Editorials

Alan Wake 2 PC Performance — Truly Next Gen

There was nobody more suited to tackle Alan Wake 2 than our own Lead Editor, David Burdette. His love of the series and overall enthusiasm was palpable. Now that the game has launched (Here’s our review!) and we’ve had a bit more time with the final version on the Epic Store, it’s time to deep dive into the game’s overall performance on PC. A truly next-gen experience, is it possible to run this on something lower end like an RTX 2080 Super? What about performance on a 3080? What’s possible at the top end with an RTX 4090? Join us as we dig into all of the options for Alan Wake 2.

It’s fair to say, based on our capture on PlayStation 5, that this game is as beautiful as it is demanding. That said, we all know that all of the levers and dials on PC will push it even further. Before we get into that, however, let’s look at what’s on offer from the PlayStation 5.

The PS5 version of Alan Wake 2 has two different modes, as is often the case on Sony’s consoles – Quality and Performance. Quality renders the game at or as close to 4K resolution as possible, eschewing faster framerates over higher resolutions. This mode is typically where you’ll find things like ray tracing or other graphical fidelity options enabled, providing the best possible image, but likely at a lower framerate. This is fine for genres like RPGs, but for a game where quick movement is to your benefit, you’ll probably want Performance Mode. Performance mode is all about go-fast, dropping resolution, higher graphical fidelity, and other bells and whistles in favor of delivering not only the most frames possible, but also typically the most consistent framerate – crucial when every millisecond counts. In the case of Alan Wake 2, Quality Mode delivers an output of 4K, with a native resolution of 2248 x 1270p and with a 30fps target. Performance Mode on the other hand pushes that framerate target to 60fps with an output resolution of 1440p and a render resolution of 1505x847p. The best part about owning a PC, however, is that my framerate or resolution isn’t bound by anything but my wallet.  For reference, here’s our review, captured entirely on the PlayStation.

Alan Wake 2 video review - A page worth turning

Let’s get the official PC requirements from the Remedy team.

Alan Wake 2 Minimum PC specs (1080p / 30fps)

  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 / AMD Radeon RX 6600
  • VRAM: 6GB
  • DLSS / FSR2: Quality
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-7600K / AMD equivalent
  • RAM: 16GB
  • OS: Windows 10 / 11
  • Storage: 90GB SSD

Alan Wake 2 Recommended PC specs (1440p / 30fps)

  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 / AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT
  • VRAM: 8GB
  • DLSS / FSR 2: Balanced\
  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X / Intel equivalent\
  • RAM: 16GB
  • OS: Windows 10 / 11
  • Storage: 90GB SSD

Alan Wake 2 Recommended PC specs (1080p / 60fps)

  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 / AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT
  • VRAM: 8GB
  • DLSS / FSR 2: Performance
  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X / Intel equivalent
  • RAM: 16GB
  • OS: Windows 10 / 11
  • Storage: 90GB SSD

Alan Wake 2 Ultra PC specs (4K / 60fps)

  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 / AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT
  • VRAM: 12G
  • DLSS / FSR 2: Performance
  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X / Intel equivalent
  • RAM: 16GB
  • OS: Windows 10 / 11
  • Storage: 90GB SSD

Alan Wake 2 Low Ray Tracing PC specs (1080p / 30fps)

  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 / AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT
  • VRAM: 8GB
  • DLSS / FSR 2: Quality
  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X / Intel equivalent
  • RAM: 16GB
  • OS: Windows 10 / 11
  • Storage: 90GB SSD

Alan Wake 2 Medium Ray Tracing PC specs (1080p / 60fps)

  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070
  • VRAM: 12GB
  • DLSS / FSR 2: Quality
  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X / Intel equivalent
  • RAM: 16GB\
  • OS: Windows 10 / 11
  • Storage: 90GB SSD

Alan Wake 2 High Ray Tracing PC specs (4K / 60fps)

  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080
  • VRAM: 16GB
  • DLSS / FSR 2: Performance
  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X / Intel equivalent
  • RAM: 16GB
  • OS: Windows 10 / 11
  • Storage: 90GB SSD

You can see that the processor requirements are remarkably low, even for the High Ray Tracing 4K/60 settings. The Intel equivalent of an AMD Ryzen 7 3700X is an Intel 9700K – a nearly five year old processor. The same could be said for the 16GB requirement as 32GB of DDR5 at 6000 MT/s is less than a hundred bucks for a reputable brand. The differentiator, then, has to be GPU, how much VRAM you have, and degrees of quality settings. To that end, we’ll be testing the aforementioned three generations of graphic processors, as well as rasterized (that’s to say, native processing) without the advantage of tech like deep learning super sampling (DLSS) or frame generation, as well as with and without ray tracing. Without further ado, let’s get to it.

