Assassin’s Creed 3 Benchmark

Assassin's Creed Logo

Assassin’s Creed 3 is the fifth installment in the series that started 5 years ago with the initial Assassins Creed game. Assassin’s Creed 3 was developed using the Anvil Next engine by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. The game has been in development for approximately 3 years and has the longest development cycle in the series.

As with any of the previous titles, Assassins’s Creed 3 was ported from the Xbox360 but this time, the developers upgraded their engines to support DirectX 11 specific features which should improve the overall graphics quality of the game.

Methodology

The game exhibits about the same frame rates in almost all the areas. But it has terrible CPU optimization issues that doesn’t allow for consistent results while testing this game in an opened area so all the tests were ran at beginning of Sequence 2, the cinematic that shows Haytham and Charles Lee meeting Hickey. I will talk in depth about what I think is causing the CPU bottlenecks that plagues this game even though the tests don’t show it.

The settings used were maxed out, except for Anti-Aliasing Quality which was set to High.

The game is updated to the latest version, 1.01

FPS was recorded using the Beepa Fraps 3.5.9 for 60s.
CPU usage was recorded using Windows Performance Monitor. Processor(_Total) with a sample interval of 1 second.
GPU Usage was recorded using MSI Afterburner 2.3.0.

Test System Specifications
Test Hardware | Assassin’s Creed 3 Benchmark
Processor

Intel Core i5-2500K (Sandy Bridge)

3.3 GHz, OC = 4.5 GHz, 6 MB L3 Cache, power-saving settings disabled, Turbo Boost disabled.

Motherboard MSI P67-C43-B3, Intel P67 Chipset
Memory 2 x 2 GB DDR3 1600MHZ
Hard Drives

WD 500 GB SATA III (OS)

Samsung 750 GB Sata II (Game)

Graphics Card Sapphire HD6950 1 GB
Power Supply Corsair TX 650 W
System Software And Drivers
Operating System Windows 7 x32 SP1
Windows 7 x64 SP1
Windows 8 Pro x32 build 9200 (RTM)
Windows 8 Pro x64 build 9200 (RTM)
Driver AMD Catalyst 12.10 WHQL

Operating Systems Comparison

Assassin’s Creed 3 performs about the same on both Windows 7 and Windows 8, the difference is made on the minimum FPS department, where Windows 8 drops between 3 and 6 units lower than Windows 7.

Assassin's Creed 3 Operating Systems Comparison

CPU and Cores Comparison

Even though the engine was updated to support DirectX 11 features that should reduce CPU usage and improve general performance, it’s not really the case. The previous Assassins Creed title (Revelations) has the exact same issues as the latest one. Having a lot of NPCs (Non Player Characters) requires calculations for the AI that are done by the CPU, this increases the CPU needs of the game and pretty much cancels the lower CPU usage achieved by using the DirectX 11 API.

The CPU / GPU Usage Table doesn’t tell the whole story. In NPC infested areas, the GPU usage can go down to about 85%, even with the 2500k OC’ed to 4.5 Ghz and with the full number of cores enabled. That’s because the game doesn’t utilize the CPU properly, you’ll see what I mean in a second.

I definitely recommend overclocking the CPU !

Assassin's Creed 3 CPU and Cores Comparison

CPU Usage GPU Usage
1 Core 99.5% 79.5%
1 Core OC 99.5% 87%
2 Cores 82% 97%
2 Cores OC 76% 98%
3 Cores 59% 96%
3 Cores OC 58% 98%
4 Cores 47% 98%
4 Cores OC 44% 98%

Assassin's Creed 3 CPU Usage

CPU Cores Usage

The following test was done with the 2500k overclocked to 4.5 GHZ and with all the 4 cores enabled. As you can see the first core usage is almost 100% while the remaining 3 are barely used.

