More challenging for the hardware than Crysis

Armed Assault 2: Graphics card benchmarks and visual quality compared [Top article of June 2009]

Armed Assault 2, aka ArmA 2, challenges your graphics hardware like few games ever before and offers superb graphics in some parts. PC Games Hardware testes 16 3D accelerators and compares the individual video options.
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Armed Assault 2: Introduction and Engine
In the military simulation Armed Assault 2 you are sent to the fictional conflict area Chernarus where you have to fight tactically challenging battles as an infantry soldier or with vehicles and aircrafts. The base for this game is the third generation of the Real Virtuality Engine, which as we could already verify uses multi-core CPUs and benefits a lot from modern triple- and quad-cores.

ArmA 2 with maximal Details
ArmA 2 with maximal Details [Source: view picture gallery]
The renderer is DX9 only and doesn't have to fear the Cryengine or the Unreal engine 3 from a technical point of view: Besides the common gimmicks like Bump, Normal and Parallax Occlusion Mapping the feature list also includes Hemispherical Lighting and Dynamic Shadows which are Stencil Shadows in most parts, but developer Bohemia Interactive also tried to integrate some kind of Soft Shadows - the result is more pixeled than soft. The visualization of the environment is quite realistic due to the high vegetation density and the high visibility range of up to 10 kilometers. The water convinces with reflections and refractions while the waves and the surf rather remind of moving foil.

ArmA 2 with maximal Details
ArmA 2 with maximal Details [Source: view picture gallery]
This impressive visualization is ruined by the bad LoD and the aggressive Streaming system as well as the post processing effects: The extremely exaggerated Motion Blur can be dealt with, but the Depth of Field which comes into effect in a short distance doesn't just soften the environment but also opponent who are more or less made invisible by that - so lower details are much better from a gameplay related point of view. Biggest drawback: Even on a graphics card with 2 GiByte VRAM ArmA 2 loads high resolution object textures at a very late time. Thus it is possible that a wooden box is made of a washy bitmap and until you get close enough you don't even recognize that the brow something is supposed to be a wooden texture. At closer distances on the other hand the textures are sharp and coherent. The animations are convincing and alarmingly realistic in some situations - especially those of the NPCs, who by the way are quite details except the faces.

Armed Assault 2: Technical Problems
During our tests we had to face several problems: Although there weren't big errors like crashes or memory leaks, we nevertheless were annoyed by the omnipresent clipping bugs and the absurd collision detection. But even more important is the low performance: Even on overclcoked highest-end hardware (Core i7; 12 GiByte RAM and a GTX 285 with 2 GiByte VRAM) ArmA 2 becomes a slide show (less than 15 fps) running at 1,280 x 1,024 pixels with very high details. You have to go to low or medium details and have to activate Pixel Doubling (which is ugly) to get playable framerates. Given the performance you shouldn't even think about Anti Aliasing, but the Real Virtuality Engine doesn't support it, as well as any SLI or Crossfire modes, anyway.

ArmA 2 with maximal Details
ArmA 2 with maximal Details [Source: view picture gallery]
Armed Assault 2: Benchmark Scene and Results
For our tests we used the training mission "Team” which combines a high range of view, many shadows, detailed vegetation as well as vehicles and NPCs - major conflicts are even more challenging and run playable at lower settings only. We used the retail version of ArmA 2 and the forthcoming Beta patch.

Since maximal details get every system to its knees we use two settings. One combines low details with medium details and Pixel Doubling while the second setting is a mixture of high and very high settings (see the screenshots of the video options in the gallery). On the next page you can see the difference between the individual graphics options.

In the upper class ArmA 2 likes Radeon graphics cards. So the HD 4890 can beat the GTX 285 and the HD 4870/1G beats the GTX 275. In the middle class the HD 4850/512 and the GTS 250/1G are on the same level. The HD 4770 is slightly faster than the old 8800 Ultra. Only 512 MiByte VRAM are slowing the Geforces down. A GTS 250/1g is about 30 percent faster than a 9800 GTX+/512 which is technically identical except the amount of video memory. On average fps the Radeon HD 4870 receives a benefit of about 10 percent while the minimal fps are also increased about 30 percent.

Armed Assault 2: Conclusion
ArmA 2 looks great in most parts, but the impressive graphics can't be run on any system at the moment - the performance is a disaster. To get the framerate to an acceptable level you have to lower the visual quality because of what the graphical experience suffers. The clipping bugs and the collision detection are further drawbacks. On the other hand the SSAA feature is unmatched by any other game at the moment.

Picture gallery  (enlarge to view source)

Author: Marc Sauter (Dec 28, 2009)

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