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EVGA GTX 980: An Upgrade That’s (Probably) Worth The Price
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EVGA GTX 980: An Upgrade That’s (Probably) Worth The Price

Upgrading to the EVGA GTX is (mostly) worth your time and money, with noticeable results in old and new games alike.

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So here’s the story: I dug deep and finally shelled out for a new video card a week or so ago. Couldn’t really tell you why; my trusty GTX 780 was handling things pretty well and I probably could have waited another year or so. I didn’t, though, and off I went to Amazon, coughed up the cash and consigned myself and my firstborn to poverty to upgrade to a EVGA GTX 980 4GB GDDR5 Graphics Card, one of the most powerful single-card solutions available that doesn’t cost more than a grand.

When I mentioned this to Nate, our wacky Managing Editor, about this, he asked me to write about my experiences playing games that had given me some trouble previously. He offered a portion of his soul if I did so, a minute fragment of his immense power that I could claim for myself. How could I resist? So here we are with the first preliminary results, with links to original game reviews if you absolutely need more info. Let’s get started!

Ryse: Son of Rome (2014)

Okay, this game sucks. There’s no way around it. This game’s just kind of crap all around. Sorry, Microsoft, I love you guys and we’ll still be friends forever thanks to Sunset Overdrive, but Ryse just didn’t do it for me. It basically plays like a Roman-themed Batman Arkham game except without pretty much any of the features that make the Arkham series fun. Alternatively, you could think of it as “Quick Time Event: The Game.” You’ll be pushing a lot of color-coded buttons in this one.

Ryse wasn’t made to be fun, though! It was made to look really nice! With decent hardware, the PC version of Ryse can compete with the Xbox One version in the graphical department, meaning it looks absolutely amazing. For the first couple hours you’re sure to forget how much the game sucks. If you’ve got supreme hardware, as in an SLI setup with multiple high-end video cards and a 4K monitor, it can look even better than that. Sadly, I’m still lacking a 4K monitor, so for now all I can say is that it looks really great and plays like crap.

Oh, and lest we forget: Ryse was one of those games that incorporated a microtransaction system despite being $60 retail at launch. Not really relevant here, but if we keep reminding gamers about these things maybe they’ll push back a little next time they happen.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (2014)

Given that this game’s basically a tech demo that you pay for, it makes a great choice for trying out new graphics hardware. The engine is heavily optimized so it runs pretty well on most anything, so my upgrade didn’t make much of a difference here. It looks absolutely fantastic and plays really well…for the half-hour or so it’ll last once you have an idea of what you’re doing.

4K is an option for this game as well, but a monitor capable of that resolution didn’t materialize in the five minutes since I stopped playing Ryse, so I’m afraid I’m still incapable of reviewing that capability. Solid choice if you can snag a copy for $5 or so, though, and a nice sampler for things to come.

Dying Light (2015)

I’ll talk a little more about this one when I get to reviewing it, but suffice to say that Dying Light needs some optimization work because it’s 2015 so of course it does. It runs fairly well but there’s the odd microstutter, some crashes here and there in multiplayer, long loading times and so on. It’s pretty much what you’ve come to expect from a AAA game launch these days. Patches might fix it up a bit, but Steam and GameStop don’t do refunds, so I couldn’t blame the devs for not moving heaven and earth to fix the game up for people who’ve already paid.

The game itself looks gorgeous between the odd spout of stuttering, for what that’s worth. Some of the best lighting effects in games are on display and the environment design does a great job of making you feel oppressed. As for the gameplay, it’s Dead Island With Parkour, which does a lot to make Dead Island a little more palatable. Combat is visceral, particularly the melee combat which features a solid sense of weight behind your attacks, and running around the city is a great time. Full campaign co-op is a nice addition as well, even if it can be a little buggy.

