Secret World PC Technical Review



Product: The Secret World
Company: Funcom
Author: Sean Ridgeley
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: July 3rd, 2012

Options, visuals, performance

Graphics options

The Secret World has convenient options menus: one within the launcher, and one in-game, ensuring you get in game as you need.

Graphics-wise, the launcher lets you fiddle with screen resolution, display options (full screen, windowed and, as a nice touch, windowed borderless), and DirectX mode (9 or 11). Off to an okay start.

In-game, things really get heavy. In the General tab, you've got your usual Low, Medium, High, and Ultra presets, the same options mentioned above, and then more in the form of AA (FXAA, FXAA High and the currently unavailable TXAA 2x and 4x), Motion Blur (Off, Low, High), Tessellation (Off, Ground only, World only, Ground and World), and SSAO (Off, Low, High). You can also tinker with Brightness, Contrast, and Gamma.

TXAA deserves a mention because it's a brand new antialiasing technique; The Secret World will be the first game to support it following an upcoming patch. Developed by NVIDIA, its aim is to reduce temporal aliasing, which can introduce flickering or make objects seem to move more slowly than they actually are. However, it does bring in significant blur, much like FXAA sometimes does. Note to use it, you will need the 304.79 beta drivers or newer.

If the General options are not enough for you, you can make your way to the Advanced tab, where you can fiddle around with five levels of options for a eight different settings which touch on Detail, View Distance, Filtering mode, God rays, SSAO, and FXAA.

Visuals

I'm not an MMO player by any stretch of the imagination, but what I have seen in them has never been visually stunning, and understandably so given the goals and costs involved. The Secret World seems to break from the norm somewhat and offer graphics that can compete with big, offline titles, though also scale back reasonably for those that haven't upgraded in about five years or more.

Cutscenes are especially impressive and rich with advanced lighting, shadows, and AO, but in-game visuals are no slouch, either. Suffice it to say, if you're an MMO lover and a graphics whore, you probably won't be left wanting.

Performance

When the options menu says 'Ultra', it really means it. On this preset, I run a wildly inconsistent 20-50fps; tweaking a bit or just bringing it down to High gets a much more enjoyable though still not perfectly smooth 40-60fps, which seems the best balance overall. I couldn't notice any difference in windowed performance, for those that prefer it. It'll likely be tough to get completely immersive performance unless you're more or less bleeding edge, but it should be close enough for those with decent or otherwise solid hardware.

Load times are relatively swift on my clattery old mechanical hard drive, usually hitting about 10-20 seconds for a given city.

I didn't experience any disconnects or major server-side lag during my playtesting, so you should be good to go there.

Other options

The Secret World has no shortage of options, that's for sure. While there are plenty in the graphics department, there are even more in others.

From the top, the Audio menu comes with a Speaker setup option for a variety of systems, including Stereo, 7.1, and more. There are also volume sliders for what seems to be every bit of audio in the game, including Dialogue, Interface, Sound effects, Combat music, and quite a few others.

The Interface options menu, meanwhile, is built by and for what's easy to see as anal retentive customization junkies. That is to say, you can tailor just about every conceivable UI option to your exact preferences, whether it's mission auto select, target outlines, damage numbers, chat window opacity, HUD scaling, camera following, or a load of other items.

The long list of controls can be rebound as you see fit. Oddly, there are no options for mouse sensitivity and the like. They feel just fine on my G400, but there's always some significant percentage of people that prefer to tweak it, so at least for now, that's not doable.