While it’s clear that Assassins Creed 3 lacks any threading optimization, it is extremely difficult to diagnose the problem. I suspect that the AI calculation is only generating one thread which is bound to the first core (Core 0) and the rest of the CPU needs are spread to the remaining cores. With so many NPCs, one core may not suffice and the overall performance suffers. But I may be very wrong about this…

Assassin's Creed 3 CPU Usage

GPU Overclock

As with almost any other game overclocking the GPU translates in better frame rates but don’t expect miracles. A 5% overclock means a roughly 5% performance increase. IT highly depends on the area you’re playing the game. In the middle of a town, overclocking the GPU won’t do anything when the GPU usage drops lower than the degrees in Syberia.

Assassin's Creed 3 GPU Overclock

Settings Comparison

Another interesting thing happens when changing the quality settings which “comes to confirm my theory about the CPU cores usage”. When going for lowest settings the GPU usage plummets, in some cases, to 50-60% indicating a major CPU bottleneck. But because the overall CPU usage is well below 100% and only the first core (Core 0) is at about 100% proves that threading in Assassins Creed 3 is nonexistent.

The most demanding settings is Anti-Aliasing. AA basically cripples performance when it is set to Very High, the frame rate drops with more than 30%. Because the AA setting uses a slider (devs, stop using sliders for AA or FOV, it serves no purpose) it’s hard to tell what kind of AA is applied or how many samples it’s using. Looking at the settings ini file it seems that the game uses MSAA (Multi Sampling Anti Aliasing) which should not impact performance this much (Edit: Low AA = FXAA; High AA = Very High Quality FXAA; Very High AA = Very High Quality FXAA + 4xMSAA), making me believe that AA was poorly implemented and should not be used, use your display driver’s control panel to force AA. If you have an nVidia card then the game will automatically apply TXAA.

As you can see, the biggest difference in image quality between the lowest settings and the highest ones are in shading, in both cases the game looks great.

Assassin's Creed 3 Settings Comparison

Settings

Option Low Medium High
Environment Quality Normal High Very High
Texture Quality Normal High High
AA Quality Normal High Very High
Shadow Quality Normal High Very High

Image Quality Comparison

Assassin's Creed 3 IQ Comparison

AMD Catalyst Drivers Comparison

Using different drivers won’t change a thing while playing Assassins Creed 3. As long as the threading optimizations remains the same, display drivers can’t improve performance.

Assassin's Creed 3 AMD Catalyst Drivers Comparison

Conclusions

Assassins Creed 3 is a very complex game that took 3 years to develop and it definitely needed more time to be properly polished. I played this game extensively and the number of bugs and issues I encountered is high.

Most bugs are UI and missions related but these are easily fixed by a patch and most of them have been already fixed by the 1.01 update. For instance, every now and then my consumables would reset to 0 and I needed to re-buy them. Another annoying issue is that sometimes you may get some graphical artifacts that are fixed only by restarting the game. Yet another problem that is easily noticed is character popping, probably the devs trying to limit the number of NPCs by setting a line of sight limit.

NPCs are the bless and curse of this game. It’s very exciting taking part and influencing a city full of citizens, loyalists, redcoats and patriots but at the same time, due to poor optimization, performance is not where it should be.

Since the game is a console port, a big concern is how good the controls are. Well, I can only say that the controls are as good or as bad as in any of the previous Assassins Creed games. Personally, I like how the game controls, being a 3rd person game, the mouse control doesn’t need to be spot on and for the most part it certainly is.

The Good:

  • Works the same on both Windows 7 and Windows 8.
  • Above average graphics, especially on characters.
  • Good controls.
  • Visual difference between low and high settings are minimal while still having a big performance improvement.

The Bad:

  • Poor CPU/threading optimization which leads to pseudo CPU bottlenecks.
  • In-game Anti-Aliasing cripples performance.
  • Low amount of IQ settings.
  • Graphical artifacts.
  • Character popping.
  • Other missions related bugs.
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mohamed-Fawzy/1374401888 Mohamed Fawzy

    I have c2d e7500 and hd 7770 have 15 fps in boston fucking game

    • euphoria

      Are you for real…… I’m sorry but what do you expect!! A 7770 is a budget/entry level graphics card, it’s not a gaming card, it’s a budget card suitable for a HTPC. If you want to get a decent framerate and play on med/high settings then you will need to get at least a decent “mid-level” gaming card like 660Ti or a 7870 or higher.

