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Both AMD and Nvidia have been working hard to show their graphics cards in the best possible light when playing Far Cry 3, with both camps releasing many performance-related driver updates in recent weeks. Naturally, we used the most recent versions -- Catalyst 12.11 Beta 11 and GeForce 310.70 -- in our benchmarks.
Right now, with the latest drivers, it seems that Nvidia has a slight edge over AMD, and this was particularly evident when looking at the ultra quality results with 4xMSAA enabled. This is surprising given that Far Cry 3 is part of AMD's Gaming Evolved program and is featured in their latest Never Settle gaming bundle.
Considering that, it seems reasonable to assume AMD's drivers would already be quite mature, and the company has previously boasted that Far Cry 3 is optimized for Radeon graphics cards. With that being the case, it's embarrassing that Nvidia's second-best card managed to outpace AMD's flagship when playing on max.
Therefore, if you plan to play Far Cry 3 using the highest possible in-game quality settings, you'll likely want a GeForce card. We found this to be true across all three resolutions tested (1680x1050, 1920x1200 and 2560x1600 if you skipped ahead), as the GTX 680 and 670 consistently beat both versions of the HD 7970 and 7950.
You'll find similar results as you move down the food chain. On ultra, the $230 GTX 660 matched the $250 HD 7870. Similarly, on very high quality, the GTX 660 Ti was much faster than the HD 7950 and 7870, while the GTX 660 beat the 7850. AMD clearly has work to do if it wants to claim the performance crown in Far Cry 3.
Unlike Hitman: Absolution, Far Cry 3 didn't prove to be overly CPU dependent, though the performance trends were similar: for the best results, you'll definitely want Intel inside. That said, AMD's processors actually held their own in terms of price vs. performance, as the FX-8350 trailed the Core i5-3470 by only a single frame.
With these performance reviews, I usually play the first few missions, but with Far Cry 3 I found myself playing for several hours before getting to work. Although it doesn't use many DirectX 11 features, it still looks stunning and its open world is a blast to explore. Here's a more detailed review of the gameplay if you're interested.