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Assassin's Creed III Graphics
Assassin's Creed III unveils a lot of new graphical prowess. Partnering with NVIDIA, Assassin's Creed III uses a new, advanced anti-aliasing technology to provide more efficiency in rendering. Because this new AA technology is only available using GeForce GTX 600 GPUs, those are the GPUs recommended for use by both NVIDIA and Ubisoft. Don't get me wrong, though, the game still looks awesome with a Radeon HD GPU.
Assassin's Creed III uses a brand-new graphics engine, that was designed exclusively for this game. It's known as Anvil Next, and I'm sure we will see it popping up in a lot of other games soon. The engine looks amazing, and it is very dynamic in nature. The historic cities that you visit throughout the game, including New York, Boston, Lexington, and Concord, change in appearance based on the season, the weather, and the time of day. It comes off as extremely realistic when you come back to a city and its familiar streets and buildings are now covered with snow.
The naval combat system in Assassin's Creed III also looks great. Water is typically a rough spot for many graphics engines, but in my opinion, the developers did a wonderful job making the water environments look very real. Unfortunately, some of the other aspects of the naval battles didn't impress me as much. When I shot the chained cannonballs at the enemies ships to take out there masts, it brought me out of the reality and back to the game. The masts and sails broke in what appeared to be predetermined placed regardless of where the chains hit.
These graphical issues were not isolated to just the sea battles, however. There were many times when Connor stabbed someone apparently so hard that his entire forearm penetrated their torso and came out the other side. In some of the areas, pathing issues would cause characters to occupy the same space and the graphics suffered. These issues didn't break the game by any means, but it did pull me out of my fantasy world for second. It's like reading a really good book and just when you are entrenched in the story and lost to the real world, a sleeping baby awakens and pulls you back to reality. It isn't terribly difficult to get back into the story, but there is a little disappointment.
So let's talk about TXAA. This new style of anti-aliasing is a film-style AA technique aimed at reducing temporal aliasing. TXAA uses samples both inside and outside of each pixel as well as samples from prior frames to filter out the aliasing effects. Spatial filtering is improved over standard MSAA as well, making movement and environmental effects look smoother. When combined with MSAA, TXAA provides much better quality, but you may see a bigger performance hit than you are used to with, say, FXAA. The following images help to highlight the difference with Ultra High settings, including TXAA, when compared to normal settings.
The image above on the left was captured at normal settings, while the one on the right had TXAA enabled. Pay special attention to Connor's shadow on the wall behind him as well as the shadows on his face. You can also clearly the see the smoother fabric on his leggings in the TXAA enabled image.
Once again, here, the image on the right has TXAA enabled while the image on the left does not. The smoothing effected by enabling TXAA is very clearly seen in environmental aspects. Look at the any of the edges on the building to see exactly what I mean. You can also see the smoothing to a lesser degree in the wood. Each of those grainy spots seems to move when you move the camera, but with TXAA enabled, all of that is smoothed out very nicely.
The image above was captured using a Radeon HD 7970 with all settings on high, except for the anti-aliasing. The image looks very good.
Unfortunately, whenever I tried to put the anti-aliasing up to the highest level when using a Radeon HD card, the image got destroyed. The option for TXAA was, of course, disabled, since it can only be used with a GTX 600 series card, but even just setting the MXAA to the highest setting made the image appear as it does above. I tried a 7870 and a 6870 to be sure and it did the same with all three. Maybe a newer driver edition will fix the problem. The bottom line is that this game was clearly made to perform better using an NVIDIA graphics card.