F.3.A.R. Gameplay Performance Review

F.3.A.R. landed on June 21st, offering the latest horror-shooter fix for fans of Alma Wade. Though it is decidedly more shooter and less horror, it is still up to the task of brutalizing our video cards. We've checked the game out from top to bottom to let our readers know how it performs on six different popular video cards.

Introduction

F.3.A.R. is the third entry in the successful F.E.A.R. franchise and a direct sequel to F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin. It was announced on April 8, 2010 with an initial target release date in 2010 but was pushed back several times. It was finally released by Day 1 Studios and Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainmenton June 21st, 2011 in North America. F.3.A.R. picks up nine months after the events of F.E.A.R. 2, and focuses on the two brothers: Point Man and Paxton Fettel (both characters from the first game in the F.E.A.R. franchise). F.3.A.R. has enjoyed a mostly positive reception from professionals. Metacritic shows the game with a professional review aggregate score of 75/100 and a user review aggregate score of 6.1/10.

F.3.A.R.

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F.3.A.R. is a first-person shooter. It is played through the eyes of either of two characters. During the first trip through the game, only Point Man, the nameless and voiceless hero of the first F.E.A.R. game, is available as a playable character. After progressing through the 8 Intervals into which the single player campaign is divided, Paxton Fettel is unlocked and may be played during replays of each interval. F.3.A.R. also features co-operative online multiplayer and several adversarial modes.


The Technology

F.3.A.R. was built with Day 1 Studios' Despair engine, an earlier version of which also powered their 2008 release Fracture. Unfortunately, aside from a few non-graphical related information shared by the engine developers at GameArchitect.net, there just isn't very much information out there about the graphics technology featured in the Despair engine. We know that the game runs in DirectX 11, and we know that it supports NVIDIA's Fast Approximate Anti-Aliasing (FXAA) technology. We know it runs in DX11 partially because the FRAPS FPS counter indicates DX11, and also because the game's first patch came with a CFG file which allowed the forcing of DirectX 9 instead of its default mode of DirectX 11. As far as what DirectX 11 specific features are enabled in F.3.A.R., unfortunately we just don't know. Day 1 has not been forthcoming about this game's graphics technology.

FXAA is a single-pass post-processing anti-aliasing approximation developed by NVIDIA, possibly as an answer to AMD's MLAA technology. It was designed to provide a way of smoothing aliased edges that is faster than traditional multi-sampling (MSAA). Unlike MSAA, it also processes specular aliasing and transparent texture aliasing. Running in the shader core, FXAA does not utilize valuable and limited raster operators for anti-aliasing purposes. See NVIDIA's FXAA whitepaper (link to PDF) for more information.


The Competition

For this gameplay evaluation, we are using six video cards. From NVIDIA, we have chosen the GeForce GTX 580, the GTX 570, and the GTX 560 Ti. From AMD, we are using the Radeon HD 6970, the HD 6950, and the HD 6870.