So, How Demanding Is It?
Although we love to test demanding PC exclusives, there is always a concern that the game's visuals may not justify its hardware requirements. We imagine that'll be the case for some folks here, especially those who will draw comparisons to say, Crysis 3 or Tomb Raider. Those titles definitely have nicer looking vehicles, weapons and people, but they're lacking Arma 3's expansive environment.
The draw distances on ultra are unlike anything we've seen before and the crazy part is that they can be increased much further if you have that kind of GPU power on tap. It's impressive to watch a detailed landscape form in the distance and then remain consistent without random things popping in or out of view -- something we've experienced when playing plenty of games, including Battlefield 3.
Even when running BF3 on its highest settings using dual GTX Titans in SLI, so many objects simply vanish if you get too far from them on larger maps. That's distracting at best and it definitely takes away from the realism. Point being, this isn't a major issue with Arma 3, and we believe this is at least partly why it's so GPU-intensive, not because it's poorly coded. Your opinion may vary, of course.
Considering how demanding this title is, it's one of the rare times we strongly recommend using SLI or Crossfire, especially if you want to get the most out of the experience. Both technologies scaled well, though AMD's solution was around 100% whereas Nvidia's was closer to 70 or 80%. It's also worth noting that we didn't test for frame lag this time, but neither technology seemed to have an issue there.
For the money, a pair of GTX 770s would be hard to beat if you want to crank up the settings without thinking twice, particularly since they performed better than two HD 7970 GHz Edition cards for around the same price or less. They also crushed the GTX Titan, delivering well over 30% more performance in almost every test at around $200 less, making the $1,000 single-GPU option a pretty tough sell.
Those working with a tighter budget could probably get by with a GTX 760 or HD 7950 if playing on very high at 1920x1200 (or 1080p), but we didn't enjoy the gameplay at less than 40fps, so we'd stick with the high or standard presets if it means you'll be closer to 60fps. If things are that tight, you might also want to overclock your CPU, especially if you have an i3, i5 or just about anything from AMD.