2022 was a big year for PC game releases, for better and worse. We saw remarkable achievements in fidelity in titles like Dying Light 2, but also fundamentally broken PC ports like Gotham Knights. As 2022 closes out, I wanted to take a look back at the best and worst PC games we saw in the past year.
Keep in mind that ReSpec is a technical column — I’m focused on the technical aspects of PC releases, not necessarily my favorite games overall. Elden Ring, for example, won our best games of 2022 roundup, and it’s a personal favorite. But it doesn’t show up in this list in quite the same light.
Portal RTX is an insanely demanding game, and I debated putting it on this list due to how few people can actually play it. But if nothing else, Portal RTX is a wonderful showcase of Nvidia’s RTX Remix modding toolkit and how ray tracing can work to redefine the look and feel of the game.
We’re far past the days of Quake II RTX where some over-saturated lighting and distracting reflections were the best showcases of ray tracing we had. Physically-based materials, more efficient path tracing techniques, upscaling, and frame generation all worked into bringing more realistic lighting into games, and Portal RTX is our first showcase of the power those techniques can have.
I’m particularly excited about what it means for RTX Remix in the future. Modders have already put out versions of Max Payne, Half-Life, and SWAT 4 revitalized through RTX Remix, and they all look incredible. I’ll be taking a closer look at these games (and hopefully more) in the future.
Gotham Knights is on the opposite end — it’s an ugly look into the past. In the vein of the infamous Arkham Knight PC port, Gotham Knights shipped on PC with massive stuttering issues paired with lackluster ray-tracing options. Even with a bevy of upscaling features on tap, Gotham Knights can’t maintain a stable frame rate.
It doesn’t help that the game looks dated, as well. It was originally designed with last-gen consoles in mind before the publisher decided to pull the plug, but it fails to live up to even that standard. Shortly after launch, a flood of images comparing the graphical fidelity of the game to 2015’s Arkham Knight started flowing out (and spoiler: Arkham Knight won that battle).
Personally, this one hit hard. Even with some issues that you can read about in our Gotham Knights review, I was excited to play the game. I can’t bear the overwhelming stuttering, though, which hasn’t been fixed even months after launch. It’s worse than Elden Ring’s stuttering and any other game I’ve played this year, and I don’t see the issue getting resolved any time soon. Just recently, a patch for Gotham Knights actually rendered the game unplayable on Steam. Yikes.
Uncharted Legacy of Thieves Collection is a prime example of how to do a PC port right. Rock-solid performance, a wide breadth of graphics options, and pre-compiled shaders make it a smooth experience on basically any rig — and a long-overdue debut for Nathan Drake on PC.
PlayStation has knocked it out of the park with all of its PC releases, but Uncharted is toned down compared to God of War and Marvel’s Spider-Man. You’ll find some enhanced textures, but the original console release is mostly intact. Instead, the port focuses on stability by compiling shaders in the menu to avoid stuttering and providing upscaling for any GPU in the form of FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) 2 and Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS).
The only downside is the install size. Uncharted Legacy of Thieves Collection requires 126GB of space (after everything is done, it’s around 113GB, but we’re splitting hairs here), and a lot of that size comes on the back of the enhanced textures. 100GB+ installs are common on PC with these high-resolution assets, but games like Far Cry 6 allow you to skip the higher-resolution assets for a smaller install size, which I would’ve liked to see in Uncharted.
Still, if all I can complain about is the install size for a PC game released in 2022, that’s a very good thing.
I’ll admit, Warhammer 40,000 Darktide is one of my personal favorite games of 2022, but that’s despite its truckload of technical issues. A lengthy and bug-filled beta period led to an even more broken release at launch, which featured constant network disconnects, game-breaking crashes due to ray tracing, and myriad visual errors.
Some examples: Turning off the nebulous and over-demanding sub-surface scattering setting meant that skin simply wouldn’t render on characters; turning on DLSS to improve ray tracing performance would crash the game; and lens flares could cause a massive reduction in frame rate, which is one of many settings that can create a nasty CPU bottleneck in the game.
Since launch, developer Fat Shark has continued to improve the game, and it’s in a much better place now. There’s no denying the tumultuous launch state of the game, though, which is disappointing considering it was one of only a few new titles released with DLSS 3, rather than backported to older releases.
Marvel’s Spider-Man and Miles Morales took a different approach to Sony’s PC ports, leaning heavier on PC tech rather than stable performance. They’re both stable games, but they’re also packed with ray tracing, a slew of upscaling options, and tech like Deep Learning Anti-Aliasing (DLAA) and DLSS Frame Generation.
Ray tracing looks fantastic in Marvel’s Spider-Man, and it allows you to push reflection and shadows beyond what’s available on the PlayStation 5. Miles Morales is particularly impressive with DLSS 3, even if the AI-generated frames don’t always look perfect.
Now that Spider-Man 2 is announced for next year on PlayStation 5, I can only hope we see it on PC. If these first two releases are anything to go by, the second game will hopefully shine even more on a high-end gaming rig.
I’m grouping Stray and Elden Ring here because they both had the same issue: shader compilation stuttering. Elden Ring has been patched into a much better state, as has Stray, but they both launched with consistent stuttering on PC due to shaders compiling on the GPU.
This is mainly a problem with Unreal Engine, as you can see from Gotham Knights. That said, Elden Ring uses a custom engine, showing that it can impact games engines, as well. The shaders (programs) need to move to your GPU before they can execute, causing a slowdown whenever new shaders are introduced.
The good news for these two releases is that they’re playable now, much unlike Gotham Knights. Still, it’s disappointing to see such severe stutters in two games that were widely considered among the best of the year.
Looking forward to 2023, I’m hopeful that the days of shader compilation stuttering and borked PC ports are behind us. Fortnite‘s transition to Unreal Engine 5 shows a bright future for the massive number of titles that use Unreal. On the other end, we’re still seeing the next-gen Witcher 3 update and titles like The Callisto Protocol release in devastating states.
On the plus side, more PC releases are embracing technologies like FSR, DLSS, Frame Generation, and latency-reduction tools like Reflex, helping games that are optimized on the engine side run more smoothly. I’m sure in 2023 we’ll see even more progress on that front.
This article is part of ReSpec – an ongoing biweekly column that includes discussions, advice, and in-depth reporting on the tech behind PC gaming.