The goal of this content is to show that HBAO and SSAO have negligible performance impact on Battlefield 1 performance when choosing between the two. This benchmark arose following our Battlefield 1 GPU performance analysis, which demonstrated consistent frametimes and frame delivery on both AMD and nVidia devices when using DirectX 11. Two of our YouTube commenters asked if HBAO would create a performance swing that would favor nVidia over AMD and, although we've discussed this topic with several games in the past, we decided to revisit for Battlefield 1. This time, we'll also spend a bit of time defining what ambient occlusion actually is, how screen-space occlusion relies on information strictly within the z-buffer, and then look at performance cost of HBAO in BF1.

We'd also recommend our previous graphics technology deep-dive, for folks who want a more technical explanation of what's going on for various AO technologies. Portions of this new article exist in the deep-dive.

Battlefield 1 marks the arrival of another title with DirectX 12 support – sort of. The game still supports DirectX 11, and thus Windows 7 and 8, but makes efforts to shift Dice and EA toward the new world of low-level APIs. This move comes at a bit of a cost, though; our testing of Battlefield 1 has uncovered some frametime variance issues on both nVidia and AMD devices, resolvable by reverting to DirectX 11. We'll explore that in this content.

In today's Battlefield 1 benchmark, we're strictly looking at GPU performance using DirectX 12 and DirectX 11, including the recent RX 400 series, GTX 10 series, GTX 9 series, and RX 300 series GPUs. Video cards tested include the RX 480, RX 470, RX 460, 390X, and Fury X from AMD and the GTX 1080, 1070, 1060, 970, and 960 from nVidia. We've got a couple others in there, too. We may separately look at CPU performance, but not today.

This BF1 benchmark bears with it extensive testing methodology, as always, and that's been fully detailed within the methodology section below. Please be sure that you check this section for any questions as to drivers, test tools, measurement methodology, or GPU choices. Note also that, as with all Origin titles, we were limited to five device changes per game code per day (24 hours). We've got three codes, so that allowed us up to 15 total device tests within our test period.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is EA’s reboot of their 2009 first-person parkour game. The first Mirror’s Edge was well-received for its advanced visuals and intuitive, mechanical gameplay. For some of those who played the first ME, time has only sweetened memories of the innovative parkour-style gameplay. When EA and DICE announced the sequel, we were immediately interested -- we liked the first game most for its time trials and 3D platforming, somewhat unique in execution with Mirror’s Edge.

Like its predecessor, gameplay in ME Catalyst is deceptively simple. You run, you jump, you slide, and sometimes, you kick. We pick-up playing as Faith, a young woman who makes her living as an aptly titled ‘runner.’ If you couldn’t guess, that means she runs items and information from point-to-point, like a courier -- but in a dystopian future where private security companies routinely invade the privacy of citizens. Runners allow data to be moved about more discreetly. As a runner, you traverse the rooftops of Glass -- the city ME Catalyst takes place in -- almost entirely made of a white concrete that stays freakishly clean. Those rooftops also host a lot of ventilation, piping, and fences, all of which are used to the advantage of our parkour-trained runner. Navigation of the rooftops is left largely up to player, but certain obstacles light-up red to guide the player towards the objective.

Mirror's Edge – the first game – had some of the most intensive graphics of its time. Just enabling PhysX alone was enough to bring most systems to their knees, particularly when choppers unloaded their miniguns into glass to create infinitesimal shards. The new game just came out, and aims to bring optimized, high-fidelity visuals to the series.

Our Mirror's Edge Catalyst graphics card benchmark tests FPS performance on the GTX 1080, 1070, 970, 960, AMD R9 Fury X, 390X, 380X, and more. We're trying to add more cards as we continue to circumvent the DRM activation restrictions – which we're mostly doing by purchasing the game on multiple accounts (update: we were able to get around the limitations with two codes, and it seems that the activation limitation expires after just 24 hours). The video card benchmark looks at performance scaling between High, Ultra, and “Hyper” settings, and runs the tests for 1080p (Ultra), 1440p (Ultra), and 4K (High), with a splash of 1080p/Hyper tests.

We've also looked briefly into VRAM consumption (further below) and have defined some of the core game graphics settings.

