Update 2: Ubisoft has provided a statement on its website regarding the mod from user TheWorse that activates old graphics files and purportedly improves graphical fidelity in Watch Dogs.
In summary, Ubisoft acknowledges that the files do exist in Watch Dogs and may improve graphical quality in some situations, but it says that the files were deactivated because they reduce performance and playability throughout the game. "The PC version does indeed contain some old, unused render settings that were deactivated for a variety of reasons," the post explains, "including possible impacts on visual fidelity, stability, performance and overall gameplay quality."
You can read the statement in full below:
The dev team is completely dedicated to getting the most out of each platform, so the notion that we would actively downgrade quality is contrary to everything we've set out to achieve. We test and optimize our games for each platform on which they’re released, striving for the best possible quality. The PC version does indeed contain some old, unused render settings that were deactivated for a variety of reasons, including possible impacts on visual fidelity, stability, performance and overall gameplay quality. Modders are usually creative and passionate players, and while we appreciate their enthusiasm, the mod in question (which uses those old settings) subjectively enhances the game’s visual fidelity in certain situations but also can have various negative impacts. Those could range from performance issues, to difficulty in reading the environment in order to appreciate the gameplay, to potentially making the game less enjoyable or even unstable.
Update: Many users are claiming that these mods may not add graphical improvements, but rather activate files and assets already contained within the PC version of the game. Mod creators TheWorse and Kadzait24 have allegedly found and activated files such as "E3 2012 Bloom" and "E3 2012 Explosions" There has already been heated controversy over the purportedly decreased graphical fidelty in Watch Dogs' final release from its first E3 showing in 2012. Ubisoft later stated that the graphics had not been downgraded.
TheWorse has said that he has found old E3 files and turned them on in his mod, but the consequence of these files has not been demonstrated yet. His mod adds many other improvements beyond these E3 files, but the specific effect of "E3 2012 Bloom" on its own has not been shown.
We have reached out to Ubisoft for comment on the existence and effect of these files in the game.
Original story below:
Regardless of how good you think Watch Dogs looked when it finally came out when compared to its initial unveiling at E3 2012, if you own the game on PC, don’t mind tinkering, and have the hardware that can handle it, you can make the game look better thanks to some resourceful modders.
For example, if you've seen this video, which compares Watch Dogs to the PC version of Grand Theft Auto IV (released in 2008) you've probably noticed that one thing Watch Dogs lacks is dynamic lighting from cars’ headlights.
Guru3D forum member Kadzait24 and TheWorse have both claimed credit for working on a mod that adds that visual effect to Watch Dogs, along with a lot of other features. The mod, which you can find on Guru3D, also aims to add an improved bloom effect, higher density of civilians, and more.
Watch Dogs broke 24-hour sales records for Ubisoft and went on to sell more than 4 million copies in its first week. Ubisoft expects Watch Dogs to sell 6 million total units, the same lifetime figure of the original Assassin's Creed. At E3 2014, Ubisoft senior vice president of sales and marketing Tony Key told GameSpot that Watch Dogs is now officially a "franchise."