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.
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 Hardware | Assassin’s Creed 3 Benchmark|
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|
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|
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.
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 !
|CPU Usage||GPU Usage|
|1 Core OC||99.5%||87%|
|2 Cores OC||76%||98%|
|3 Cores OC||58%||98%|
|4 Cores OC||44%||98%|
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…
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.
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.
|Environment Quality||Normal||High||Very High|
|AA Quality||Normal||High||Very High|
|Shadow Quality||Normal||High||Very High|
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.