Fallout 4 seems to be a great game and a step forward mechanically for the series, but sadly, it really isn’t up to modern standards visually and in terms of PC specific functionality. I’ll be going over numerous tweaks you can make to improve all aspects of your experience, as well as some neat tricks you can do with the in-game command console. I will not cover benchmarking or the performance of various settings as that has already been done extensively by
Nvidia, (Removed by Nvidia, saved by Google Cache, and likely removed from there via a takedown request, so it seems gone for good till they re-release it), so most of this is on mechanical adjustments, fixes, and visual add-ons.
- Config File Locations
- Framerate and Smoothness
- First Settings to Lower
- Temporary >60hz “Fix”
- Enabling SLI
- Mouse Adjustments
- X/Y Ratio
- ADS Sensitivity
- Visual Tweaks
- DOF / God Rays
- Cornered HUD
- Console Commands
Configuration File Locations
Many of the following sections will reference to two different locations for configuration files. If you’re using a more advanced text editor, like the ones I covered in my Recommended Applications Guide, you can have all of the mentioned files open at once, and all you need to do is open the editor any time you want to edit any of the files, without having to navigate again. I’ll refer to them as:
My Docs – <OS Drive>:\Users\[name]\Documents\My Games\Fallout4\
Game Folder – <Steam Install Location>\steamapps\common\Fallout 4\Fallout4
Framerate and Smoothness
Performance Hog Settings – The game varies wildly in terms of performance depending on the scenario or environment, but there are two key settings that seem to tank framerate for many. Shadow Distance and and God Rays. The visual difference between low and ultra God Rays is insignificant, and yet the performance impact for every step upward is immense. Set them to Low or Medium, and you might even want to disable them completely for a less foggy aesthetic, the game doesn’t let you via the launcher, how-to in the Visual Tweaks section further down. Shadow Distance at Medium (and Low) is a mere 21% of the distance they have set for High. High and above look great out in the open wasteland, and aren’t too impact because of the sparse geometry. In cities however, because of atrocious optimization, longer shadow distances can make the draw calls sent to the CPU skyrocket, thus tanking the framerate. The 3,000 set by the Medium preset is an easy solution but it might be a touch too close for some, so you can manually edit the settings below to more of a happy medium vs the whopping 14,000 set by High. This is really disappointing as other far prettier open world titles can maintain shadows for ludicrous distances at a high framerate, but there’s not much that can be done right this minute.
My Docs \Fallout4Prefs.ini under the [Display] section, set both lines to the same value as you see fit:
For shadows, there might be another solution, that involves injecting some code into the game that dynamically adjusts the Shadow Distance in real time, between the minimum and maximum values you set, in order to maintain a set desired framerate. It goes by the name of Shadow Boost, and while I have not tested it yet and can’t vouch for it yet, it is highly rated and endorsed by others on the Fallout 4 Nexus. While it wont make the game look great and run excellently like we all want, if you set the min/max/target properly, could result in a smoother experience overall, counteracting the dilemma of setting a static value low or high when the game fluctuates so much.
Temporary “Fix” for >60hz Issues – The game “supports” greater than 60FPS by default for most users, but the game’s engine is extraordinarily dated, and issues arise the higher you get. Many are harmless, like your character moving or physics objects falling slightly faster. I have found 105 FPS to be as high as I can go without the big issues cropping up, being getting completely stuck (not even no-clip can free you) forcing you to save and reload.
I really hesitate to call this a fix, as there’s absolutely more that can be done most on the side of Bethesda or modders, but for now, capping the framerate at 105 is a manageable solution. You can do so via Nvidia Inspector, using steps 1-3 in the SLI section below, under the Sync and Refresh section as Framerate Limiter. That is specific to Nvidia cards, but alternatively, and the method that I would recommend, would be using MSI Afterburner with it’s included on-screen display and monitoring application, RivaTuner. These two applications are insanely useful, allowing GPU overclocking for advanced users, monitoring graphs for benchmarking, fantastic PNG screenshot capture via a hotkey (I use “insert”), a toggleable onscreen display that is clean and customization in both look and content, an overall and/or per-game framerate limiter, and more.
I could write an entire article explaining Afterburner+RivaTuner there are so many components and I plan to eventually, but now for simplicity… Install the latest version via the link above and run it. Open the RivaTuner settings via your notifications section on the taskbar, and either set a global framerate limit on the right side, or use the + button at the bottom left to add the main Fallout4.exe, and with it selected on the left, set the limit on the right side and it will be application specific and wont effect anything else.
