Tomb Raider PC Technical Review



Company: Square Enix
Author: Sean Ridgeley
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: March 7th, 2013

Graphics options, visuals, performance

Graphics options

Tomb Raider sports a hearty 13 advanced graphics options, including FXAA/MSAA, Shadows, Reflections, Depth of Field, SSAO, Tessellation, and more. Notable basic options include Resolution and V-Sync, the latter of which offers the ability to enable Double or Triple Buffering to reduce the performance hit usually introduced by V-Sync.

Happily, a configuration tool is offered out of game (in addition to the in-game options menu), for those that prefer to tinker externally.

Visuals

Crystal Dynamics latest is a visual feast right off the bat. While cutscenes normally make me reach for the 'Skip' button, they're simply so stunning here you have to stop and stare. In-game visuals are what really counts, of course, and the game doesn't disappoint in this department either extremely rich shadows and textures are complemented by newer features like tessellation and Ambient Occlusion, making for lush environments and character and facial models, the result of which is one of the best looking titles on PC today, easily.

It's a bit shocking, even, given the series has never exactly had diehard PC gamers in mind this time around it's blatant it does. The fact this is the first title in the series to support DirectX 11 is also part of the reason for the shock.

Worth highlighting is TressFX, AMD's proprietary hair tech, the idea of which is to offer hair in-game which behaves and looks more realistic. It's not perfect in Tomb Raider (while it can be impressive, sometimes it actually proves less realistic), but it's new tech that makes a genuine and immediately noticeable impact whether you prefer it or not is down to personal taste, mostly. In any case, I'm excited to see AMD improve on it going forward. Also, I'm pleased it's by no means AMD exclusive (and from what I've heard, performs more or less the same in both camps).

Performance

On maximum settings (excepting FXAA and TressFX, the latter of which was disabled for most of my testing), Tomb Raider never drops below 60 frames per second, give or take a few frames, and frequently finds itself at 70-90. With the exception of the odd stuttering due to streaming (the game seems to avoid load screens altogether), it feels perfectly smooth. Results are more or less the same between single player and multiplayer, with no notable discrepancies.

With TressFX enabled, minimum framerate drops to around 40, and sticks between 40-60 most of the way, with a noticeable though quite bearable drop in smoothness.

Stability has been an issue for some, at least those on NVIDIA cards, though I can only speak for one crash in a few hours of playtime. If you are hurting, try disabling Tessellation for now. I've also seen reports of graphical glitches when running a multi-GPU setup in combination with TressFX, so if you notice anything bothersome, disable one or the other.

A couple of side notes: Alt-Tabbing is flawlessly implemented, and wonderfully, a benchmark tool is included for tweaking purposes.