Instantaneous Performance and Image Quality
Besides measuring the average and bottom speed at the highest settings, we also performed a small test of instantaneous performance of typical solutions from ATI and Nvidia at different settings to look for any irregularities in the behavior of the competing architectures. The two camps will be represented by the ATI Radeon HD 4870 1GB and Nvidia GeForce GTX 260 Core 216.
Besides our standard testbed described above these cards were benchmarked together with a less advanced processor. It was an Intel Core i7-920 with a clock rate of 2.66GHz and a cut-down QPI interface.
We selected a display resolution of 1680x1050 as the most popular one among gamers today. Then we used Fraps 2.9.8 to record the instantaneous speed of the cards at four combinations of graphics quality settings for 1 minute. Besides, we captured a few screenshots to visually evaluate the difference in image quality between those combinations. Here are the results:
Both cards behave in a similar manner irrespective of the CPU model. In every test mode the average frame rate varies from 91 to 95fps whereas the bottom speed is within 50-54fps. The only notable difference is that the GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 has a higher peak speed, 143fps. The Radeon HD 4870 1GB does not accelerate higher than 125fps. Of course, the image quality is highest here since we use the maximum level of detail together with full-screen antialiasing.
Turning 4x MSAA off leads to a considerable performance growth, but only in numbers. Even fastidious gamers are unlikely to spot this growth with a naked eye. In other words, there is no point in running this game on the Radeon HD 4870 1GB and GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 without full-screen antialiasing although it may be beneficial for a less advanced graphics card. Of course, the rendering quality of objects with slanting edges and of micro-geometry (trees, cables fences, various lattices, etc) gets worse. The image doesn’t degenerate in other aspects.
When we switch to the Medium level of detail, we almost get nothing in terms of speed. The image quality doesn’t degenerate much, either, but textures become less detailed, of course. This is largely masked by the shader-based graininess effect that makes the game look more cinematic. In fact, there is no point in using such settings on an advanced enough gaming platform.
The Low settings lead in a tremendous performance growth but also to a tremendous degeneration of image quality. The lighting model is simplified, most of the effects contributing to the scary atmosphere are disabled, shadows and many smaller objects get lost. You can play the game at such settings but not as the developer intended you to experience it. This may only concern people who have entry-level graphics cards because F.E.A.R. 2:Project Origin does not support integrated graphics solutions at all.
Summing it up, we don’t see any reason for you to disable FSAA on your graphics card of the Radeon HD 4870/GeForce GTX 260 class but this may be a useful measure for less advanced graphics solutions. The Medium mode is but slightly different from High in image quality but does not provide serious performance benefits, either. So, there is no point in depriving yourself of maximum-detail textures and top-quality special effects. The game looks awful in the Low mode, its textures resembling the legendary Quake 2. We don’t think anyone would want to enjoy the game with such visuals excepting some hardcore network players who want as much speed as they can get regardless of image quality.