Far Cry 4 woes with dual-core processors point to a bleak future for budget PC gamers

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While controversy continues to swirl around Assassin’s Creed: Unity’s terrible PC performance, further tales of woe are starting to surface around Ubisoft’s other blockbuster holiday release, Far Cry 4.

Numerous Reddit and forum users are reporting that Far Cry 4 flat-out refuses to work with “straight” dual-core PCs—chips that don’t use hyperthreading to “fake” having additional cores. Attempting to launch the game on just such a system results in a black-screen “failure to launch” bug, the users say.

Now, this isn’t a complete surprise. Far Cry 4’s minimum specifications call out the need for AMD and Intel processors with at least four cores. But in the past, games that claimed to need a quad-core processor have also managed to run on chips with fewer cores, albeit sometimes with a performance hit.

The issue indeed seems to be tied to pure thread availability. Several affected gamers managed to coax Far Cry 4 into working on Core i3 processors with hyperthreading enabled—despite the official spec's calling for at least a Core i5-750.

intel pentium g3258 processor

The impact on you at home: If games start to require true quad-core processors, it could put a hurting on gamers with a budget. Most of the gamers reporting problems are using a dual-core Intel Pentium G3258. The chip, lovingly dubbed the “Pentium K” by gamers for its beastly overclocking capabilities, costs under $75 and is able to punch far above its weight class performance-wise with some tweaking. But its lack of hyperthreading support may doom it to an early grave if top-tier games start requiring four-core hardware.

The beginning of the end?

Far Cry 4 isn’t the first AAA title to shout “game over” at budget gamers this year, either. Forum goers report similar issues with EA’s Dragon Age: Inquisition. Activision’s Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare also refused to work with some straight dual-core processors at launch, according to reports, though it appears to be working fine now. And while Ubisoft’s own Watch Dogs technically works on dual-core processors, gamers say its performance is utterly abysmal on that hardware.

Update: Far Cry 4 mostly utilizes your CPU's third core, barely tapping into the first two cores on a processor, as members of this Reddit thread first pointed out (and I've since confirmed on my own system). This seems like a case of poor PC optimization more than any inherent dual-core hardware limitation. Ubisoft has yet to respond to my request for comment.

PC games have traditionally leaned more on pure performance across one or two threads rather than utilizing multiple cores. Cost conscious folks could craft capable dual-core gaming machines if they weren’t afraid of overclocking their processors a bit. Now that the new generation of consoles includes beefier, more PC-like components, however, those penny-pinching times may be coming to an end. 

The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One each pack eight low-end AMD CPU cores, 8GB of RAM, and Radeon graphics on a par with a Radeon 7870 or Radeon R9 270. They’re essentially modern mid-range gaming PCs in smaller boxes. As the older Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 start to wane, that level of power is very likely to become the targeted norm for game developers. I’d be shocked if more games didn’t demand quad-core processors going forward. It might be time to start saving for an upgrade if you still have a dual-core chip, folks.

A new console generation means more aggressive performance needs in modern games.

In the meantime, EA is encouraging Dragon Age: Inquisition users who can’t launch the game on a dual-core machine to ask for a refund. Ubisoft is expected to push out a Far Cry 4 patch imminently that fixes a black-screen “failure to launch” issue that occurs when you try to load the game with certain USB peripherals plugged in. Reddit users are hoping the same patch fixes the dual-core woes as well.

Fingers crossed. 

We've reached out to Ubisoft for comment. I don't have a dual-core system handy to test the issue. Has your pure dual-core system refused to work with Far Cry 4 or any other game? Let us know in the comments.

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