Doom's new Vulkan patch makes a fast, beautiful game faster and more beautiful

Doom's hotly anticipated update is here.

Most video game patches fail to generate anywhere near the interest as Doom’s promised Vulkan patched. It’s no surprise, really: Doom is one of the best games of 2016, Vulkan’s an intriguing, more open graphics rival to Microsoft’s DirectX 12, and Bethesda teased the old-school shooter running at up to a whopping 200 frames per second on Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1080 with Vulkan enabled.

That’s how you build up hype for an update. And now it’s here.

This morning, Bethesda released Doom’s Vulkan patch. You’ll find it available as a Steam update, though you’ll need to install the latest AMD and Nvidia graphics drivers to enable the alternative graphics technology.

And while the idea of playing Doom at gloriously high frame rates on top-end hardware may garner headlines, Bethesda says the higher frame rates made possible with Vulkan should help players with older, lower-end graphics get into the game. As iD CTO Robert Duffy put it in the announcement:

“We also anticipate some older GPUs will now be able to play the game at good framerates. We hope the range of GPU support widens with additional game and driver updates. That said, this is the first time a triple-A game is releasing on a brand-new API and brand-new drivers so there may be a few bumps, but our testing is showing really great performance and stability.”

Note, however, that Bethesda’s Vulkan FAQ states that “Vulkan is not currently supported on Nvidia GPUs with 2GB of RAM on Windows 7 or on the GTX 690.”

Bethesda only says that the patch "allows PC users to experience significant performance boosts on supported GPUs and CPUs," but AMD sent over some introductory performance results of Doom running on Vulkan with the $200 Radeon RX 480.

doom spec AMD

Another interesting tidbit: Doom’s Vulkan patch supports asynchronous compute, but only on AMD’s Radeon graphics cards, which pack dedicated async compute engine hardware. The company’s working with Nvidia to add async compute—which helps compute-based GPU tasks run simultaneously with traditional graphics tasks—in a later patch.

The story behind the story: Vulkan rose from the ashes of Mantle, AMD’s “closer to the metal” graphics API that helped coax Microsoft into announcing DirectX 12. Like DirectX 12, Vulkan gives developers more direct control over PC hardware, which can be used to boost frame rates, increase smoothness, and more. Also like DX12, Vulkan is a new technology that’s only starting to get off the ground. Beyond Doom, Vulkan support can be found in The Talos Principle and Valve’s blockbuster MOBA, Dota 2.

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Brad Chacos

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