Can Steam Deck handle a range of PC’s most challenging games?

Since its launch, Valve’s Steam Deck has delivered plenty of mobile miracles, often able to deliver exceptional visuals and creditable performance – despite the unit’s actual capabilities sitting far below advertised minimum specs. Judged on its own terms, it’s certainly a powerful device though, with its quad-core Zen 2 CPU and a 1.6TF GPU that’s fully compliant with the latest DX12 Ultimate API requirements. However, as we move out of the cross-gen period, PC titles are becoming more demanding – while major launches like The Callisto Protocol, The Witcher 3 Complete Edition and Gotham Knights see profound performance issues on PC. So how well do these games run on the Valve hardware? Are they too big for Steam Deck?

I kicked off my testing with a game that is generally highly demanding on graphics hardware, with areas that also hit CPU hard. Asobo Studios’ A Plague Tale: Requiem is one of the best-looking games around and a stress test on PCs and consoles. It’s a current-gen exclusive game that targets 30fps or 40fps on consoles – so not exactly a great candidate for Steam Deck, where we’ve often achieved good results by running titles designed for 60fps at half frame-rate, with reduced quality settings.

As expected, we really need to drive down the settings if we want to salvage any kind of decent experience, so I pushed all relevant settings to their lowest option without turning them off, except for texture resolution. Image quality-wise we are running at 720p, but upsampled from a much lower base pixel-count – performance mode is likely a mere 360p, albeit with temporal reconstruction adding extra detail. Measured up against Series S, we’ve basically managed to preserve the game’s visual feature set – there are no glaring omissions in terms of lighting or model quality. Instead, there are a range of smaller downgrades: missing ground tessellation, lower-quality foliage, and pulled-in draw distance, among other cutbacks.

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