While this year's Tomb Raider reboot created our latest list of the most anticipated PC games, I have to admit that it was one of the games I was least looking forward to from a performance standpoint. Previous titles in the franchise received mixed to positive ratings, but aside from the gameplay, their graphics weren't exactly stunning, so we never bothered to give a performance rating for one – at least until now.
As with the previous entries, Crystal Dynamics has developed the new Tomb Raider
with the Crystal Engine – albeit a heavily modified version. Obviously, being a multiplatform version, we were concerned that the game might be console-focused, with the PC being an afterthought that is becoming increasingly common (Dead Space 3 is a recent example) and generally too lackluster Graphics leads.
These concerns were at least partially allayed when we learned that the PC port was being handled by Nixxes Software BV, the same people who handled the PC versions of Hitman: Absolution and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Both were great examples of what we expect from decent ports in terms of graphical quality and customization. Hitman in particular really emphasized our high-end hardware.
We were also relieved to learn that Tomb Raider supports DirectX 11, which provides access to rendering technologies like depth of field, high-resolution ambient occlusion, hardware tessellation, super-sample anti-aliasing, and contact hardening shadows. Additionally, the PC build offers better textures compared to the thinned console versions as well as AMD's TressFX real-time hair physics system.
The result should be a spectacular looking game that pushes the boundaries of today's hardware enthusiast – the keyword is "should" of course – so let's go ahead and see what restarting Tomb Raider is made of.
We'll be testing 27 DirectX 11 graphics card configurations from AMD and Nvidia, which cover a wide range of prices, from affordable to extremely expensive. The latest drivers are used, and each card is paired with an Intel Core i7-3960X to remove CPU bottlenecks that could affect high-end GPU results.
We use Fraps to measure the frame rates during 90 seconds of gameplay footage from Tomb Raiders first level. The checkpoint is called "Stun". The test begins with Lara running to escape a cave system.
Our Fraps test ends just before Lara leaves the cave, where ironically the built-in benchmark begins. We chose to test a custom section of the game instead of the stock benchmark, as this is how we will test Tomb Raider in the future when we review new graphics cards. The use of Fraps also allows us to record frame latency performance, although we haven't considered that in this article.
Frame timings were not taken into account for two reasons: It's not easy to see all of this data when testing 27 different GPUs, and we believe Nvidia will need more time to improve their drivers. We'll be including frame-time performance for Tomb Raider in our next GPU review.
We'll be testing Tomb Raider at three popular desktop display resolutions: 1680 x 1050, 1920 x 1200, and 2560 x 1600 with DX11. We're also testing with the three high quality presets including Ultimate, Ultra, and High. No changes are made to the default settings.