The graphics card is the piece of technology that’s majorly responsible for creating and rendering the awesome images, video, and animation found in today’s fast-paced, visually demanding, and graphically intense triple-A (AAA) games.
Read on for a rundown on how graphics settings can affect gameplay so you’re getting everything you can out of your gaming computer components for the best possible experience.
In this open world, single-player game, you play as Geralt of Rivia, the protagonist and monster hunter known as a witcher, searching for his missing daughter Ciri who is being sought for her magical abilities by the powerful riders of the Wild Hunt.
You’ll play through stunning vistas that include the snow-capped, darkly forested, windswept, and Viking-settled Skellige Isles. In the metropolitan, richly detailed Novigrad, you’ll experience a medieval city, while when you’re in Velen, or No Man’s Land, you’ll be traveling through creepy, war-torn, and overgrown swamps.
The details in all of these worlds are authentic to the locations that they’re based on as well as the time period. It’s a beautifully rendered game overall.
The open-world, stealth, single-player Assassin’s Creed Odyssey brings you back in time to 431 BCE, specifically to ancient Greece at the time of the Peloponnesian War between the city-states of Athens and Sparta.
Playing as either a male or female mercenary (Alexios or Kassandra), your character is a fictitious descendant of the real-life Leonidas, king of Sparta.
A graphically beautiful game, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey makes you feel as if you’ve actually stepped foot in ancient Athens, visiting the Agora, the Odeon at the foot of the Acropolis, or the colossal bronze Athena Promachos statue that could be seen (in ancient times) from great distances beyond Athens.
Hitman 2, stealth game hit of 2018, packs in stunningly rendered settings that you explore and work within as mysterious Agent 47. You’ll be walking, sleuthing, and fighting your way through varied locations like the slums of Mumbai, a racetrack in Miami, and fictional Whittleton Creek in suburban Vermont.
The opening sequence has you, as Agent 47, leaving authentic footprints in the sand as you work your way through the moonlit beach off the coast of Hawke's Bay, New Zealand. The clumped seagrass blowing on the beach moves realistically while you walk through it, providing your character much-needed cover as well.
Later in the game, at the Miami racetrack, you’ll see natural-looking shadows from the palm tree fronds in addition to the billowy cloth of the waving flags. And within the crowds of non-player characters (NPCs), you’ll notice an abundance of details and textures that are visually striking.
In single or cooperative squad-based online multiplayer sci-fi RPG Anthem, you play as adventuring heroes called Freelancers who are defending humans from the threats of the powerful and skilled Javelin pilot named The Monitor. As a Freelancer, you wear and pilot an exosuit (called a Javelin) to carry out missions as you explore beyond the home base of Fort Tarsis.
Flying through the deep gorges of rocky, yet grassy slopes of Great Falls Canyon, or the waterfalls, lagoons, and crumbling structures within Academy Ruin, or the aptly named Emerald Abyss, you’ll experience the rich and immersive graphics of the game.
Anthem also supports NVIDIA deep learning super-sampling (DLSS) proprietary technology, which uses anti-aliasing techniques to render images at lower resolutions all while using artificial intelligence (AI) to make it seem as if the images are rendering at much higher resolutions.
2017’s Star Wars Battlefront II action shooter game gives you the ability to play as characters from the movies - as either a hero (such as Han Solo or Rey) or a villain (like Emperor Palpatine or Kylo Ren).
If that’s not thrilling enough, you’ll also get to play within graphically rich locations from the original, prequel, and sequel Star Wars movie trilogies. You’ll feel as if you’ve been dropped straight into the worlds of the movies.
The transformation into the movie-world seems complete when you’re transported to Tatooine. Fighting on the battle droid-infested streets of otherwise gorgeous Naboo, you’ll marvel at the smoothness of the marble structures in the palace.
You’ll also be able to fight in the skies above planets like Endor and battle-station-disguised-as-planet Death Star II. And maneuvering and fighting within the sands of the desert planet of Jakku is just as immersive.
Open-world, military tactical FPS game Arma 3 is set in the 2030s on the Aegean-based island nation of Altis and Stratis, as well as the South Pacific island of Tanoa. Playing as fictitious U.S. Army soldier Corporal Ben Kerry, you’ll experience individual missions as well as larger-scaled operations within a world of a declining North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) presence.