      Sorry I’m really not trying to be slag off your PC, but it what do you expect from a graphics card that costs less than £90/$130 :-

      • http://benchmark3d.com/ Johnny 3D

        That’s just like saying that to drive with more than 60 KM/H you need to buy a Ferrari/Bugatti/Lamborghini/etc. And a 7770 is definitely not a entry level card, that’s a mainstream card that should be able to play any game at decent frame rates.

        His CPU is outdated, I’ll give you that, and that’s what causing the issues in this particular case but still hasn’t nothing to do to with why he gets 15 FPS, like many others.

        You can have the “beastiest” machine on the planet and that wouldn’t mean squat if the developers keep “pulling these optimization stunts”.

        Don’t even start me on prices, you’re from EU, you should know better than this…

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000447748467 Umair Khan

          Very well said bro . God bless you .

        • Dan Walters

          a 7770 only has 1gb ram @ 1125Mhz 640 Stream Processors and 128 bit interface it’s a low end card for today’s games

          now that a card 7870 OC 1050 Mhz now that a card 2gb ram @1250 MHz 1280 Stream Processors 256 bit interface

          and the 7990 is where to go 1.05 GHz 3-6 gb ram @1500 2084 Stream Processors 384 bit interface

          8000 cards coming soon

    • Buzz

      I have c2d e 7500
      4 gb ram
      HD 7750 can it run well ??

  • xt291

    See, maybe in-game AA kills amd cards but on 660ti between low and veryhigh AA i got only 1 fps difference lol

    • thaghost

      That’s just cause the 660ti is a badass card. :P

    • mooglev

      I think your CPU is in pain..

      • xt291

        yeah dude.. me too i have phenom 960t running at stock speeds and i think its slowing my game down alot.. hope i get i5 soon

  • al-Assas

    Interestingly, this test shows good core-utilization, but with AMD CPU and GeForce video card:

    http://www.pcgameshardware.de/Assassins-Creed-3-PC-235361/Tests/Assassins-Creed-3-Test-Benchmarks-1036472/

    • http://benchmark3d.com/ Johnny 3D

      I don’t know if you noticed that they use 720p resolution to do the core tests and clock for clock the 2500k destroys the 1100 so the CPU bottleneck is more pronounced on their system than on the one I use.

      It’s hard to explain but on my system the game doesn’t use the CPU properly and you can’t really call that a CPU bottleneck. I’ve seen different people report different problems so it’s hard to say if the issue I encountered is hardware specific (Intel/Radeon) or it occurs on all systems but at different magnitudes…

      • al-Assas

        Yes, they are using low resolution and a weaker CPU with a lot of cores for heavier bottlenecking, so that multi-core utilization gets more pronounced. Too bad they didn’t show the core-by-core cpu-usage on their i7-2600K that they used for the video card benchmarks.

        At the same time, their approach is understandable, as the threads must reamain at a constant proportion to each other during gameplay, regardless of the power of the CPU. Maybe the AMD graphics driver is causing bad threading? I don’t know.

  • skr13

    Thanks for the review Johnny, I used your Image quality comparison in my topic on VideoCardz Forum ;)

  • colin002

    Getting on average 25% GPU usage. ?!??!?! Q6600 quad core running at 2.7GHz.

  • bonjour

    i have more cpu utilisation than you, approximately 65-80% with 2500k @4.3ghz
    & bad gpu load with out antialiasaing on veryhigh

  • dan

    would these specs run this game is high with no lag? :
    AMD Bulldozer FX-4 Quad Core 4170 Black Edition 4.4Ghz
    8GB 1333Mhz DDR3 RAM
    MASSIVE 1000GB Hard Drive Storage Space
    ATI Radeon HD 6670 2GB Graphics Card HDMI, VGA, DVI
    Gigabyte 78LMT-USB3 Motherboard & Drivers
    please reply asap

    • Jonathan

      No, an HD 6670 is pretty weak. Probably more like 30-45 fps on 720p at normal settings, possibly with high textures.