Finally, if you are running a >60hz display and the in-game framerate doesn’t go above that, this is because the game’s v-sync is limiting this. It’s not clear exactly who it effects, but if you’d like to uncap the framerate, simply change:
My Docs \Fallout4Prefs.ini under the [Display] section, set this line to 0 as shown:
Enable SLI/Crossfire – The game doesn’t support either multi-GPU solution at launch, and it’s likely we won’t find a flawless solution until they patch it in with help from Nvidia (and AMD). I can’t properly test an AMD setup, but it doesn’t seem users are having much luck. For Nvidia SLI setups, you have two options. The original, just forcing AFR2 (Alternate Frame Rendering 2) under the SLI setting for the game in the Nvidia control panel. That improved performance in some areas, but had the adverse effect in others. Recently an alternative option was discovered, that provides a dramatic increase in SLI scaling and fluidity/framerate across the board, but with the draw back of some off text artifact/flickering in menus, and extremely faint flickering of shadows in foliage. A very worthwhile sacrifice for the notable performance increase in my opinion. How to below:
- Download Nvidia Inspector and extract it
- Open it and click the Wrench/Screwdriver icon in the center right
- Select Fallout 4 in the drop-down at the top
- In the first section, set “SLI compatibility bits (DX1x)” to “0x080200F5 (Max Payne 3)”
- Scroll down to the SLI section and set the 4th row, “predefined number of GPUs… DirectX 10” to the option that ends in “FOUR”
- Two lines down, set “predefined SLI mode on DirectX 10” to the option that ends in “FORCE_AFR2”
- Click the Apply Changes button in the top right to save it
That should get you going till Bethesda/Nvidia get around to providing a more permanent solution. At that point, or if you decide to go back to a single card, repeat steps 1-3, and hit the green Nvidia logo button at the top which says “Restore current profile to NVIDIA defaults” on hover, and apply changes, and it’ll do just that, like you never touched a thing.
X/Y Mouse Ratio Fix – By default (a holdover from console like a lot of the things in this game), the mouse sensitivity is about double for X than it is for Y, meaning turning is twice as fast as looking up and down. This completely throws off hand movements that would otherwise result in a fast precise shot for any competent player of shooters on the PC. If you have a mouse that supports independent axis adjustment, that is an option, and the ONLY option for games like the Metro Series, but it obviously also effects menu and desktop navigation at the same time. Luckily in this case we have config files to force it for only the game camera.
My Docs \Fallout4.ini find and replace:
.03738 – for 16:9 Displays
.042 – for 21:9 Displays
.028 – for 4:3 Displays
.0336 – for 16:10 Displays
Disable Mouse Acceleration – Most users dislike acceleration, as it makes distance turned variable based on the speed you move the mouse. If you want accuracy and consistency, remove mouse acceleration it via the steps below.
My Docs \Fallout4.ini under the [Controls] section, add the line:
My Docs \Fallout4Prefs.ini under the [Display] section, add the line:
Game Folder \Fallout4Prefs.ini under the [Display] section, add the line:
Aiming Down Sights Sensitivity – The turn speed changes while aiming down a weapon’s iron sights. This is really personal preference and may change based on field of view, so choose what suits you best. I recommend starting in the range between 1.8 and 2.1. Sprinting also lowers turning sensitivity, but the value is being looked for.
My Docs \Fallout4.ini under the [Main] section (add it to the very top if it isn’t present), add the line:
Visual Tweaks and Add-Ons
FOV Adjustment – Field of View in other Bethesda titles was a single console command (or even a slider in Dishonored or Wolfenstein), but here’s it’s more complicated and involves manually editing 3 config files and then a console command can refine it further.
My Docs \Fallout4.ini under the [Controls] section, add the lines:
My Docs \Fallout4Prefs.ini under the [Display] section, add the lines:
Game Folder \Fallout4Prefs.ini under the [Display] section, add the lines:
Set XX and YY to your desired horizontal Field of View in degrees, the same way in all 3 files. The defaults are 70 and 80 respectively. I personally use 100, and even up to 110 is still usable. Now, once you get back in game, the viewmodel (your gun and hands, and the pip-boy menu) will likely differ. If you’re fine with the original models you can leave it as is, but if you want the gun to appear further away, or want the pip-boy larger (right clicking on that menu can zoom move it in and out a small amount as well), you’ll need to do a console command. Save your game, open the console with tilde (“~”) and type “fov XX”, again with XX being the value you want. I chose “fov 100” to match the other cameras, but you can mix and match as you desire. Before leaving the console, type and enter “refreshini”, which will reload the original values you set in the config files. Close the console with ~ and save your game again. From then on all of these value should stay how you left them. This is really convoluted, so hopefully Bethesda patch in 3 in-game sliders for these, or a modder does so.