Remedy’s Northlight engine is an internal proprietary engine that the team has been using for quite some time. I could explain it, but honestly, I couldn’t do it better than they do:

Breaking Down Remedy's Northlight Engine

As you can see, they’ve been using this engine for quite a while, with massive generational leaps most recently with Control, and somehow another massive leap once again with Alan Wake 2. Built around modularity, the team has been able to fold in new technologies like DLSS 3.5, Frame Generation, and more, ensuring Remedy’s games look their very best at all times. Let’s get a look at the full menu of levers we can pull on PC:

  • Display Mode: Windows, Borderless, Fullscreen
  • Display Resolution: The usual suspects, with 16:9 and 16:10 support
  • Render Resolution: The usual suspects, but the internal render, not the displayed resolution
  • Resolution Upscaling: DLSS or FSR 2
  • DLSS Frame Generation: Available on RTX 4000-series cards exclusively
  • Vsync: On or off. On helps with screen tearing.
  • Brightness Calibration: Make things brighter. Or not!
  • Motion Blur: Just turn this off.
  • Film Grain: Adds a noir-style film grain when appropriate
  • Quality Preset: Low, Medium, or High adjusts several of these en-mass
  • Post-Processing Quality: These are full-screen filters and effects, typically, such as color treatments. This has a low and high setting.
  • Texture Resolution: This is the resolution of textures, measured in pixels, as they are mapped to objects. Higher resolution costs additional RAM and is available in Low, Medium, High, and Ultra settings.
  • Texture Filtering: Texture filtering technologies (e.g. Anisotropic filtering) improves the quality of a texture when viewed from an angle. Low, Medium, and High options here.
  • Volumetric Spotlight Quality: Better known as “God rays” – Low, Medium, and High
  • Global Illumination Quality: Indirect lighting and illumination of objects and geometry in the environment, taking account of reflectiveness, bounce, absorption, and overall reactivity in a realistic way. Low, Medium, and High.
  • Shadow Resolution: The quality and realism of shadows cast into the environment. Low, Medium, and High
  • Shadow Filtering: This rescues the overall aliasing of shadows, making them appear softer and more natural. Medium and High settings.
  • Shadow Detail: Greater detail of shadows will make the objects in the environment cast more realistic representations of the objects that cast them. Think individual rails in a fence, not a large soft blob. Medium, High
  • Screen Space Ambient Occlusion (SSAO): This is seen when objects occlude, or overlap, one another, impacting the shadows and lights they present in the environment. This interaction is SSAO and is either on or off here.
  • Global Reflections: Global reflections is WAY too broad a subject to explain quickly. In fact, Remedy’s own Control is the best example of it as you can see in this NVIDIA explainer. Off, Low and High await.
  • Screen Space Reflections (SSR): In terms of easily spotted examples of a setting, this is probably the easiest. Using screen space data from other settings, this setting allows the GPU to calculate reflected surfaces such as wet floors, puddles, chrome, and more. It’s an expensive effect, but the visual difference cannot be overstated. Again, Off, Low, and High
  • Fog Quality: This is literally the difference between low-poly fog effects and hyper realistic effects. Medium, High
  • Terrain Quality: Alan Wake 2 features some incredibly creepy and realistic ground environments, and this setting will affect that ground texture quality. Medium, High
  • Far Object Detail (LOD): The LOD is how much detail is visible and at what distance. Medium and High are the options, and that denotes distance more than quality
  • Scattered Object Density: There’s plenty of detritus littered throughout a well-populated zone. Be it leaves, garbage, or actual dirt, Low, Medium, High, and Ultra will affect the overall amount of it.
  • Ray Tracing Preset: Ray tracing is a rendering technique for lighting that realistically and physically renders accurate reflections, lighting (both indirect and direct), shadows, and more in a way that appears natural. When paired with an NVIDIA GPU, it can be done with AI support, meaning the developer doesn’t have to hand place these light sources. Off, Low, Medium, and High presets adjust all of the settings below this entry.
  • DLSS Ray Reconstruction: DLSS, or Deep Learning Super Sampling Ray Reconstruction, is the aforementioned AI-supported lighting system that is the heart of DLSS 3.5. It improves ray tracing by reducing the overall noise in the scene computation. Frankly, it’s far too much to explain in a short bit, so please take it from VP of Applied Deep Learning Research, Bryan Catanzaro. This is either on or off, but if you’ve got a 4000 series card, you’ll want this on – I guarantee it.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGKCrcNsVzo
  • Direct Lighting: Direct Lighting, or RTDXI, is another piece of the DLSS 3.5 puzzle, allowing any object in the environment to act as an actor capable of casting its own ray trace light source almost without impact to performance. How much? Try going from 2-8 light sources to over 100 in a single scene without dropping a single frame. Like DLSSRR, this is either on or off. You want it on.
  • Direct Lighting Denoising Quality: We’ve mentioned light noise a few times now, and just like the previous entries, this tech improves the overall quality of the image by taking the directly lit images mentioned above, and then reducing the overall grain and discoloration that can impact image quality through an additional pass. This is a low or high setting, often costing just 1-3 frames.
  • Transparency: Some objects need partial transparency. This can be a partially obfuscated tree branch, a person’s face behind their glasses, or any other number of examples. This transparency setting doesn’t suddenly make everything opaque if you turn it off, but does add some DLSS magic to it for computational efficiency if you change it to low or high.