    • andrew

      definetly not, that graphic card is weak. but because of the fact that this game was ported from xbox and has a shitty optimisation, you probably won’t play it decently. i have a hd6850 and i had to tweak the settings alot to get good graphics (at 1366/768 which is quite a low resolution) without those annoying framedrops.

  • Jos

    I have a i7-2670QM, an NVIDIA GT 555M/2Gb DDR3 and 8GB of DDR III RAM and I can barely play the game at 800×600, the fps just drops to 5-10 after a while which is REALLY frustrating.

  • MynameIS

    I have AMD Phenom 8400 Triple-Core 2.1GHz
    ECS A780GM-A (1.1)
    4GB DDR2 800MHz
    HD 6870 1GB DDR5

    And I have 8~15fps in the cities, I know my CPU is very weak. So I’m going to buy Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition 3.4GHz. What you guys think? (I’m not planning to buy another motherboard)

    I’m playing Far Cry 3 in Medium (DX11) settings having 15-20 fps.

  • campdude

    Yea its how it goes nowadays. Since its a newer engine “anvil next” it gets a bad optimization problem. Unfortunately its like that.
    The Brotherhood and Revelations were just better versions of Assassins Creed 2 so it was better coded. Being the first DX 11 anvil next game unfortunately could have been predicted poorly optimized because they were not able to take previously coded stuff and make it better as much as with the others. lame though.

  • daas88

    Do you think Ubisoft can do something to fix this? or are we doomed to play it with low framerate?

    I have a pretty humble setup (e8400 core2duo cpu, 3gb ram, ati 6670, 18,5″ monitor) but I can play most games just fine, except for badly ported games such as this one or SW TFU just to cite some examples.

  • nobody

    I have Phenom II x4 955, MSI HD 6850 820mhz, samsung spin point 3-1TB sata2, M4a-785-td-v-evo, 16 GB ram ddr3 1600mhz kingston and Assasin Creed 3 1280×1024 play 20min-75max fps all options full!!!! :D

  • Disappointed

    I have Phenom II 965 BE @ 3.6 ghz and Radeon 5970 2GB video card and I get fukn 20 fps in Boston. Had 50-60 on the ship. Major suckage ><

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000447748467 Umair Khan

      I would have been more than happy if mine were 20 in boston . Mine were 45+ on ship in high settings and now even in lowest settings possible it is like 12 fps in Boston :-)

  • kutuzov28

    i wish my cpu and gpu usage was like that… instead it goes the other way around…

  • http://www.facebook.com/pro.aravind Aravind Gopalakrishnan

    Hey guys, Sony Vaio laptop vpceb46fg with Mobility Readon HD5650 card, 1 GB memory, 4GB RAM, i5 processor and Windows 7 HP OS is my configuration. My assasins creed 3 game installed in the laptop gets struck in a particular place(at the boston gun shop) and exits all the time even with lowest graphics setting possible. The game exits and there is a notification saying my driver has stopped working and recovered succesfully. I have lost my mind over this., please help me

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000447748467 Umair Khan

      Once I had same problem in win 7 in another game . Are you using original windows or the pirated one and what’s your power supply . You should change windows to vista may be if you are really crazy to play this game .

  • Luciano Saraiva

    The main reason for the CPU usage pattern is the physics API in Unreal Engine (it can run on both AMD/nVidia but the major portion can only run on nVidia/CPU. That is implemented by nVidia PhysX/APEX partnership and is used to different extent on each title. The usage choices made in those cases are from the developer. AC3 is part of the nVidia’s TWIMTBP marketing.

  • http://gcl.ro/forum/ George

    blah

  • http://www.facebook.com/shafi.rpl Shafi Rpl

    the game is running smooth on my setup, experienced a bit slutter at the beginning but now its running really well, my rig follows
    core i7 2600k on cm hyper 212 evo (stock)
    asus gtx 560(non ti) dcii top 2 way sli enabled
    8 giga of 1333mhz ram
    corsair tx 850w v2

  • Dan Walters

    run fine on my cards at max setting 2x 7870 OC cards average frame 67 low 52