Nvidia has some optimization work ahead
We figured something was wrong from the get-go so we contacted Nvidia and they suggested using the newer 344.75 drivers, which were given to us prior to being made public -- initially we were using the 344.65 WHQL. The new driver was pressumably tweaked for Far Cry 4, though the release notes don't make any performance claims. Alas, with the suggested release installed, we didn't receive a single extra frame. We should also point out we are testing with the latest version of Far Cry 4 (v1.3 as of posting).
For all Radeon cards we used the Catalyst 14.11.2 beta driver, which has also been updated for Far Cry 4. AMD claims up to a 50% performance increase over the Catalyst 14.11.1 beta in single-GPU scenarios with anti-aliasing enabled.
It's worth mentioning this latest beta driver doesn't support CrossFire. The CrossFire profile for Far Cry 4 is currently disabled while AMD works with Ubisoft to investigate an issue where CrossFire configurations are not performing as intended.
Getting back to Nvidia's poor performance... we can confirm that the 344.75 driver was used while Far Cry 4 has been patched to the latest version through Uplay. We asked Nvidia if the performance we saw was unusual or different to what they have seen and they have yet to reply.
As it stands, we believe AMD is getting the most out of its Radeon graphics cards in Far Cry 4 and don't expect to see many performance improvements in the future, with the exception of CrossFire setups. Nvidia on the other hand have some work ahead, which is hard to believe with Far Cry 4 being Nvidia-sponsored.
Ubisoft also has work to do. Despite day one patches, we are still experiencing a lot of crashes with both AMD and Nvidia cards when playing via Uplay.
If we ignore Nvidia's shaky performance and focus on what we saw from AMD, then it seems gamers can enjoy Far Cry 4 in all of its glory at 1920x1200 (or 1080p) with a Radeon HD 7850 or R9 265 (a $150 graphics card). Of course, a R9 270X or 7870 will give you ampler room for heavy scenes, while the HD 7970 or better will be required for an average of 60+ fps.
As is often the case, we found that gamers are best served by an Intel Core i5 processor, though the Core i3 is also quite potent here. Sadly, the AMD FX and Phenom II range struggles, though you can still expect playable performance.
Until the next one, you can check out more PC gaming benchmark tests here, including GTA V, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Battlefield Hardline, Evolve and more.