Disable Depth of Field and God Rays – God Rays at their highest setting are immensely intensive, especially so on AMD and older Nvidia GPUs. Many users choose to set them to low for good reason, as the impact visually is nearly non-existent, while notably reducing your framerate with each step higher. I chose to turn them (otherwise known as “volumetric lighting” off entirely as in many instances it only appears as a blanket of fog over everything. The launcher is bugged, and it won’t actually let you disable it. Disable it in the config files below:
My Docs \Fallout4Prefs.ini under the [Display] section, find and set these lines to 0 as shown:
Similarly, Depth of Field isn’t entirely disabled via the launcher’s options either. This has a chance of making your view underwater very clear, but it’s not much of an issue considering almost nothing is hidden underwater outside of one quest that I know of. The Bokeh Depth of Field looks good in dialogue cutscenes, but it also effects many other parts of gameplay like aiming down sights, making almost your entire view covered with a low quality bloom and blurring. Other games, even modded Skyrim/Fallout3/NV, did aiming depth of field exceptionally well to a beautiful result, but sadly this doesn’t even come close. Hopefully someone can figure out how to enable DOF only during cutscenes like most other modern titles do, till then, you can disable it below.
My Docs \Fallout4Prefs.ini under the [Imagespace] section, find and set these lines to 0 as shown:
Cornered HUD – There is a significant margin on all of the HUD elements, but it’s another easy fix in the config files. Combine with a white HUD color and lowered opacity via the options menu for minimal distraction, as the neon green can be pretty obnoxious at night. This also effects the loading icon and text box on loading screens, as well as the button hint boxes on most menus.
My Docs \Fallout4.ini under the [Interface] section, change these lines to match:
fSafeZoneX=5.0 fSafeZoneY=2.0 fSafeZoneXWide=5.0 fSafeZoneYWide=2.0 fSafeZoneXWide16x10=5.0 fSafeZoneYWide16x10=2.0
Make sure all 6 lines have “fSafeZone___” properly written, as your file may be missing one of the e’s in one line, it’s a known error with the file. You can customize these values if you wish. The three sections of X and Y values are from top to bottom by aspect ratio, 4:3, 16:9, and 16:10. You only need to edit the lines for your aspect ratio for this to work, but you might as well change all 3 sets anyway.
SweetFX – now bundled in a package called Reshade for greater game compatibility, is an immensely powerful tool that you can use to change a game’s aesthetic to your liking. A majority of the base effects in SweetFX have little to no performance impact. However, if you’d like to go all out with advanced effects like depth of field, screen warping, lens flares/dirt, you can certainly do so at a cost in framerate.
In a later article, I’ll cover many aspects of Reshade/SweetFX and what it can do, but to get you up and running quickly for now, I’ll explain the basic setup.
- Open the .7z archive from the link above
- Double click to run the “Reshade Setup.exe” (This is not an install, it simply copies and renames .dll the files for you based on the target application, you can do so manually if you so choose)
- Hit “Select Game”, and navigate to and select your game’s exe, “Fallout4.exe” in this case.
- Close the setup if it’s successful
- Find a preset and copy to replace the “SweetFX_settings.txt” in the SweetFX folder at the game’s install location file
You can find presets on sfx.thelazy, and for this setup you’ll need to look for the ones that list “SweetFX 2.0” as their shader. MasterEffect and Framework are far more complicated and are difficult to setup manually, and thus they usually come with a download to drag-and-drop into your game folder, rather than a basic .txt preset file. Those adjustments enabled by the extended shaders are usually much more intensive. The preset I’ll provide below I feel looks great, but only costs 1-5 FPS for most users, while I’ve seen DOF/AO/LensFlare implementations knock off 15-40.
Nvidia Graphics Settings and Tweaking Guide – Nvidia released but later removed a guide covering all of the visual settings with benchmarks for each, as well as some manual adjustments you could make to push the game even further. Luckily it was caught by Google Cache, and is still accessible via the link above, just don’t try to use the table of contents at the top.
