After launching in a seriously sad state, PC games sold through Windows 10’s Windows Store now suck a bit less with the addition of support for G-Sync and FreeSync monitors, as well as the ability to disable Vsync to unlock in-game frame rates.
And before you ask, yes, those features are indeed common in PC gaming—which helps to drive home just how hobbled PC games created as universal Windows apps were at launch. The Windows Store and universal Windows apps are designed to behave more like mobile app stores or the Xbox than traditional PC programs, for example, sandboxing apps and preventing other software from tinkering with game code. That improves security, but removed some of PC gaming’s key advantages, such as the ability to run game mods, graphics enhancement software, and frame rate monitors like FRAPS.
Those limitations remain in place but today’s display-focused improvements are welcome indeed. Nvidia’s G-Sync monitors and AMD’s FreeSync monitors synchronize the refresh timing between your graphics card and your display, creating a sublimely smooth and tear-free experience. Seriously, it’s superb technology, and it’s great to see Windows Store apps embrace it.
The fact that Windows Store apps didn’t support unlocked frame rates (or disabling Vsync, to put it another way) from the start was a farce to begin with, but the nightmare’s ending with Tuesday’s update. Unfortunately, existing games packaged as universal Windows apps will need to be updated to support the feature. Microsoft says Gears of War: Ultimate Edition and the recently released Forza Motorsport 6: Apex will add unlocked frame rate support “in the very near future”—though since Forza Apex was released just last week, you’d think that would’ve shipped with support for this update already lurking in the game’s code.
Ironically, hybrid laptops that have both integrated and discrete graphics (read: Microsoft's own Surface Book) don't yet work with unlocked frame rates due to a bug. Womp womp.
The Windows 10 update that adds unlocked frame rate and FreeSync/G-Sync support will start a gradual roll out later today, or you can download it directly here once it’s live.
Don’t expect an update that adds support for exclusive fullscreen mode in games, however. PC gamers complained that Windows Store games only support borderless fullscreen mode, which traditionally offered inferior performance to exclusive fullscreen mode since it didn’t give your graphics card dedicated access to the game. But tucked away in a note at the bottom of a release about this update, Microsoft says:
“With Windows 10, DirectX 12 games which take up the entire screen perform just as well as the old full screen exclusive mode without any of the full screen exclusive mode disadvantages. This is true for both Win32 and UWP games which use DirectX 12. All of these games can seamlessly alt-tab, run GameDVR, and exhibit normal functionality of a window without any perf degradation vs full screen exclusive.”
The impact on you at home: This update shows Microsoft staying true to its promise that it’ll improve the lackluster feature set of PC games sold as universal Windows apps, and will be doubly welcome in Microsoft-published games that are only available via the Windows 10 Window Store, like Gears of War and Quantum Break. But since Windows Store apps continue to suffer from some glaring drawbacks, we’d still recommend buying PC games like Rise of the Tomb Raider on platforms like Steam for now—though if Microsoft ever manages to bring universal Windows games up to feature parity with games sold as traditional PC programs, the addition of Xbox One cross-buy/cross-save features could be a killer feature for the Windows Store.