With roots that stretch back more than a decade and enough fans to justify new content every year, Battlefield is among the handful of franchises that needs no introduction around here. Even if you hate EA's approach modern military madness, you can typically expect Battlefield's graphics to raise the bar. This year's release is no different, of course, having been built with an updated version of the Frostbite engine.
Frostbite 3 enables more realistic environments with higher resolution textures and particle effects. Part of this includes a "networked" water system that ensures all players in a game see the same wave at the same time. Beyond the networking voodoo happening behind the scenes, Battlefield 4's waves are an incredible spectacle. Water battles in small vessels are exciting as your vision can be blocked by passing waves.
DICE also says it has overhauled the engine's Tessellation support to enable greater realism, including improved destruction. In short, watching HD YouTube videos doesn't do any justice to the beauty of BF4's graphics, which may just be the best we've ever seen. Regardless, there's no doubting that Frostbite 3 is on the cutting edge of engines and it's more apparent than ever that the next generation is here...
As usual this article is all about testing PC hardware performance, particularly on the graphics front at different resolutions and settings to give you a perspective of what to expect with your own hardware, or if you're looking for a new GPU, here's a guide of what to buy based on the games you like to play the most.
We tested the single player portion of the game to ensure consistent results -- something we simply can't do with others. We'd need a bunch players to participate in simulating a multiplayer environment for the benchmark and they'd all have to perform the same exact actions hundreds of times. We could have tested a multiplayer map by ourselves, but that would have likely been less demanding than single player. We settled on the start of the fourth mission (titled "Singapore") which begins on the US vessel Valkyrie as the team walks to an inflatable rib where they have a brief discussion and then jump in before being lowered down. Although the test takes place in the Valkyrie's launch bay, the scene seems to use a lot of GPU and CPU power. There is heavy use of DoF (Depth of Field) here so perhaps that is what taxes the GPU.
Increasing the resolution to 1920x1200 on ultra reduced the R9 290X to 60fps -- equal to the R9 270X in Crossfire -- and the GTX Titan was 13% slower with 52fps. If you intend to average 40fps with these settings, you'll need at least the HD 7970 or GTX 770, though the GTX 670 or HD 7870 might suffice if you're willing to play with 30fps.
Dropping the quality to high allowed the GTX 660 and its Ti version to produce 41fps and 43fps while the HD 7850 fared well with 46fps and the 7870 was even faster at 55fps. To play with a solid 60fps or better on high, you'll have to employ the GTX 680 or R9 270X at minimum.
Incredibly, even our multi-GPU setups failed to deliver an average of 60fps when playing on ultra at 2560x1600, with the GTX 780 SLI cards topping our graph at 58fps. To which we should note that while AMD's GPUs currently have an edge in this title, Crossfire isn't scaling nearly as well as SLI. As a result, the HD 7970 GHz Edition cards averaged 51fps, while the 7990 was limited to 48fps. A single Radeon R9 290X averaged 39fps, matching a pair of R9 270X cards and outpacing the Titan by several frames.
If you plan to play at this resolution without multiple GPUs, you'll probably be stuck with high quality graphics instead of ultra if you want decent frame rates with your modern performance card.
Steven Walton is a writer at TechSpot. TechSpot is a computer technology publication serving PC enthusiasts, gamers and IT pros since 1998.