Since it’s a Bethesda title, running on almost the same engine as Skyrim, the modding potential is through the roof. We will see all sorts of custom lighting mods, texture replacements and overhauls, new items and characters. The Fallout 4 Nexus is seeing new dozens of new mods a day, and they are becoming increasingly more interesting. There are 3 general types of mod I’ve seen available thus far. Texture/Mesh/Sound/etc replacements, Plug-Ins, and general tweaks/tips/reshade-presets. The latter really doesn’t have a place on the nexus, but people seem to insist on uploading them anyway even though there’s no “mod” to even download, so I’ll only be covering resource replacements and plug-ins here, as they are seen as mods by the game itself. To enable modding, you need to make two config file edits:
My Docs \Fallout4Prefs.ini under the [Launcher] section, add the line:
My Docs \Fallout4.ini under the [Archive] section, find and replace this line as shown:
sResourceDataDirsFinal=STRINGS\, TEXTURES\, MUSIC\, SOUND\, INTERFACE\, MESHES\, PROGRAMS\, MATERIALS\, LODSETTINGS\, VIS\, MISC\, SCRIPTS\, SHADERSFX\
Your game is now configured to load content you place within the “Data” folder at your install location, instead of the original files. The line above lists the possible folders it looks for, so a texture mod you download might be placed in “…Fallout 4\Data\Textures\sky”. Thus far, for all mods inserting content directly into the Data folder, no other changes must be made, and you’ll see the result the next time you play. To remove any of these, simply remove just the files that you added, and those elements will return to normal. Alternatively, you could toggle the first config file setting above to a 0, to disable everything at once without moving your files around. You can make your game crash by really messing with things here, but in general, these mods mostly just effect audio-visual elements, and aren’t likely to effect your save or the mechanics of the game in general.
A plugin based mod, usually single files ending with the “.esp” extension, can modify values or scripts of the game. So say where a visual texture-based mod would make the screen blood texture invisible, a plugin-based mod could change the game’s code to make the screen blood never activate at all, or activate during specific events instead. These .esp files also go in the Data folder, but you must make sure they are activated by the game. Usually Bethesda’s game launchers have a big clearly labeled button to do this, but for some reason it’s hidden in Fallout 4. Click where it shows above in the yellow circle to open the plugin menu, and you can enabled the mods as you see fit. For now all of the mods I’ve seen have been plug-ins OR resources, but in future we will surely see mods that combine both working together. That means that if you toggle off the plugin portion without removing the resources, you could get some unintended results, so keep that in mind.
In-Game Console Commands
Like the rest of Bethesda’s titles, the console command can be easily opened at almost any point with the tilde key “~” (under Escape). This pauses the game completely, and you can type in any one of thousands of commands, as well as click on objects and entities in 3D space to see their IDs and perform actions upon them.
The sheet above lists many of the items obtainable in-game, and the console commands you can use to put them into your inventory or place them within the world. Numerous other resources are available that go into further detail about everything you can achieve with all the commands on offer. Free-cam, HUD toggles, teleportation between all of the areas of the game, controlling NPCs, locking and unlocking doors and containers, etc. A few sites to visit:
One of the most useful that I have found, even for players who aren’t fond of “cheating”, are the “player.sexchange” and “showlooksmenu player 1” commands. Right at the beginning of the game, you’re thrown into character creation, without really any idea of what kind of clothes are available or the extent of the character creator. Those two commands allow you to swap your characters sex, and re-enter the visual customization menu at any time. The looks menu’s camera might be a bit off when you enter the command, but going into the body adjustment and backing out enables the close up camera that you got at the beginning of the game.
You can also use this command to EDIT NPCS! You need to be very careful with this particular functionality. Editing your own character in this fashion is just fine, but the NPCs were not all made in the same manner and thus certain options either don’t work, or can even permanently break their appearance. In my testing, edits should stick throughout the game, but larger changes cannot be undone. Courtesy of user mrjack900 on the Nexus, I’ve rephrased his directions:
- Manual Save to restore from if you make a mistake. Multiple would be even better, but for fast testing, you can do so right after Step 3.
- Find a good illuminated spot and position them how you’d like by starting a conversation.
- Back out of the conversation and aim your camera so that your crosshair is not over anything where text appears.
- Once you get that immediately open the console with “~” to pause the game.
- Type and enter either “tfc 1” if you want the character to be completely frozen while you edit, or go back to Step 2. and tell them to “stay” via dialogue, and then use “tfc” now if you want the character to animate but stand mostly in place.
- Close the console, and position you floating camera in front of their face, but not too close. (Having a lower FOV set can help for this, the character larger on screen, but from a further physical distance)
- Open the console again and click on them to find their Ref ID, and then use that in “showlooksmenu <ID> 1” or “SLM <ID> 1” (excluding the <>’s of course).
- When you are finished, accept via the UI option at the top level.
- Re-position if necessary, and open the console to enter the same tfc command you entered in Step 5 to toggle free-cam off and return to your player.
- Some NPCs can be cycled between face presets through the main setting in the top menu, though this is also the setting that will instantly break quite a few main characters.
- Some NPCs have facial features that you can’t edit, and others you can.
- If you edit eye color, you may see the eyeball pop out of the face (this can happen while editing your character as well), and it should pop back if you edit the eye shape or position at all.
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