Before we start looking at the settings, I want to point out something about America's Army. The game is based on the Unreal graphics engine (also used in games like Unreal Tournament 2003), and hence uses advanced graphics and audio techniques. As such, you must make sure that your system meets the game's Minimum Requirements. While meeting these requirements allows you to play the game, you should ideally be close to the Recommended Requirements if you expect to have smooth online gameplay. You will notice the recommended requirements are quite steep - that reflects the fact that America's Army is a very system intensive game.
In this section of the guide I provide details and recommendations for in-game settings to allow you to achieve a good balance between audio-visual quality and performance. To access the in-game settings, start up America's Army and click on the Settings button to access the full range of settings. These are then briefly explained below:
Gamma, Brightness and Contrast all affect how bright/dark, washed out or crisp your graphics appear in-game. Adjust these to taste in conjunction with your monitor.
Screen Resolution is also to taste, with the higher the resolution the lower your fps, but the more detailed the image. I highly recommend running the game in Full Screen mode to reduce any display problems or anomalies.
Now, select the Details button to get into more detailed graphics settings:
Textures: Under here are a series of settings for the textures (the surfaces or "skins") of various game elements. They range from UltraLow to UltraHigh.
Terrain relates to the complexity and sharpness of textures used to show the terrain in maps. The higher the setting, the lower your fps, particularly on large outdoor maps like Radio Tower, Mountain Pass SE and Bridge SE.
Weapon and Player texture settings are precisely that - the clarity and detail given to the "skins" applied to weapons and players. The higher the setting the more accurate and detailed these objects appear, but at a cost of reduced fps the higher the setting.
World relates to the complexity and clarity of objects such as trees, bushes, walls etc. The higher the setting the more realistic and detailed these objects appear. Note, if you set this too low, your weapon's iron sights might be too blurry to use.
RenderMap and LightMap, without getting too technical (because I'm not an expert) will improve the appearance and reality of objects in terms of lighting and shadows, with the higher the setting, the greater the performance hit.
Change All allows you to set all of the above to one particular setting quickly (e.g all to UltraHigh or Medium).
Remember that in general the higher the texture settings, the lower your fps will be. However the lower the texture settings, the more blurry, unrealistic and undistinct everything will be, which might give you playing advantages and disadvantages. If you have a newer graphics card, especially with 128MB of video memory, then the performance hit should not be too great from using the highest settings. If you have an older/slower 64MB graphics card, the lower you should set these textures, particularly Terrain, Rendermap and Lightmap settings.
Decals: Clicking the Decals button takes you to the Decals screen. Decals are the marks left by explosions and bullets for example. Increasing the number of Decals means more marks and hence greater reality, but more computer power and hence less performance.
Maximum Decals this setting can greatly affect performance when there are a lot of people firing on the screen, or an automatic weapon (SAW or RPK) is firing. The sheer number of decals generated can lag your graphics. Reducing this setting from the default of 100 can help to reduce such lag.
Door Decal this setting also affects performance if you are close to a door and firing (and/or being fired at) through it, especially when a SAW or RPK is involved. Reducing this setting from the default of 10 (e.g. to 5) can be a good balance of realism and performance.
Fade Door Decals this setting might be annoying for some people. If selected, the decals (damage marks) on doors will disappear after a while. It may distract you if you see a flickering on a nearby door as decals are removed, so perhaps untick it so that decals on doors can only be removed when they're not onscreen and hence not visible to you. If you have performance issues with door decals, try lowering the number of them first.
Advanced: The advanced graphics settings are described below:
Shadow Detail: The options here are as follows:
None - completely turns off all shadows. Can make things look unrealistic, but is best if you're struggling for fps.
Blob - allows shadows (if Projectors is ticked, see below) but makes them much less complex and hence improves your fps. A good compromise of realism vs performance.
Detailed - (again if Projectors is ticked) draws shadows in all their glory, but can give a significant performance hit which varies depending on your graphics card and the number of players on screen. I personally noticed a dramatic decrease in fps (on a 9800 Pro) with this setting in 2.0. While it looks fantastic, it can cause massive lag during large fight scenes.
Trilinear: This makes the graphics and colors seem smoother and cleaner, but can reduce graphics performance. Turn this setting off if you have a slower system or particularly if you have an older video card.
Triple Buffering: Turn this option on to reduce screen "tearing" (when VSync is off) and improve video performance. This can cause problems and glitches for those using older graphics cards, so turn off if you're experiencing problems.
Use Cubemaps: This is a trick used to make some reflective surfaces (e.g water or glass finishes) look like they're actually reflecting what's around them in 3D. Leaving it off can improve performance without any noticeable drop in image quality. If you have a faster system, turn it on.
Use Compressed Lightmaps: If you have an older graphics card, using compressed lightmaps can improve your graphics performance. Compressed lightmaps are smaller and hence take up less video memory, however the colors and shadows in the game will not be quite as nice or crisp and you may see noticeable "banding" in the colors. Unless you're really struggling for fps, leave this setting unticked.
No Client Side Effects: Turning this on will remove certain features like bullet shells, gun sounds, muzzle smoke, bullet impacts etc. Only turn this on if your system is really struggling online and even then think twice.
Disable Dynamic Lighting: Dynamic lighting allows the various lights in the game to react realistically with objects, shining at different angles off weapons, characters and walls based on the light's position. This makes for great effects but can decrease your framerate, so if you really want more fps tick this option. This can also help reduce lag from SAW/RPK fire (since they use tracers which shed light).
Detail Textures: Adds a level of detail or "grain" to certain textures which makes them look much crisper when examined close up (e.g the walls of the buildings in Radio Tower). However this can reduce your fps, so untick for more fps if necessary.
Use Projectors: Projectors covers a range of images projected onto textures, such as shadows from characters and objects (like tree shadows) and decals (see above). The noticeable effects of unticking this option include removal of such shadows and decals. Only untick Use Projectors if you really need a few extra fps as it can look very unrealistic without it on.
Use Deco-Layers: Use decorative layer textures such as grass. Disabling this can improve performance with an obvious reduction in visual quality and atmosphere, but again unticking this is mainly recommended for older graphics cards and those with less Video Memory.
Use Coronas: Coronas are the haloes given off by light sources. Unticking this option can provide a performance boost for older graphics cards, but at the cost of some realism.
Enable VSync: Without going into too much detail, Video Synchronization (VSync) is the synchronization of your graphics card and monitors' abilities to redraw the screen a number of times each second. This is measured in Hz (which is the same as frames per second), and your monitor will have a maximum rating in Hz for each resolution - e.g 1280x1024 at 85Hz. When this option is unticked, your fps will improve slightly, however you may see some image "tearing" as your monitor and graphics card go slightly out of synchronization when the refresh rate exceeds the monitor's abilities. Turn off VSync for best graphics performance, however if the image tearing is annoying then tick this option. Enabling TripleBuffering (See above) will help reduce any tearing.