Company of Heroes 2 Performance and IQ Review

Today we dive into Company of Heroes 2 and examine its real-time strategy graphics. We are using a full lineup of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 700 series video cards, alongside AMD's high-end and midrange video cards. This DX11 game looks to push the fastest hardware on the market to its limit with its demanding SSAA settings.

Introduction

On June 25th, 2013 Company of Heroes 2 was released. Company of Heroes 2 is a real-time strategy game and the sequel to the first Company of Heroes game that was released in 2006. The game is developed by Relic Entertainment and published by SEGA. It received a Metascore of 80/100.

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Company of Heroes 2 follows the story of a soviet army lieutenant, Lev Abramovich Isakovich about his experiences in World War 2. The game begins in Russia, with us defending against the German soldiers who are trying to invade Moscow. After combating them during the campaign, we begin pushing German soldiers back into their country. We continue to follow history until the end of the game where the Russian forces are taking over the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany.

Relic Entertainment designed Company of Heroes 2 using the Essence Engine 3.0. It is the first game to be designed using the Essence 3.0 Engine. This is also a big step forward compared to Company of Heroes 1 which utilized the Essence Engine 1.0. The Essence Engine 2.0 was used for designing Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II back in 2009. Essence Engine 3.0 features DirectX 11 support. There are also improvements made to the line-of-sight technology which allows for a more accurate display of a units visibility range depending on the type of unit and weather conditions. Essence Engine 3.0 also brings a new type of technology called ColdTech to the table. This is a weather-simulating technology that creates more realistic obstacles and destructible environments. One of the key features to this technology is that units will create unique tracks in the snow, which stay for the entire map. No other real time strategy game has incorporated this technology.

Unfortunately our multi-GPU enthusiasts will be disappointed to note that Company of Heroes 2 does not currently support either SLI or CrossFire. This a direct explanation from Relic:

"We're basically doing GPU calculations for the snow to allow unlimited 3D deformation of foot prints/tank traps anywhere you walk that are persistent for the entire match and the overhead of transferring data from one GPU to the other basically negates the benefit of a 2nd GPU."

This isn't to say that multi-GPU may never be available, but at the current time and for the foreseeable future, do not expect to use CrossFire or SLI in Company of Heroes 2.


Company of Heroes 2 Graphics Settings

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The graphics options in Company of Heroes 2 are short, sweet, and to the point.

Anti-Aliasing : AA is going to be our number one most demanding graphics option in Company of Heroes 2. It can be enabled at low, medium, and high, and can also be disabled completely. Enabling low AA will provide users FXAA. This is relatively free of performance solution to AA. When we turn medium AA on, we are receiving both FXAA and 2X SSAA. With 2X SSAA everything is being rendered at 225% the selected resolution and being resized back down to the selected resolution. Enabling high AA effectively turns on 4X SSAA alongside FXAA. This will render the image at 400% the selected resolution and then resize it. To be explicit, 1920x1080 will become 2880x1620 with AA set to medium and 3840x2160 with AA set to high.

There will be a patch sometime this week that will update the tool tip to better explain the games anti-aliasing. Relic also let us know that patch will not have any impact on the performance of the game or the image quality.

Image Quality : This setting has many options. It can be enabled at minimum, low, medium, high, higher, and maximum. This setting effects the overall quality of the game, with higher settings adding more features such as shadows to make the game look better. We never had to decrease image quality off of maximum.

Texture Detail : This setting has four options. Low, medium, high, and higher. Texture detail reduces the blurriness when zooming in on units, because it loads the units with larger textures. This setting will weigh more on video cards that do not have a lot of video memory.

Snow Detail : This option can be set to low, medium, or high. It selects the method for displaying snow tracks. Low and medium determine the detail of the tracks being made by units in the snow. Enabling high snow detail will allow deformation of the terrain. High is only available for DX11 capable video cards. This setting is the second most demanding graphics option behind AA.

Physics : This setting can be enabled at low, medium, and high. It can also be disabled. Physics (not to be confused with NVIDIA's PhysX) will determine how realistic the simulation of dying units is. This option also takes a larger performance hit on the CPU than on the GPU.

Game Resolution : This option can be set to 50%, 66%, and 100%. By default it is set to 100%. This allows less powerful GPUs to render the game at either 66% or 50% of the display resolution, and then stretch it to fit while still having a 1080p HUD with clear text. This is specifically for older GPUs, we leave this setting at 100%.


Testing Company of Heroes 2

To test Company of Heroes 2 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 level "Panzer Hunting," which is the 8th mission out of 14 total missions. Our testing procedure takes place in the middle of the level. After we march north with our forces chasing the Tiger tank to the airstrip. After commandeering the Tiger, we start our testing procedure. We have to fight off an ambush from several enemies while we repair the tank. After getting our tank to full health, we head out. We are immediately engaged by 3 tanks, meaning lots of explosions, fire, and smoke. The army is also constantly moving through snow, which means more and more tracks and more demanding performance. We proceed through the town in the middle of the map, killing off another 2 tanks and destroying surrounding buildings. We finish our run-through after fighting off remaining forces and running some of our ground troops across a mine field, which creates several explosions and simulates lots of dying units.

The entire run through takes between 5 and 6 minutes to complete. While users can control a free camera by holding ALT button and moving the mouse, we used the default camera angle and scrolled out to the farthest distance, which allows us to see more of the map and play the game how most players will play it. Zooming all the way in to fires or smoke will bring down the performance no matter what GPU set up you are running. We also kept our entire army on screen as we moved through the level, to stress the performance as much as the game will allow. We found that most video cards became playable and smooth in when averaging around 45 FPS. There are a few instances where slightly lower framerates were playable, but require certain video settings in order to be considered thus.