Update: We have received the following statement from EA Games:

"I checked with our dev team they confirmed that Origin for PC and Mac allows players to activate EA games (including Star Wars Battlefront) five times a day. If you’ve activated a game five times that day, you’ll be able to activate the game again 24 hours after your first activation of the day. This includes installs on new machines and new hardware configurations. If you are encountering something different I’m happy to put you in touch with a dev to remedy the roadblock." (Angella Wong, EA Games Integrated Communications Manager).

Our 24-hour window should tick-over soon and allow us to validate this. If this is the case, the Denuvo DRM limitation on hardware changes would largely be a non-issue -- as stated in the original piece (below), no normal user would be feverishly switching hardware 4-5 times in 24 hours. We will test and report back. Original content follows.

As an aside, here's our Mirror's Edge Catalyst GPU benchmark, now finalized.


EA's new Mirror's Edge Catalyst uses DRM to impose activation limits on the game, restricting total hardware configuration changes to four. That means that, over your life of ownership, you may have to buy the game multiple times if hoping to return in several years from now. We discovered this previously with Star Wars: Battlefront – another EA Origin title – and actually ended up buying it multiple times just to test GPUs.

We've gotten through four video cards in our GPU suite (which spans more than 10 total devices) and have already encountered the dreaded “We're Sorry. An error has occurred. Too many computers have accessed this account's version of Mirror's Edge Catalyst.”


Recapping last week's game news -- following our DOOM benchmark and review -- mostly looks at major Overwatch playerbase announcements, future Star Wars titles (and an RTS, maybe?), and Ubisoft's plans through March, 2017.

Overwatch announced a major achievement in its acquisition of 9.7 million active players during its beta weekend, Respawn Entertainment teased its work on a new Star Wars title, as did EA, and Blizzard is making moves toward an eSports media network.

Video below, script below that.

EA and Dice seem to be having trouble counting. Yesterday, EA launched a campaign blitz for the next Battlefield title -- “Battlefield 1.” Presumably, the title refers to the game’s setting which was previously confirmed World War One. The newly released trailer, as well as the two-hour livestream celebrating the franchise, finalize the setting that had been accidently leaked months ago through NeoGaf.

Game news this week kicks off the sequel to a game no one remembers. EA confirmed Titanfall 2 with a teaser trailer this week, announcing at the same time that the game would be on display in some form at their Play Event during E3. EA’s Play Event starts on June 12, and was set up because the company is skipping E3. So far, no other details have come out about the game, but you can expect to hear more about it in June.

Some sad news for many World of Warcraft fans this week. The popular private server Nostalrius, was shut down on April 10th. This comes following a cease and desist from Blizzard Entertainment. The Nostalrius server has allowed players to keep playing vanilla WoW as it was 13 years ago, pre-expansion, and is somewhat similar to Project 99 for EverQuest. Before being shut down, Nostalrius had over 150,000 active players. To signify the ending of the server, players got together to travel from the orc capital Orgrimmar to the Thunder Bluff cliffs -- where they jumped to their deaths. In addition, many attempted to stream the server’s final moments; however, the private server violated Twitch.Tv’s terms of service, and so to were the streams shutdown.

Breaking news from Germany -- Duke Franz Ferdinand is dead.

Well, maybe -- a NeoGAF listing by EA re-confirmed Battlefield 5, a game we already knew would ship from a recent EA earnings call. While this isn’t shocking, the setting is: according to the store listing, the Battlefield franchise will go back in time to World War 1. This rumor starts with the listed description of the game (now redacted), which states auf Deutsch that the game in question is “Mehrspieler Taktik Shooter im 1. Weltkrieg.” In the language of the victors, that’s “multiplayer tactical shooter in WW1.” If the unintentional leak is true, this would be a first for the Battlefield franchise and takes us back farther than its 1942 - Vietnam roots.

Ghost Games and EA Games just posted the PC system requirements (minimum and recommended) for Need for Speed, including racing wheel support and specs for 1080p60 gaming. The newest entry in the Need for Speed franchise reminds us of ages-distant NFS Underground series, primarily focusing on night-time street racing and car modification.

The NFS post indicates that Ghost Games, the developers, have learned PC gamers demand more – mostly more frames, as they've unlocked the framerate for March 15th's Need for Speed.

Here's a list of requirements:

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