Image Quality Tests
We tested the game’s different visual quality modes using the following settings:
The Frostbite 2 engine offers unique opportunities in terms of fine-tuning your Battlefield 3. There are four predefined visual quality modes, and we guess that quite a lot of gamers will have to enter the Main->Options->Video menu and choose lower settings to play at a comfortable frame rate. Let's see how different the four modes are and if you need a fast CPU to play Battlefield 3.
We must confess we’ve got rather ambiguous impressions from looking at Battlefield 3 at its maximum settings. The game has certainly improved in its visuals since Bad Company 2 and its engine should be given credit for high-quality shadows, detailed textures and cutting-edge special effects, yet we can’t find anything really extraordinary here. Destroyable walls and furniture cannot surprise anyone in 2011 while the extremely realistic smoke cannot save the day alone. Perhaps this is due to the designers' desire to make the game as realistic as possible, without any distortions in terms of colors or special effects, but Battlefield 3 doesn’t look like a breakthrough in terms of 3D graphics.
Take note of the green curve which represents the performance of the GeForce GTX 560 Ti. This graphics card dislikes smoke and has problems rendering sunbeams passing through substances. This may be due to a lack of driver optimizations, but you have to give up the maximum visual quality settings with this card as yet.
Despite its new graphics engine, Battlefield 3 is indifferent towards the CPU speed. Although the developers suggested that a high-performance CPU would be necessary, the AMD Radeon HD 6950 and Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti are unaffected by the 700MHz difference in CPU clock rate.
It’s not so easy to spot the difference between the High and Ultra profiles except for the lack of the resource-consuming MSAA method of antialiasing. On the other hand, switching to the High profile increases the frame rate by up to 60%, which is going to be good news for many gamers. Owners of AMD-based cards benefit somewhat more from the reduced amount of computations.
The model of your CPU is not a crucial factor at the High settings, either. The maximum performance gain from the faster CPU was a mere 2% in our test.
We had expected to see a dramatically different picture in the Medium mode. Its activation disables the high-quality ambient occlusion algorithm HBAO in factor of its less advanced cousin SSAO. The level of anisotropic filtering is lowered from x16 to x4. The most conspicuous difference is the lack of motion blur. Despite all this, the visuals are not as bad as to make you immediately switch to the higher mode. The difference is not even very easy to see, but the performance boost from switching from High to the Medium settings amounts to only 20-25%.
The new graphics engine from DICE can use multiple CPU cores in a most efficient way. This is our first test where the number of CPU cores is really more important than the clock rate.
The developers didn’t make the Low profile ugly, either. The game looks splendid even at the lowest settings. Yes, the angular shadows, muddy textures and weak special effects are all but too visible, yet the game still doesn’t look like a mid-1990ies project. The numerous owners of low-end graphics cards will surely say their thanks to EA Digital Illusions Creative Entertainment AB for this mode.
The CPU clock rate is still insignificant: we don't see a proportional increase in performance after boosting the frequency of our CPU from 2.66 to 3.33 MHz.