All in all, as the first finished zombie game of 2015, Dying Light manages to not embarrass itself too badly by vomiting acid spit on the player…or something. Tortured metaphors. It’s not bad. Maybe wait until it hits $40. Check the review later.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 (2015)

Hyperdimension Neptunia was released in 2011 and somehow managed to win enough hearts that it’s seen multiple sequels and spinoff games localized for Western audiences. This was almost certainly due to the endearing plot and characters moreso than the gameplay, which was something to endure rather than enjoy. The team took players’ criticism to heart and now here we are with Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1, a much improved retelling of the original PS Vita title released in 2014, but today we’re going to talk about the 2015 Steam release.

It’s 60FPS and 1080P. It’s gorgeous, I love it. Can’t say anything bad about this series. Sorry. Tried really hard. Next.

Tomb Raider (2013)

So this was actually pretty playable with my previous GTX780 but with the 980 I’m able to crank everything up to horrific extremes. This game incorporates TressFX, basically a hilarious name for Really Pretty hair.” Lara’s hair actually does look really good if you’ve got it on. In fact, the game will run pretty well on most hardware as long as you stay away from Really Pretty Hair Mode.

This game bears mention because of how freakin’ good it is, to be honest. It’s been almost two years now and it still holds up today as one of the best AAA experiences out there. The graphics are great, the gameplay is solid in every way and the plot manages to hold together decently well. You can’t really ask for more these days. If you haven’t played this one yet I guarantee you’ve got a system that can run it, so you should probably give it a shot, even if you weren’t originally a fan of the Tomb Raider series. If you’ve got hardware that can handle Really Pretty Hair, well, your dreams have finally come true. Crank that hair option up and enjoy.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity (2014)

So I’ll admit that this one was my white whale. When I reviewed the PS4 version I admitted it had some performance issues; it still does, actually, and while a few patches have done a lot to make the experience a little more enjoyable on consoles it simply doesn’t compare to what you get on PC. 60FPS! It’s delightful and makes going through Arno’s story all over again a worthwhile endeavor.

Is it a great game with the improved performance? Well, maybe not “great.” We’ll go with “good.” Despite Ubisoft giving away the game’s DLC for free after the release-day debacle, for instance, you’re still encouraged to shell out for cheat currency in the form of “Helix Credits” at every turn. Tons of ingame items are hidden behind various companion apps and minigames as well. I can’t imagine anyone’s happy about this nonsense, which is exactly why the upcoming AAA masterpiece Evolve is doing exactly the same thing.

If you’re able to look past these MBA-mandated annoyances, though, then it’s definitely a solid game that’s worth your time. Arno’s story is passable if not all that inspiring, the AC gameplay is refined to an extreme and works great and there’s a mindblowing amount of content. I’m having a great time with the PC release, to be honest, even though a side of me says I shouldn’t be. It’s the same side that feels a little queasy every time I see a weapon’s price listed in both ingame money and cash shop currency.

So it runs well on PC if you’ve got expensive hardware. That’s great! The bad PR that resulted from the initial release of the game still lingers, however. A great example was when I told a friend that the game was playable and fun and that he should join me in taking on the co-op missions. He said he wasn’t willing to give Ubisoft money for their broken game. Nevermind that it was no longer broken. Nevermind that the concept of “support” regarding purchasing games or doing otherwise is kind of a silly pipe dream in the first place designed to part people with their money in exchange for less value delivered. Nevermind that he happily gives money to Double Fine, a company which has turned gamers’ willingness to pay a premium for unfinished products into a business in itself and led hundreds of other developers to do the same. The guy wouldn’t budge.

The point is that gamers have long memories…until it’s inconvenient to have long memories, then they’ll shell out preordering the next title in the series and stand in line for hours in the cold for a chance to play it at midnight on a Wednesday. If the gaming community was really going to fight back when a publisher released crap or did some anti-consumer nonsense, Ubisoft would have failed to sell a single copy of any Assassin’s Creed title on PC after Assassin’s Creed 2’s always-online DRMGate. But they did, and they do, and I doubt anyone’s thought twice about the buggy original release of Unity after the first week or so it was out, because that’s how gamers are. What I’m saying is we do this to ourselves. All bark, literally no bite whatsoever. C’est la vie.

Enough ranting: you can get Unity on PC for around $25 on eBay these days and if you’ve got the horsepower to run it, it’s a good time.

About the Author: Cory Galliher