Gaming Features stub

Watch Dogs Crash Fixes: Locked Framerate, Tearing, Black Screens, & Lag

Posted on May 28, 2014

It wouldn't be a launch party without an accompanying round of 'crash fixes.' After the Titanfall crash fix guide, Skyrim launch, and Mass Effect 3 launch, it's become apparent that no AAA title ships without numerous, game-breaking defects. The same is true for Watch Dogs.


We've already published a benchmark of the game's performance on numerous video cards -- highlighting its sub-par optimization issues -- and a mouse acceleration fix. Still, even with this behind us, tearing, stuttering, crashing / CTDs, freezing, and black screen / flickering issues run rampant in Watch Dogs.

Let's start with graphics issues that are easily resolved.

Update: We have an FPS optimization guide online now! Once you've got your crashes resolved, check out our FPS performance optimization guide + video.

Update: Our very critical review of Watch Dogs is now online here.

NVidia SLI Microstuttering, Frame Drops, Low FPS 

As with any video card-related issue, the very first course of action is to download the GPU manufacturer's latest drivers. NVidia just released 337.88 beta (we wrote about it here), which adds new SLI profiles for Watch Dogs and aims to smooth performance overall. Unfortunately, there's still some prevalence of microstuttering in SLI and overall poor performance. Disabling SLI and running single-card may actually yield a better experience (albeit at slightly lower settings) by eliminating microstuttering and tearing issues.

AMD CrossFire & NVidia Video Lag, Optimal Settings

AMD's new 14.6 drivers will be available shortly to the public and should be installed immediately when available. In our testing with the press version of the driver, we've seen upwards of a 10.5% average FPS improvement with single card configurations.

If stuttering and frame drops are still an issue, try dropping GPU Max Buffered Frames to 1. If things persist, disable CrossFire.

Regardless, Watch Dogs still has software-level optimization issues with some of its graphics settings. Tweaking these settings will greatly impact the playability of the game. The first item to toy with is anti-aliasing, found in the 'display' settings. It is recommended that high-end hardware utilize MXAA 4x (and high-end nVidia hardware should run on TXAA 4x); do not run MXAA 2x as it will produce sub-par visuals at higher resource cost when matched against Temporal SMAA. Opting for Temporal SMAA greatly improves framerate in Watch Dogs, often becoming the difference between playable and unplayable lag.

If you're still suffering at this point, we've found that any anti-aliasing at all can cause game-inhibiting frame drops and freezes upwards of 5 seconds in length. This has been reported as occurring on the HD 7870, alongside other HD-series cards our readers use. Disabling anti-aliasing entirely can fix this while retaining otherwise high/ultra settings, in most cases.

As for other performance optimizing tweaks, ensure that you're using HBAO+ for the ambient occlusion setting when running nVidia hardware. Enable MHBAO for AMD.

If experiencing severe 'blurring' and lag when making sharp turns in game, try disabling depth of field and/or motion blur. Both of these options hit the GPU heavily and will be most noticeable when making quick movements (due to the nature of motion blur and DOF).

Can't Change Texture Resolution in Watch Dogs 

This one's pretty simple, but a common question. Changing texture resolution in Watch Dogs is only possible from the main menu; it cannot be changed from in-game. On the note of texture resolution, significant performance gains can be had on low-end devices by dropping texture resolution to medium and GPU Max Buffered Frames to 1.

Watch Dogs FPS Locked to 60 / Framerate Stuck 

If you're lucky enough to hit 60FPS in Watch Dogs (we barely achieved this with a 780 Ti), you may find that the framerate won't increase above 60 or 120FPS. Unlike Titanfall, Watch Dogs does not lock framerate to the monitor's refresh rate, so the only reason this would happen would be if (1) V-sync is enabled in the software or (2) V-sync is forced in the drivers with a maximum FPS.

BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) 0xa0000001 Watch Dogs Crash 

BSOD errors don't generally ship with games, so it's a big deal when they make it through. BSOD system crashes in Watch Dogs stem from catastrophic incompatibilities with older AMD drivers; updating the drivers should immediately resolve the issue. If you're still experiencing BSODs, we'd recommend installing MSI Afterburner to log thermals and set a custom fan curve, hopefully eliminating overheating concerns.

Watch Dogs Doesn't Launch or Black Screen at Startup 

Error 0xc000007b is indicative of incomplete DirectX and C++ files or Uplay issues. Download the latest Visual C++ 2010 redistributable package (x64) here to attempt to resolve Dx problems. Failure to start / launch also happens with thanks to Ubisoft's inadequate Uplay software. If Uplay failed to install properly (even if you're using Steam to play), the game will fail entirely and clicking 'play' in Steam will result in nothing. Steam might say you're in-game, but the game never actually executes.

This can be resolved in two primary ways:

  • Verify integrity of the game cache in Steam. Do this by right-clicking on the game, going to properties, local files, and verifying cache.
  • Redownload & install Uplay separately form Ubisoft.

Black screens and crashes to desktop (CTD) can also occur as a result of the Steam and/or Uplay overlays. Disable the Uplay overlay in Uplay options and disable Steam's overlay (right-click the game, properties, uncheck 'enable the Steam overlay.').

Selecting 'go offline' in Uplay can help to resolve some of these random crashes.

Watch Dogs Stuck in Windowed Mode after Minimizing / Alt-Tabbing

This is an issue I just discovered. After minimizing Watch_Dogs, it'll eventually re-open in windowed mode and does not automatically return to full-screen. The simple fix is to hit alt+enter upon re-opening Watch Dogs, which will send it full-screen. You could also go through options and re-apply full screen mode.

Uplay "Unrecoverable Error"

Ubisoft's Uplay has never been particularly successful in, well, just about anything it's tried to do. This persists with Watch Dogs, where even attempting to download or play the game can throw what is called an 'unrecoverable error.' These errors coincide with Uplay's recent downtime and inability to connect to authentication servers, and unfortunately, there's no solution for it. Ubisoft said in a statement:

"We are experiencing issues with the authentication servers. Players may experience long delays when trying to login in-game. More to come."

Please let us know below if you have other issues you're experiencing. Better yet, if you've got additional solutions to these, comment and let everyone know!

- Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke.