Assassin's Creed 3 Performance and IQ Review

Ubisoft performed several upgrades to the Anvil game engine, resulting in the AnvilNext engine. Assassin's Creed 3 will be the first game in the series to support DX11. Assassin's Creed 3 also supports NVIDIA's new TXAA technology, but will that be enough to make up for a lack of DX11 features like tessellation and ambient occlusion?

Introduction

Assassin's Creed 3 is an action-adventure, open world, role playing game. This is the third game in the Assassin's Creed series. While each of the previous titles supported DirectX 9, AC3 is the first game in the series to run DX11. The game launched for Xbox 360 and PS3 on October 30th, 2012, but did not come out for PC until November 20th. This delay was to ensure that the PC version was not a poorly done console port. The extra time that was put in to the PC version improved the graphics of the game and polished it up for enthusiasts with high end hardware. Assassin's Creed 3 was developed and published by Ubisoft.

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The main storyline in Assassin's Creed 3 takes place in the United States from 1753 to 1783. This game covers a long timeline which starts in 1753, two years before the American Revolutionary war began, and goes up to 1783 when the war ended. Players travel back in time to explore the early cities of Boston and New York. AC3 also supports multiplayer with over 12 modes available to play, and a new co-operative multiplayer mode where you work with a team to take out enemy NPC's.

Assassin's Creed 3 is the first game in the Assassin's Creed series that supports DirectX 11. This gives us something big to look at. There are two big ways that games can take advantage of DX11. The first way is just running the game with the DX11 API in order to improve the games performance. The second way would be to implement more demanding DX11 features such as advanced ambient occlusion, tessellation, and motion blur. If Assassin's Creed 3 follows the first one we will just see higher framerates on all video cards, without any need to lower or adjust graphics settings. We are hoping for heavy use of the the second option as well.

The game uses the AnvilNext game engine. Anvil was used for the first and second games in the series, but AnvilNext brings DX11 support with a few improvements. One of the most impressive things that AnvilNext can do is render large crowds, up to 2000 different characters, while the previous games can only render a few hundred. This engine also has support for weather cycling and a dynamic game world which changes itself over time. For instance, depending on what events are taking place in game settlements could appear or disappear.


Graphics Settings

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Despite the fact that Assassin's Creed 3 runs on DX11, it does not support any of the extra features such as ambient occlusion and tessellation. In fact, there are only five available graphics settings in this game including resolution. Note that enabling all of the settings on "Normal" will deliver console-like graphics.

Environment Quality : This option can be enabled at normal, high, and very high. Aside from determining the quality of the environment, it also effects how far in the distance the environment and other objects begin to load. The higher the setting the farther off objects will begin to load. This setting has one of the largest performance impacts on gameplay. Users experiencing lots of lag with older graphics cards will want to lower this setting in order to get better performance.

Texture Quality : This setting can be enabled at normal or high. This will determine the overall quality of all textures in game. This will determine the quality of the textures that are rendered to the screen.

Shadow Quality : This setting has can be enabled at normal, high, and very high. This setting has a fair impact on performance. Enabling this graphics option at a lower setting may help gain a few FPS, but will have a noticeable impact on visual quality.

Antialiasing : This setting can be enabled at normal, high, and very high. These settings are the same as 2X, 4X, and 8X MSAA respectively. These settings have one of the largest impacts on performance in the game.

TXAA : In AC3, TXAA may be enabled or disabled. TXAA combines both traditional MSAA with FXAA to create a new level of aliasing. TXAA is supposed to deliver better image quality than 8X MSAA, while only having a performance cost of 4X MSAA and FXAA both enabled. We saw this AA technology in our Call of Duty: Black Ops II Performance and IQ Review.

Vertical Sync : This option is not directly in game. We had it turned off for all testing which allowed our video cards to go past 60 FPS. To turn it off navigate to c:/users/user/My Documents/Assassin's Creed 3/ then open the Assassin3.ini file and set vysnc to 0.


Testing Assassin's Creed 3

To test Assassin's Creed 3 we first played through the entire game. We looked for scenes, levels, or areas which produced lower framerates than others. Our run-through takes place on the mission "Johnson's Errand" in Sequence 2. The mission starts off outside of a British firing range and we have to infiltrate it to recover a stolen item. What makes this mission good is the plethora of enemies that we encounter during the run-through. The mission also takes place on the outskirts of Boston which has some of the lowest framerate gameplay in the entire game. There are several houses, objects, and tons of vegetation during this run-through to push the video cards. This level pushes the video cards while throwing combat sequence after combat sequence at us. We stop our testing procedure once the mission ends and we are teleported back to the bar in Boston. The entire run-through takes around 7 minutes to complete. Our ideal framerate that delivers smooth enjoyable gameplay in Assassin's Creed 3 is 40 FPS.