Far Cry 3 Video Card Performance and IQ Review

Far Cry 3 is here, and we take a full look at performance and image quality comparing several video cards. We will find out what it takes to run this beast of a game with each video card, how those compare, and look at performance with certain graphics features, and we compare image quality with those features on and off.

Far Cry 3

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.

We brought you day one coverage with a performance preview in this new game using newly released drivers made specifically for this game. Our preview of performance indicated that this is the game we've been waiting for, the game to finally challenge current generation video cards. Today we are happy to bring you our full look at the game comparing many video cards in performance and looking at image quality in the game.

Drivers

Let's start with the drivers, as these are very important. You will want to make sure you are using the latest drivers for this game in order to get the best gameplay experience.

NVIDIA released ForceWare 310.70 BETA driver which improves upon performance in many areas in this game. Per the release notes 310.70 BETA "Improves performance in Far Cry 3 by up to 38%." It also includes an updated SLI profile. It was also brought to our attention that 310.70 BETA improves performance over ForceWare 310.64 in the area of HDAO performance.

On the AMD front you will want to grab AMD's Catalyst 12.11 Beta 11 driver specifically. Per the release notes: "Improves performance in Far Cry 3 (up to 25% with 8xMSAA, SSAO enabled @ 1600p, and up to 15% with 8xMSAA, HDAO enabled @1600p) (AMD Catalyst 12.11 CAP2 must also be installed)." As noted, and this is very important, you will also want to install AMD Catalyst 12.11 CAP2, even if you are only running a single-GPU configuration. The 12.11 CAP2 does the following for Far Cry 3: "Improves Far Cry 3 performance for single GPU configurations with AA enabled". It has been a misconception that the CAP's are only for CrossFire setups, this is not true. CAP's can and do affect single video card performance in games. Far Cry 3 is one game where the CAP does help improveme performance on single video cards. Therefore, whether you run a single video card or CrossFire always install the latest CAP as well.


Far Cry 3 DX11 Graphics

Far Cry 3 supports DX11, DX9, and even DX10. This game utilizes many DX11 advanced graphics features, and we finally have all the info about those to share with you today. These are the things we can look for in-game. Information below taken from the "AMD FarCry3 Benchmark Guide."

DX11 Deferred Rendering with Multi-Sample Anti-Aliasing

Far Cry 3 takes advantage of Direct3D 11 features to implement an advanced deferred renderer. Far Cry 3 uses an advanced light culling system, which reduces the overhead associated with shading many lights that may not all affect the entire scene. During the final Pixel Shader lighting phase, only the culled light list for a given area of the screen is processed. This makes it possible to have an increased number of dynamic lights in a scene, while still achieving playable frame rates. Far Cry 3 also takes advantage of D3D11 features to accelerate and optimize MSAA rendering when used in conjunction with the deferred renderer. Optimizations have been made to reduce this cost by applying MSAA only to the important parts of the image while keeping image quality high.

Deferred Ambient Global Illumination System

Far Cry 3 features an advanced real time global illumination system capable of generating visually coherent and realistic world rendering. By using pre-computed probes containing light transfer information, the scene can be dynamically relit, approximating global illumination in real-time. On the PC, this system supports global illumination from dynamic lights in addition to distant light sources such as the sun and the sky. The scene is dynamically relit from the probes whenever the lighting environment changes. This relighting generates new irradiance values on the fly and stores them in 3D textures which are used by the GPU to contribute to the final high-quality rendering of the scene.

DirectCompute Accelerated High Definition Ambient Occlusion

Far Cry 3 implements a new and improved version of HDAO that uses full 3D camera space position data to detect valleys in the scene that should be shaded darker, and attenuates the lighting based on valley angle. This effect can be computed at full resolution, or at half resolution, depending upon the hardware resources available. In order for a half resolution HDAO buffer to be re-matched with the main color scene, a DirectCompute accelerated bilateral dilate and blur is performed to ensure that AO properly meets objects from the full screen resolution scene. In Far Cry 3 this technique has been significantly improved in both performance and quality.

DX11 Transparency Super Sampling Anti-Aliasing

Utilizing advanced Direct3D 11 Shader Model 5.0 features, Far Cry 3 is able to update the MSAA coverage mask at each pixel from within the pixel shader, by performing a distinct texture fetch at each sub-sample, and subsequently performing a per-sample alpha-test. This super-sampling of alpha-tested pixels dramatically improves visual quality, particularly by avoiding dithering artifacts in cases where multiple layers of alpha-tested geometry visually overlap each-other.

Advanced Skin and Hair Shading Models

Skin shading in Far Cry 3 uses a combination of advanced shader techniques which culminate in an aesthetically pleasing look. A combination of the Beckmann specular model with approximated sub-surface scattering and rim lighting is used to provide a soft, natural-looking result. The subtle sub surface scattering effect of skin is obtained by using a 16x16 pre-integrated texture representing the amount of incoming light and the thickness of the skin. The hair shading achieves its realism via an anisotropic lighting model and directional blur based upon the tangent vector stored in the G-Buffer.

Advanced Physically-Based Shading Model

Far Cry 3 uses many different techniques in its high-quality lighting and shading. A complete day-night cycle with sky lighting based on the CIE Sky Model combined with the Deferred Ambient Global Illumination System provide the ambient and indirect lighting. An advanced micro-facet BRDF model in conjunction with accurate Fresnel, Beckmann specular model and Toksvig mapping give objects realistic diffuse and specular shading. All this combines with calibrated lighting and textures to give an extremely pleasing result.