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Battlefield 3 Beta - Where's the Ugly Setting?

The Battlefield 3 beta looks spectacular regardless of visual quality settings.

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Graphical settings and PC gaming go hand in hand. It's the first place you go when you launch a game. After all, who wants to play at the wrong resolution and with low-quality settings? Bottom-of-the-barrel settings make most games feel like something else entirely. If you play Doom 3 without the shadows, it's like watching a horror movie with the lights on. You might as well be watching an evil version of the Care Bears. How a game looks at its worst is arguably as important as how it presents itself under ideal conditions.

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When it came to the Battlefield 3 beta, we noticed that DICE didn't undercut those with older gaming rigs. The feel of Battlefield 3 did not go below a certain level; to do so would compromise the game. That's not to say you can't make it look great, which it did. It's just that you're going to have to really care about the little things when you start cranking up the settings.

At low-quality settings, Battlefield 3's beta did not feel diminished. You get great draw distances, with dust and debris billowing about. And the beta didn't suffer in the least for objects in the distance at all.

The graphical engine's lighting system is one of the key reasons for this level of fidelity at low quality. It doesn't get compromised much when brought down to its minimum. You'll still see plenty of shadows and effects, although they're going to be toned down a bit. The only thing that really strikes you, if you notice it, is the amount of aliasing on shadows and thin objects. Outside of that, you're going to have to start focusing by giving objects close-up inspections and then comparing then to higher quality settings. Apart from aliasing, the only thing that stuck out to us was how we could see shadows draw in sometimes. At medium quality, the shadows see some improvement and get a bit softer. At low quality, they have a blocky look. You'll also get SSAO, which, while nice, is really one of those features where you need to pull out the fine-tooth comb.

High quality looks great with the addition of better textures, shadows, and effects. You also get motion blur and 16x anisotropic filtering, which can really be enabled much earlier for most video cards. You get slightly better antialiasing through postprocessing as well.

Ultra quality gets even better, with higher-quality textures, effects, terrain, and more. The big difference here is the addition of 4xMSAA under the antialiasing deferred section, which is how most games do it. Up until now, the preset quality settings (medium and high) depended heavily upon postprocessing effects for antialiasing.

But even as the game gets better and better looking, it's remarkable how well the low-quality settings stand up. Gamers with high end gaming rigs will surely appreciate all the visual fidelity you can get from the ultra quality setting but even folks with aging computers definitely won’t be playing a second tier version of Battlefield 3 when it comes out on October 25.

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