Ok that’s a lot of settings. Before we get into the numbers, I want to point out a few things that I immediately noticed as I benchmarked this across my test benches. First and foremost, this game is gorgeous. I don’t need to qualify that further as it doesn’t need it – regardless of settings, and yes even on low and with all this amazing lighting technology turned off, this game is eye-poppingly beautiful. To demonstrate that, here’s Alan Wake 2 running on my Predator Triton 500 laptop with 16GB of RAM, an Intel 10750H 6-Core Processor, and an RTX 2080 Super GPU running at Low.

Alan Wake 2 Performance Test Intro - PC GeForce RTX 2080 Super, low 1080p

Here’s that same laptop running at high settings, 1080p, but with RT disabled.

Alan Wake 2 Performance Test Intro - PC GeForce RTX 2080 Super, High 1080p

As you can see, the visual difference between low and high settings isn’t that significant. You absolutely can enjoy Alan Wake 2 with a potato PC. That said, if you want to experience it in a way that will bend your brain, you’ll need to be able to toggle those Ray Tracing options. Let’s jump to the RTX 3080 with all of the bells and whistles enabled.

Alan Wake 2 Performance Test - PC, RTX 4070, 1440p

Jumping to the GeForce RTX 4070, we finally have the ability to enable all of the DLSS 3.5 options. At an MSRP of $599, it’s likely the most popular choice for a lot of folks. It has 12GB of GDDR6X, and it’s able to deliver in all of the latest games, as you can see in our review. First up, we’ll see the same man-butt heading up the hill, but with far better lighting, reflective surfaces, scattered object density, and more.

Alan Wake 2 Performance Test Intro - PC RTX 4070

Moving further into the game we start to see the effects of the lighting engine really bring the game to life. Both of Flynn’s videos were captured with DLAA rather than DLSS, still giving admirable performance. Turning on Balanced DLSS will give you that boost for 60 fps and beyond in pretty much any area, but if you’re cool with 30 DLAA can make the image even more beautiful.  David Burdette’s system is sporting an RTX 3080, giving us a generational leap between tests:

Alan Wake 2 Performance Test Intro - PC RTX 3080

While the top tier “Ultra PC” suggests you can get 60 frames per second at 4K, I was curious what the most powerful card you can buy could do. Slotting a GeForce RTX 4090, let’s pull that same hill climb sequence.

The RTX 2080 supports DLSS 2.0, the RTX 3080 supports DLSS 3.0, and the 4000 series cards both support DLSS 3.5, so we’ll be focused on our numbers with the aid of AI-powered super sampling. The technology has become all but indistinguishable from rasterized, but with the benefit of, in many cases, doubling the framerate. We’ve probably delayed this enough – let’s get to the charts and graphs!

For the RTX 4090 we crank everything to 11 and rip the knob off. That means 4K resolution, with DLSS at Ultra Performance, and Frame Generation enabled — a 4000 series exclusive. We also enable full path tracing, giving us every bell and whistle DLSS has to offer. Frankly, with these numbers there’s little reason to run it at anything less than 4K. If you’ve got the hardware, this will run like it’s set on fire and covered with bullet ants, so let’s get to the full cross-section.

As you can see, the framerate numbers for the top tier cards are no joke. Able to deliver a stable 4K/60 and well beyond, this is Alan Wake 2 the way Remedy intended us to experience it. That said, you can clearly see that they’ve also built it to scale beautifully to hardware from five years ago and not look bad by any measure. The more hardware you’ve got to throw at it, the better it’ll look, but just about ny GeForce card will do the trick. NVIDIA continues to wow us with their DLSS tech, and Alan Wake II is just the latest, and most impressive, showcase.

You can check out review for Alan Wake 2 right here – stay tuned here at GamingTrend.com for all of our in-depth coverage and much more. Stay tuned, this has been one heck of a season, and it’s not stopping.

Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief | [email protected]

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming.

Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter.

Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 28 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes), and an Axolotl named Dagon!

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