 - 13 uGrids(Fully Tweaked) Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Example #002 - 13 uGrids Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Example #002 - 11 uGrids Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Example #002 - 9 uGrids Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Example #002 - 7 uGrids Fallout 4 - uGridsToLoad Tweak Example #002 - 5 uGrids (Default)

Interactive Comparisons
uGrids 13 (Fully Tweaked) vs. uGrids 13 (Ultra Settings) uGrids 13 (Fully Tweaked) vs. uGrids 11 (Ultra Settings) uGrids 13 (Fully Tweaked) vs. uGrids 9 (Ultra Settings)
uGrids 13 (Fully Tweaked) vs. uGrids 7 (Ultra Settings)   uGrids 13 (Fully Tweaked) vs. uGrids 5 (Ultra Settings)

Performance:

Performance is unplayable with every single thing maxed out, as was the case when Skyrim first launched, but in time hardware will improve and many more will have the opportunity to take advantage of these tweaks and the graphics mods that will undoubtedly be developed. In the meantime, we'd recommend starting with uGrids 7 (if you're unafraid of potential issues), Shadow Quality, Distant Object Detail, and Grass Fade, in that order.

Fallout 4 PC - uGridsToLoad Performance

If you learn of any other beneficial tweaks, be sure to let us know via the comments section.

G-SYNC: Eliminating Stutters & Tearing For The Ultimate Experience

NVIDIA revolutionized computer displays in 2013 with the introduction of variable refresh rates, enabling gamers to enjoy highly responsive, tear-free, stutter-free experiences on G-SYNC monitors. Reviews are phenomenal, and gamers everywhere agree that it's painful to play on anything other than a G-SYNC display once you're used to the flawless experience it provides.

With a G-SYNC monitor you explore the wasteland in optical bliss for hundreds of hours, without encountering any of the issues associated with old monitor technology, leaving you to worry only about the enemies and hazards in-game.

Game Ready Fallout 4 Driver

For the best Fallout 4 experience we recommend updating to the new Fallout 4 GeForce Game Ready Drivers. Included are the latest performance optimizations and tweaks for Fallout 4, ensuring an optimal experience the second you start playing. Download now for via GeForce Experience.

GeForce Experience: Optimal Playable Settings With A Single Click

The best way to automatically configure and apply Fallout 4's 20 game settings for your specific system configuration is through GeForce Experience, an invaluable tool for all GeForce GTX users. In addition to optimizing over 300 games, the free GeForce Experience application can automatically update drivers and profiles, record and stream gameplay with ShadowPlay, and can wirelessly stream PC games, including Fallout 4, to NVIDIA SHIELD devices.

Taking into account your GPU and CPU, as well as many additional factors, GeForce Experience's game recommendations can be applied with a single click, and are updated over time should developer patches and NVIDIA drivers improve performance further still. This one-click solution is perfect for gamers who wish to play instead of fiddling, and for those with little experience in configuring settings for an optimal experience.

Conclusion

The PC edition of Fallout 4 comes with a number of perks. There are higher rendering resolutions, configuration options, and often higher-quality effects. In the case of Fallout 4, all those are present, as well as the option to tweak graphics substantially with a few easy-to-implement config file changes. Not to mention, the gameplay and graphics mods that will continue to improve and enhance Fallout 4 for years to come.

Factor in experience-enhancing technologies like G-SYNC, GeForce Experience's automatic setting configuration for non-enthusiasts, remote play with GameStream, remote control of a friend's game with GameStream Co-Op beta, gameplay recording and streaming with ShadowPlay, and the ability to sync your game with the Android Fallout 4 Pip-Boy app on SHIELD tablet, and you've got more enhancements, more options and more flexibility in how you experience Fallout 4 than on any other platform or service.

If you're playing on PC you've got the definitive experience, and it's only going to get better. If you're playing on a GeForce GTX PC, you're experiencing Fallout 4 the way it was meant to be played.

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