Crysis 3 Txaa Comparison Essay
Still one of our most punishing benchmarks, Crysis 3 needs no introduction. With Crysis 3, Crytek has gone back to trying to kill computers and still holds “most punishing shooter” title in our benchmark suite. Only in a handful of setups can we even run Crysis 3 at its highest (Very High) settings, and that’s still without AA. Crysis 1 was an excellent template for the kind of performance required to drive games for the next few years, and Crysis 3 looks to be much the same for 2014.
Crysis 3 ends up being another lateral for AMD, with the R9 285 and R9 280 virtually tied at 2560x1440 and 1920x1080 with High quality settings. Only at 1920x1080 do we see them pull apart, with the R9 280 taking a mild 4% lead. On a side note, since this is our game of choice for measuring power consumption, this is especially handy as it means we have equalized performance from the start, making power consumption at the wall less affected by performance differences.
Meanwhile as this is a game that generally favors NVIDIA cards these days, it comes as little surprise to see the R9 285 trailing the GTX 760 by 4 to 8%. The factory overclocked version of this card fares a little better in that respect, but it’s not quite enough to close that large of a gap.
Nvidia has released the Game Ready 334.75 WHQL graphics driver, with optimized support for World of Warcraft’s latest Warlords of Draenor expansion, Far Cry 4, Dragon Age Inquisition, and The Crew. Alongside those new titles comes support for a new capability that Nvidia touted when it launched the Maxwell family: MFAA, or Multi-Frame Anti-Aliasing.
Update: Our initial screen captures were done with FRAPS. While this works fine for MSAA and TXAA, it fails to accurately capture MFAA output. We have posted new screenshots and revised our comparisons between MFAA and MSAA. Please note that the MFAA rate is actually 2x the MSAA rate — the screen shots and performance testing below have also been revised to reflect this.
What is MFAA?
The term antialiasing refers to a wide range of rendering techniques designed to reduce the appearance of jagged, crawling lines on a moving render surface. There are multiple techniques to reduce the appearance of these visual artifacts, from rendering the scene internally at 2-4x the current resolution (supersampling), to sampling line edges and geometry but avoiding the need to sample textures multiple times (multisampling), to performing edge detection and smoothing in software without the need for sub-pixel sampling (Fast Approximate Antialiasing, or FXAA).
Each of these technologies comes with a performance tradeoff, and both AMD and Nvidia have experimented with implementing various types of filters, temporal antialiasing, and in Nvidia’s case, TXAA. MFAA is different from TXAA, in that TXAA requires the game developer to specifically implement the rendering method in each title and uses sample information from previous frames to create smoother output. It was explicitly designed to give game developers the ability to implement a more cinematic feeling to a title and is designed to improve on MSAA’s rendering without the performance hit of supersampling.
MFAA is similar to TXAA in that it also uses temporal sampling in its algorithm, but it doesn’t implement the same pixel-shader filters or require the same degree of engine integration. Nvidia is still working to add support for more games, but MFAA is currently available in 20 titles, including Assassin’s Creed Unity, Battlefield 4, Civilization 5, Civilization: Beyond Earth, Crysis 3, and Titanfall. We’ll be examining the just-released Assassin’s Creed Unity to see if MFAA can alleviate some of the frame rate problems we saw in that title with antialiasing enabled.
The goal of MFAA is to offer equivalent antialiasing at higher frame rates. So 4xMFAA would, ideally, take a 2x MSAA performance hit but offer 4xMSAA quality, if not a little higher.
One other feature we want to mention is that Maxwell’s MFAA supports a much larger set of sampling patterns than any previous Nvidia GPU. Some of you may recall that 5-6 years ago, it was possible to force GeForce cards of a certain vintage to use ordered-grid supersampling (OGSSAA) in certain titles. This type of supersampling carried an enormous performance hit and blurred the final image, but it could nearly eradicate jagged lines. Normally, GPUs have a pre-programmed series of sampling methods baked into ROM and there’s nothing the end-user can do to change them — if the GPU performs OGSSAA with a square pattern, that’s what you get.
Maxwell-class hardware (currently the GTX 980, GTX 970, and GTX 980M) store patterns in RAM and can vary them from frame to frame depending on on-screen activity. The result of this should be better antialiasing overall, at every quality level.
Next page: Let the MFAA testing commence!