Game: America's Army
Game Resolution Used: 800x600 and 1600x1200
In-Game Settings: Everything set to maximum possible, except Blob Shadows, and 32 Channel EAX sound.
Official Website: America's Army Site
TweakTown Tweak Guide: Available here
America's Army is a free, state-of-the-art online 3D first person shooter. It uses the Unreal engine, which was developed for Unreal Tournament 2003, but which also powers other games like Rainbow Six: Raven Shield. Therefore the image quality and performance shown here will be similar (but not necessarily identical) to that in other games based on Unreal.
The map I'm using is called SF Hospital, one of the most graphically intensive maps in the game. I've used a relatively low resolution of 800x600 here, firstly to demonstrate how AA and AF can dramatically improve low resolution image quality, but secondly because this game is quite system intensive, and many people will not be able to get playable framerates at higher resolutions with any sort of AA/AF enabled.
Scroll down and examine the various screenshots below to see the performance and image quality impacts. Remember, even though the small JPG shots below may not look vastly different, examining the fullsize JPGs and PNG images will show marked differences.
Some things to note from the above screenshots:
- The performance difference between the screenshots can be confusing. It looks like there is better performance as AA levels rise. This is not true, it was purely due to slight variations in the framerate even while I was standing still (intermittent storm effects on the map caused this) - performance continually fluctuated between 40-48fps. Basically since the resolution was so low (and hence the data on screen much less), no amount of AA or AF can slow down the Radeon 9800 Pro noticeably. As noted, lower-end graphics systems will show lower performance and a clearer performance impact between the various levels of AA/AF, even at 800x600.
- 2x AA brings a very noticeable improvement to the jagged appearance of the visuals displayed at 800x600. Notice the rooflines, telephone poles and hanging phone lines are much less jagged than before. Some visible blurring is noticeable around the edges of these newly smoothed out lines, but at 4xAA and then 6xAA this blurring is reduced.
- However at 6xAA and 0xAF while running around in the game I noticed that everything in general seemed much too smooth and blurry, almost washed out. At that level of AA the game had gone from realistic to almost "cartoonish" in quality.
- The visual quality difference between various levels of AF was not as dramatic, but still noticeable. The areas to look for are the improvements in crispness in the concrete textures, and the brick paving on the road toward the top left, the bark on the palm trees, the leaves of the palm trees in the distance, the gun, and the white hospital sign on the right. Again, even 2xAF made a noticeable improvement, with 16xAF only slightly better.
After some experimentation, I believe a good combination of Antialiasing and Anisotropic Filtering for this game at 800x600, both in terms of performance and image quality is 4xAA and 8xAF. The screenshot below shows how much of an improvement this combination is over the initial (0xAA 0xAF) image above.
Obviously however if you are using faster hardware it might be more sensible to raise the resolution in lieu of high AA/AF settings. The following screenshot demonstrates the image quality difference and performance impact of going to 1600x1200 with 0xAA and 0xAF:
On a 9800 Pro there appears to be no real performance impact from the resolution change, but the visuals seem generally superior to 800x600 with 4xAA and 8xAF. More importantly, while running around in game the use of a higher resolution provides greater realism over any amount of AA/AF usage at lower resolutions.
A tabular comparison of the performance of America's Army at 800x600 and 1600x1200 is provided below at various levels of AA/AF. While at 800x600 the hardware was by no means challenged, at 1600x1200 successively higher AA and AF levels brought the card to its knees. At 6xAA for example the game would be unplayable because in combat situations the extra stress of lots of players onscreen, additional sound and visual effects etc. would reduce the fps to single digits.
These performance figures are indicative only.
On the next page are the screenshots and results for our second test game, Knights of the Old Republic.