Far Cry 4 Video Card Performance Review

We play Far Cry 4 on no less than twelve different GPUs for this in-depth look at what graphics settings are playable in Far Cry 4. We will talk about playable settings and show apples-to-apples so you know what to expect in this game and what upgrading your video card may do for you in this new game.


High-End Video Card Comparison

We are now going to look at the high-end video cards all compared to each other. We will take the GeForce GTX 980, GeForce GTX 970, XFX Radeon R9 290X DD and AMD Radeon R9 290 and compare these to each other. Since these are high-end video cards, we are targeting 1440p gaming with these.

Highest Playable Settings

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The first thing to note is that we are using SMAA as the AA option for all of these tests. Trying to use MSAA, or TXAA on NVIDIA GPUs causes a drastic performance hit that is not worth it. SMAA is your best option for image quality and performance. It allows you to utilize higher settings than if you were to use MSAA or TXAA.

Out of all the video cards, the GeForce GTX 980 performed the best and allowed the highest settings compared to the other video cards, even the R9 290X. At 1440p we were able to play at the "Ultra" quality setting. However, this was not the maximum in-game settings possible, for example we were using "Ultra" shadows, and "SSBC." Enabling Soft Shadows and HBAO+ just ate up too much performance. We were able to have the better "Enhanced" Godrays and "Simulated" Fur turned on though, which no other video card here could manage at 1440p. The Enhanced Godrays is a big positive gameplay experience improvement the GTX 980 allows.

The AMD Radeon R9 290X GPU surprised us with how terrible performance was. We expected that it would perform close to the GTX 980, but it did not. We had to make some drastic image quality sacrifices in order to get R9 290X to be smooth and playable in this game. First, there was an added stutter with the R9 290X that was separate from the regular game stutter all video cards have in this game. This was an additional unique stutter that occurred with AMD GPUs that took away from the gameplay and happened every couple of seconds.

We were able to play at "Ultra" settings on the R9 290X but we had to turn off Godrays completely. We tried and tried to enjoy the game at "Ultra" with "Volumetric Fog" Godrays, "Ultra" Shadows, "SSBC" and Fur set to "On." It just wasn't playable though, we had to turn down some quality feature. We tried shadows first, that didn't help much, then we tried setting AO down to SSAO and that didn't help much, then we did the only thing we could do, turn off Godrays and that made the difference. It was just on the line of playable with Godrays on, but by turning Godrays off performance was a lot more acceptable.

We have to keep in mind there could be other places in the game that could be harder on graphics at times than our run-through. We were just left with no choice but to turn off Godrays in order to get the performance up. It did drastically change the visual quality of the game.

The GeForce GTX 970 actually performed better than the AMD Radeon R9 290X GPU here. It had the performance to run with "Volumetric Fog" Godrays and did not experience the stutter that the AMD Radeon R9 290X had. The rest of the settings match the 290X, but with "Volumetric Fog" turned on the image quality was a lot better on the GTX 970.

Naturally, the AMD Radeon R9 290 was the worse, and is quite debatable if 1440p is really the best resolution for the R9 290. At 1440p we had to turn down the overall quality to next lesser level of "Very High." This turns down many in-game options to "Very High", including textures, lessening image quality. In addition we also had to turn off Godrays, it just couldn't handle any form of it at playable performance. There was also that unique stuttering with the R9 290 that the R9 290X also experienced.

It would actually probably be better to just run this game at 1080p on the R9 290. At 1080p you can run with "Ultra" settings just fine on the R9 290 for a better and smoother experience.


In this first apples-to-apples test we are comparing all the video cards at the highest possible in-game settings at 1440p. This includes Soft Shadows, HBAO+, Enhanced Godrays and Simulated Fur.

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This graph shows the divide in performance we experienced in the highest-playable section. The GTX 980 and GTX 970 are faster than the R9 290X, by a lot. GTX 980 is 25% faster than R9 290X!

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In this second comparison what we have done is just select the "Ultra" settings and not increase the other GameWorks settings any. We are using "Ultra" shadows, SSBC, Volumetric Fog Godrays and Fur set to On.

The performance difference lessens quite a bit between the video cards with these lesser, non-GameWorks features turned on. The GTX 980 is now only 5% faster than the R9 290X. This proves that the NVIDIA GameWorks features are a more heavy burden for the AMD GPUs. However, NVIDIA GPUs are still faster even with those features disabled, just not as much.