It’s 2023, and games are getting hard to run. Look at the countless complaints about Starfield maxing out top end systems, and you’ll see the days of consoles holding back PCs are more than over. In many cases this has one culprit: the processor. But do you need an upgrade?
To answer that question, you need to figure out exactly why you want the new processor. What are your expectations? Do you really need it? Are you just buying to keep up with the latest tech?
If it’s that last one and you can afford it, all the more power to you. Gaming is a cheap hobby. You can build a top end PC for half of what the best lenses cost, and don’t even get me started on things like travel or sport. Staying up with the latest tech – so long as you understand it and aren’t just buying buzzwords – is not a bad thing.
So onto the first two questions. What are your expectations? For instance, Final Fantasy XVI runs incredibly well on PlayStation 5, even in its 30fps mode. It’s playable, it looks great and it doesn’t make you feel ill, even on an OLED screen. Those were my expectations going in on console. My expectations for PCs will be higher.
But how much higher? Do I want it to look better than on PlayStation, with double (or more) the frame rate? Are those expectations realistic?
When you actually start to read people’s complaints about Starfield on PC, you realise some just don’t have their expectations in check. They don’t know their system, have older processors, and are surprised they’re “only” getting 60fps. That’s what happens when you just buy the latest GPU and the CPU with as many cores as you can purchase. Then you feel entitled to 4k 120fps, which is an insane demand.
Turn off the FPS counter and you’ll probably not even notice there’s a problem. At the highest of high end, you’re mostly getting the best experience anyway.
I’m exaggerating slightly. It will grow into itself as tech improves over the next few years. And not just Starfield, many games will benefit from the sheer force of better components. That’s a feature of PC gaming. For generations, consoles held back PCs with lacklustre processors. Today? That’s looking like it won’t be a problem. And no amount of “optimisation” will get your last generation processor to magically run a game at full whack.
We should all want “can it run Crisis?” back. And we should be happy in the knowledge that many of us just won’t be there yet.
So to answer the question, no you probably don’t need to upgrade if your problem is more from looking at the data than playing the game. If you’re getting a decent resolution and a decent framerate, you’re probably fine. Improvements will be costly and probably not as strong as you might like.
Sometimes scaling things back is as effective as getting new parts. The beauty of gaming on PC is how customisable things are.
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