Date: Wednesday, December 05, 2012
The much anticipated sequel to 2008's Far Cry 2 is finally here, Far Cry 3 from developer and publisher Ubisoft was released in the afternoon on December 4th, 2012 to the US market. It was released with much anticipation and fan excitement, where yours truly was among those that had their finger on the button the minute it unlocked in STEAM to gather the information for today's preview of performance.
Today's article is just a preview of what you will experience in this game. We are going to look at the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition as well as CrossFire, and the GeForce GTX 680 as well as SLI, to see how these cards perform in this game. We will compare GPU scaling, some MSAA scaling, and talk about graphics settings. This is not our full evaluation, that will come later once we get a chance to play the game through. In the full evaluation we will cover more video cards, down to the mainstream level. We will also look at image quality in depth in the full evaluation.
In this preview today, we have created a manual run-through from the entire beginning intro/tutorial of the game. Our run-through starts out with the player captured by the "crazy guy," all the way until we fall off the bridge into the water. It is lengthy, and seems to be a good test of performance so far. As we play the game through, our run-through may change in the full evaluation as we find other locations. For now, this will give you an idea what to set your graphics settings at starting off in the game.
Drivers, both AMD and NVIDIA have released drivers for this game, and you will want to update. For AMD GPUs, get Catalyst 12.11 Beta 11 and 12.11 CAP2. Even if you are running a single-GPU you will want to install the CAP. Remember that CAPs can affect single-GPU performance. For this game, CAP2 improves AA performance, so you will not be getting full performance out of your video card if you don't install the CAP. For NVIDIA GPUs get ForceWare 310.70 WHQL Candidate driver. This new driver also improves performance in this game, and even has updates for HDAO performance over 310.64 Beta. So get these latest drivers for the best experience.
Far Cry 3 runs off of the Dunia 2 game engine. For reference, Far Cry 2 was running on Dunia (1) game engine. The main improvements in Dunia 2 over 1 include: New water Technology, Realistic Weather System, New A.I. Technology, New Animation System integrated, Realistic Facial expressions, Motion Capture Technology, Deferred Radiance Transfer Volumes (Global Illumination). Far Cry 3 can run in DX11 and DX10 under Windows 7. Alternatively, the game also supports DX9.
The screenshot above is the first video card settings you come to in the menu. You can set your resolution, window mode, and turn VSYNC on or off. The next option, GPU Max Buffered Frames may help smooth out framerates if you encounter stuttering or choppiness. It is recommended that you use the value of 1 setting, for 1 Buffered frame. The value varies between Off and 5. If you are experiencing odd framerate behavior, or stuttering, try manipulating this value.
Below that you will find the DirectX option. We could change this value between DirectX 11 and DirectX 9, it would not let us set DirectX 10 on any of our video cards, only DX9 or DX11.
Next come the very important AA settings. The first one is traditional MSAA, you can select from 2X MSAA to 4X MSAA to 8X MSAA, or No AA. The next option is very unique, it is called Alpha to Coverage, the values are Off, Standard, or Enhanced. Alpha to Coverage applies multisampling coverage to alpha textures, such as the trees, plants, grass, and all vegetation. Since this is a multisampling algorithm, and not a supersampling one, performance is not drastically reduced. Multisampling is a lot faster than supersampling. This option basically reduces aliasing on alpha textures, and the case of this game most noticeable on all vegetation in the game.
Far Cry 3 has a heavy use of vegetation in terms of grass, plants, trees, it is one of the primary graphics types you will encounter in this game. Therefore, Alpha to Coverage becomes important for improving the visual quality of the game. This little option, has a big impact, on the gameplay experience. In our testing so far, there is little performance degradation between Off and Enhanced, it doesn't seem to affect performance much, which is a good thing. Of course, this is only preliminary testing so far in the intro of the game. As we play more of the game, we will make direct Alpha to Coverage performance testing in the full evaluation. If you want the best image quality though, set this to Enhanced.
The next option however can greatly affect performance, and also image quality, SSAO (Ambient Occlusion) method. The values are SSAO, HBAO, and HDAO. The lowest quality is SSAO, the next one up is HBAO and the best quality is HDAO. HDAO can affect performance a lot, especially in heavy grassy areas. However, we have more testing to do to find out exactly how much performance is affected, and the visual quality benefits. If you want the best visual quality, set this to HDAO.
The next video card option in the menu is called video quality. This is where you will find all the graphics options for the game that change the actual world quality. There is texture quality, ambient lighting, shadows, post fx, geometry, vegetation, terrain, water and the environment. Most are self explanatory, and we have yet to go over each one and see what they do, but we will look at this in the full evaluation. For now, you can manipulate the global overall setting option. If you put this option to Ultra, then the highest possible in-game settings are selected automatically for you. This is what we used to test with today. There is also an optimal setting, but this doesn't seem to set the highest in-game settings. There is a custom, low, medium, high, and very high option too. Again, if you want the highest possible settings, just set the overall quality to Ultra.