Developed using a modified version of Unreal Engine 2.5 and enhanced with Havok Physics, we were blown away by the original BioShock when it launched back in September 2007. Our performance review at the time concluded that the title had "jaw-dropping visual effects" and that you'd need one of the finest graphics cards of the day if you intended on playing at 1920x1200 -- or even 1600x1200 for that matter.
Given our first impression with the first entry, we didn't hesitate to take BioShock 2 for a spin a couple years later. However, as is often the case, the second title was less of a technical showpiece. It also used a modified build of Unreal Engine 2.5 and looked similar to its predecessor with no major improvements. In turn, the game could be run on max quality at 1920x1200 with a relatively affordable graphics card.
Another three years having passed since BioShock 2 and the dawn of a new console generation on the horizon, BioShock Infinite has taken the opportunity to mix things up. Although it's still a first-person shooter published by 2K Games and contains similar concepts and themes, the third installment doesn't follow the same story, being set decades before the previous entries in a floating city called Columbia.
We won't be delving too deep into the gameplay side of things here, but critics seem to approve of the title's fresh perspective given its metascore of 95/100. Naturally, we're mostly interested in the graphics side of things today, and plenty has changed here, too. For starters, BioShock Infinite uses a DirectX 11-enabled, modified version of Unreal Engine 3, which gives hope of a quality PC port.
Along with DX11 effects, folks playing on PC can look forward to higher resolution textures and a healthy range of customization. Infinite comes with six graphical presets from "very low" to "ultra" that should hopefully cover a broad performance spectrum, not to mention individual control over settings like anti-aliasing, texture detail and filtering, dynamic shadows, post-processing, and so on.
As the cherry on top, the developer has fully embraced widescreen gaming with what it calls "horizontal plus" widescreen support, so the wider you go, the more you'll see of Columbia’s gorgeous vistas. In that same vein, it should be noted that there's also multi-monitor support for AMD Eyefinity, Nvidia Surround and Matrox TripleHead2Go. Plenty to see for sure, and we're eager to dig in.
Our test comprises 24 DirectX 11 graphics card configurations from AMD and Nvidia covering a wide range of prices, from the affordable to the ultra-expensive. The latest drivers have been used, and every card has been paired with an Intel Core i7-3960X to remove CPU bottlenecks that could influence high-end GPU scores.
The developer has included a benchmark tool that works very well as we found it to be an accurate representation of the kind of performance you can expect to see when playing BioShock Infinite.
While the benchmark allows to test all six quality presets, we decided to benchmark the Ultra preset with diffusion depth of field enabled. This is the maximum quality setting for BioShock Infinite which we tested at 1680x1050, 1920x1200 and 2560x1600.
Because we tested just a single quality preset and the benchmark tool streamlined the process, we had time to include frame time performance as well. Using Fraps in conjunction with the benchmark tool, we measured in milliseconds the time it takes to render each frame individually. These results will be displayed in our "99th Percentile Frame Time" graphs.