Arma 3 serves up some beautiful, realistic graphics in the island environments - especially within the water settings. The Mediterranean island of Altis includes dramatic coastlines and rustic villages along with authentic-looking military outposts and airports.
Both Altis and Stratis are beautifully lit, with dramatic sunsets, sun-drenched, sparkly trees, and dynamic, naturally-moving clouds and grass. And South Pacific-based Tanoa looks like you’ve been plopped right into the Fiji archipelago.
FPS and survivor-horror adventure game Far Cry 5 is set in a fictional region of Montana that’s housing a creepy group of doomsday cultists. You play as an unnamed junior deputy sheriff who has to help take down the powerful cult leader Joseph Seed and his family of despots and sycophants.
Far Cry 5 is visually stunning. It re-creates Montana with awe-inspiring graphics such as wilderness with murky and deep lakes, towering pine trees, twisty rivers, and rugged mountain peaks. Buildings that include cult outposts, bait shops, cabins, and ranger stations are photorealistic in some areas.
While there are many beautifully detailed and rendered places to enjoy, it is a fast-moving game so you won’t necessarily get to enjoy all of those places. And because there is also an ominous feeling to the gameplay, you wouldn’t want to stay too long at some of the locations even if you could.
While most monitors have a 60 Hz refresh rate, fast-moving, high-quality graphics within gaming applications usually need 144 Hz or higher since larger refresh rate numbers usually translate into sharper, smoother on-screen images.
A frame rate of 60 fps is often the sweet spot for gaming at conventional 1080p resolutions (see below), in part because this is the ideal rate at which the human eye - which doesn’t see individual frames - perceives smooth images.
Virtual reality (VR) gaming needs higher frame rates than 1080p gaming: anything lower than 90 fps can negatively affect viewing, and thus gaming with, VR experience.
1920 x 1080 is a common and ideal resolution for PC gaming. These are the dimensions for monitors with a Full High Definition (Full HD/FHD) resolution, and it’s also the origin of the term “1080p gaming.” Most low to mid-range graphics cards can run smoothly on 1080p monitors. Besides FHD, other resolutions that you’ll encounter include:
Though the graphics on higher-resolution displays look sharp, they are often very demanding on your system’s processing power. Conversely, while lower-resolution displays (e.g., HD or 720p) are less demanding on processing power, they can look rather blurry especially when they’re running on higher-powered graphics cards.
Adjusting texture quality will either increase or reduce the resolution of textures, which can, in turn, influence the graphics quality and performance. Higher settings may require more graphics computing power or video memory.
In a fast-moving first-person shooter (FPS) game, the texture quality setting may not matter as much since those images will be whizzing by you.
On the other hand, within a slower-paced adventure, real-time strategy, or puzzle game, where environmental details within the graphics are more visible, texture quality is more important.
You’ll see this effect in games like an FPS that uses the aimed down sights (ADS) function, which means aiming your weapon by looking down the weapon scope (or sight), and in nearly any other game that uses zoom-in functions for examining items more closely.
While this setting can create a film-like, graphically pleasing effect, it may affect performance and therefore lower frame rates within certain games.
Anti-aliasing creates the illusion of smoothness within the edges of these “jaggies” or images by blending pixel colors around the images.
This setting can demand more graphics processing power, and thus affect performance if viewed on lower resolutions. Higher-resolution displays - such as QHD or UHD - help lessen the aliasing effect, however.
Bloom is the effect that mimics the natural effect of sunlight on certain days in the real world.
For instance, on bright days, sunlight will block out some objects so that it’s difficult to see them, creating an aura-like effect around the edges of certain surfaces. Going from indoors to outdoors can be an especially jarring experience. Having the bloom effect switched on can recreate this experience, creating dramatic contrasts.
Bloom can be overdone, however, resulting in oversaturation and therefore unnatural lighting effects. You may see it in windows or mirrors, for instance, that are unnecessarily highly reflective.
Motion blur is the film effect that blurs the environment around you while you’re looking around, simulating the feeling of motion and producing a “streaking” effect. The objects that are part of or within reach of your character stay in focus while the moving background is blurred.
It may or may not be desirable depending on the type of game that you’re playing, as it can affect performance levels.
Changing your graphics settings can help you enjoy these visually stunning games, but not all settings will work for all games. Make your changes based on the games you love to play most. And if you don’t like how it looks, you can always change it back.
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