Developed with a modified version of Unreal Engine 2.5 and expanded with Havok Physics, the original BioShock blew us away when it launched in September 2007. Our performance review at the time revealed that the title had "mind-boggling visual effects" and that if you wanted to play 1920 x 1200 – or even 1600 x 1200, you would need one of the best graphics cards of the day.
Given our first impression with the first entry, we didn't hesitate to take BioShock 2 for a spin a few years later. As is so often the case, the second title was less of a technical showpiece. It also used a modified version of Unreal Engine 2.5 and looked similar to its predecessor, with no major improvements. In return, the game could run at maximum quality at 1920 x 1200 with a relatively affordable graphics card.
Another three years have passed since BioShock 2 and the start of a new generation of consoles on the horizon. BioShock Infinite took the opportunity to mess things up. While it's still a first-person shooter published by 2K Games and featuring similar concepts and themes, the third part doesn't follow the same story set in a floating city called Columbia decades before the previous entries.
We're not going to dig too deep into the gameplay here, but critics seem to approve of the title's new perspective given its 95/100 metascore. Of course, today we're mostly interested in graphics, and a lot has changed here too. For starters, BioShock Infinite uses a DirectX 11-capable, modified version of Unreal Engine 3, which gives hope for a high-quality PC connection.
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In addition to the DX11 effects, PC players can look forward to higher resolution textures and a range of customization options. Infinite includes six graphical presets from "very low" to "ultra" which hopefully should cover a wide range of capabilities, not to mention individual control over settings such as anti-aliasing, texture details and filtering, dynamic shadows, post-processing, etc.
As the cherry on top, the developer has fully embraced widescreen gaming with the so-called "horizontal plus" widescreen support. The further you go, the more you see the beautiful views of Columbia. With this in mind, it should be noted that AMD Eyefinity, Nvidia Surround and Matrox TripleHead2Go are also supported by multiple monitors. Definitely lots to see and we look forward to delving into it.
Our review includes 24 DirectX 11 graphics card configurations from AMD and Nvidia, covering a wide range of prices, from affordable to extremely expensive. The latest drivers were used, and each card was paired with an Intel Core i7-3960X to remove CPU bottlenecks that could affect high-end GPU results.
The developer added a benchmark tool that works very well as we found it to be an accurate representation of the performance you can expect when playing BioShock Infinite.
While the benchmark allows testing of all six quality presets, we decided to compare the ultra preset with activated diffusion depth. This is the maximum quality setting for BioShock Infinite that we tested at 1680 x 1050, 1920 x 1200, and 2560 x 1600.
Since we only tested a single quality preset and the benchmark tool optimized the process, we had time to include frame-time performance as well. With Fraps in conjunction with the benchmark tool, we measured the time in milliseconds that it took to render each frame individually. These results are shown in our 99th Percentile Frame Time charts.