What to Expect, Wrap Up
Not everyone will agree but I think Rise of the Tomb Raider looks even better than other visually stunning games, including prodigious The Witcher 3.
In the past few days we've seen forums filling up with comments about how unoptimized the game is and this just isn't true. There might still be room for further optimization, but it's an excellent port on the whole. Rise of the Tomb Raider is a lot like the original Crysis in that it's a bit ahead of its time, which is a good thing.
If more games were like this the PC gaming world would be more on the cutting edge and enthusiasts who have heavily invested in high-end multi-GPU setups would be able to enjoy an experience worthy of that investment more often.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is a lot like the original Crysis in that it's a bit ahead of its time, which is a good thing.
The graphics are so mind-blowing that I've nearly played the game twice. The first time I was so taken in by the incredible graphics that I often lost focus of the storyline and objective. There isn't a world of difference between the Medium, High and Very High presets (for a detailed side-by-side comparison, go here). Having spent quite a bit of time playing around with the various graphics settings it became clear that the big killer for performance was Nvidia's HBAO+. This ambient occlusion method reduced performance of Radeon GPUs by 15% or more while Nvidia's GPUs took a much smaller hit.
Turning off Pure Hair allowed for an additional 6 - 8% performance on both AMD and Nvidia GPUs so the impact of this hair technology isn't significant in Rise of the Tomb Raider and certainly nothing like Nvidia's HairWorks in The Witcher 3.
Gamers using AMD hardware, namely current-gen flagships such as the Fury and Nano series, we recommend avoiding the Very High quality preset for now as performance gets a bit messy due to brutal frame drops. These same settings don't hammer the 390X and 390 nearly as much and they are able to deliver quite nice performance at 1080p. The issue has to be VRAM-related but for whatever reason Nvidia's own GTX 970 doesn't suffer the same performance issues, though it's a good bit slower than the 390 here.
This game gobbles memory -- both VRAM and system RAM. In our test it would allocate up to 7GB of VRAM when using the R9 390 or 390X. With the 390 or 390X installed the game would consume 4.2GB of system memory and that jumps to 7.1GB with the Nano or Fury. It's worth mentioning that for these benchmarks our test system was only configured with 8GB of DDR4 memory rather than the usual 16GB. Not realizing this could be an issue and it's something I will look into shortly using the Fury X and Nano.
When running at 1440p on 'High', we didn't suffer any frame rate stuttering with the Nano or Fury X like we did at 1080p using the 'Very High' preset. In fact, AMD's flagship GPUs performed well and provided noticeably better performance than the 390X and GTX 980. This is short of saying, a driver update for Radeon cards should address some of these issues.
Gamers looking to take advantage of their shiny new 4K panels will want at least $1,300 worth of GPUs in their rig as we found dual Fury Xs or 980 Tis to be a must here.
On the CPU performance front we found some interesting results, most notably of which were found when comparing the Core i7-6700K and 4770K. The 6700K was quite a bit faster and yet when downclocked to 2.5GHz performance wasn't degraded. As usual, gamers running a Core i5 or Core i7 processor released in the last four years shouldn't have any worries with this title.
Heavily clocked AMD FX processors will also get by without much trouble. We were surprised by how well the Core i3 processors performed, in particular the i3-6100 which matched the FX-8350. Despite their dual-core designs, the Pentium G3258 and G4400 also managed to deliver more consistent performance than the Athlon X4 860K.
Playing on the Core i7-6700K showed a CPU load of around 20-30% and this shot up to around 60-80% on the FX-9590.
Overall, Rise of the Tomb Raider looks amazing and I believe the gorgeous visuals warrant its steep demand for graphics hardware.