Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter Tweak Guide
[Page 8] Neat Stuff & Conclusion
Neat Stuff & Conclusion
The guide is coming to a close, but the following are some important tips you should try to improve performance and resolve problems.
Max Frames to Render Ahead
This tweak gained prominence with Oblivion, and is covered on the last page of my Oblivion Tweak Guide. I'll reproduce the same description here as it applies in precisely the same way: The setting in question is called 'Max Frames to Render Ahead', and it is usually hidden from the normal Nvidia Forceware Control Panel options. To enable it, I recommend using NVTweak 1.71, since NVTweak is easier to use to enable/disable this option (compared to Coolbits) and has other functionality which can come in handy. Run NVTweak and tick the 'Additional Direct3D' box, then close NVTweak. Now go into your Forceware Control Panel, and under the 'Performance & Quality Settings' item you will find a new item called 'Additional Direct3D Settings', click on it and you will see this option.
You can find out more about how to use NVTweak on this page of my Nvidia Forceware Tweak Guide. You will also find more information about the 'Max Frames to Render Ahead' option on that page, as well as other hidden options for the Forceware Control Panel. For ATI users, you can adjust the 'Flip Queue' setting which is the equivalent setting to the one above by installing and using ATI Tray Tools. The same values apply to both cards.
The amount of data produced by the GRAW engine means it can saturate your CPU and/or Video RAM with pre-rendered frames (whole screens ready to be displayed). On most systems this can result in noticeable mouse and/or keyboard lag, even when your FPS is reasonably high enough not to usually suffer from this (e.g. 25-30FPS+). By reducing the maximum number of frames to render in advance, you reduce this bottlenecking effect and hence significantly reduce or remove the mouse lag.
However, here's the important part: this is not a tweak for improving FPS as such. The general recommendation to set 'Max Frames to Render Ahead' (or 'Flip Queue') from its default of 3 down to 0 will actually reduce performance on many systems, particularly Dual Core or HyperThreading CPUs. Secondly, even on single core systems, you may notice reduced performance in certain areas. So on balance I strongly recommend setting this value to 2 to start with, and if you still have mouse lag, dropping it down to 1. Remember, not all mouse lag is due to this setting: in areas where you have very low FPS (i.e. below 10-15FPS), you will get lagginess - this occurs in virtually any game where your FPS drops down to the low teens or single digits. You will have to consider changing other settings to increase overall FPS. Also refer to the Troubleshooting Tips section for more details.
Ageia is a company which has produced the new PhysX Card, a plugin card similar to a graphics card, but dedicated to enhancing your PC's processing power so that it can provide advanced physics effects. Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter is one of the first games to provide support for the PhysX card, and to see a visual comparison of normal physics effects in the game versus those provided by PhysX, see this video comparison. As you can see, PhysX effects provide that extra bit of realism, however based on initial feedback from users such as this one, enabling PhysX effects may actually reduce your framerate noticeably. The reason is that despite the PhysX card handling the extra physics processing, the extra effects add more to your graphics card's load and hence reduce FPS. Hopefully this situation will improve.
When installing GRAW, you will notice it installs a PhysX driver even if your system doesn't have a PhysX card. It also adds a system tray item which reloads in the background each time you restart Windows. This is unnecessary in my opinion, and you can easily remove this driver by going to your Control Panel>Add/Remove Programs and selecting the 'Ageia PhysX' item and uninstalling it. I noticed no impact on my FPS whatsoever by removing the driver, however it does remove a background driver which is not needed.
Of course if you do have a system with a PhysX card, then make sure you download and install the latest Official PhysX Driver as this piece of hardware is still maturing and no doubt compatibility and performance issues are continually being improved by Ageia. GRAW will automatically detect your PhysX card and enable the additional physics effects in the game.
Update: For those of you without PhysX cards, here's a tip you can try to improve performance in GRAW thanks to Tiago Simões. Go to your GRAW launch icon, right-click on it and select Properties. In the Target box put one space after the last character and add EnablePhysX=false, then click OK. Some users report that this can provide a slight performance improvement in GRAW, so it can't hurt to try it.
Updated OpenAL Driver
Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter uses the OpenAL audio API. It comes with its own OpenAL DLL carrying Version 6.14.0357.11. It has been noted by some people that upgrading this driver can improve audio performance with GRAW, as pointed out in this thread. Try updating the OpenAL file as instructed there, although note that it is not necessarily going to improve performance - the version of OpenAL included with GRAW is not that old.
Update: You can try installing the new OpenAL 1.1 Library to improve OpenAL performance in GRAW.
Skipping the Intro Movies
At the moment, the only way I have found to skip the introductory movies in GRAW is to do the following. Go to your \Program Files\Ubisoft\Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter\Data\movies directory, and rename the following files to something else (e.g. change their extension to .REAL_bik):
Now download the following archive containing blank movie files - each one is a blank .BIK movie, not a renamed .txt file: SkipIntro_GRAW.zip (2KB). Extract the contents into your \Program Files\Ubisoft\Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter\Data\movies directory. Now whenever you start GRAW there will be a black screen as the game loads up, however you should reach the main menu quicker without the annoying intro movies.
At present I have not been able to find out how to open the in-game console for GRAW. If you know how to do this, please Email me and I will include it in the guide.
Update: You can however activate God mode (invincibility) by editing the actual game files packed in the quick.bundle game resource archive. The instructions are a bit tricky and not recommended for novice users, however full details are in this thread on the Ubisoft Forums. Full credit goes to paulkel101 for discovering this.
Is the GRAW Engine Flawed?
As usual with almost every new game on the market today, people are complaining about the GRAW game engine being flawed and that a patch should fix all of this, and so forth. And as always, this is a simplification which does not apply, as the game's engine - while not perfect - is not flawed, and as expected of new games, it requires newer hardware to run it properly. If there is a potential flaw with the game, it's that the lighting method chosen by the game's developers prevents Antialiasing being enabled. The game's Developers, GRIN, provide some comment on this topic here. As the developers state, the game requires a lot of CPU power as well as graphics card power because it has complex AI and physics, a large open game area to wander through, objects with complex polygons (e.g. the characters in the game), and thus it is a stressful game. It doesn't appear to scale downwards very well, meaning even if you reduce the options as far as possible, the things which need to stay the same (such as AI and physics) will still tax your system. Nor does it appear to take advantage of dual core CPUs. In fact for many people, their CPU will be the bottleneck in getting the most out of the game (anything close to 2GHz is going to struggle), for others, using an older graphics card (e.g. the Nvidia 6800 series) will also result in a lot of slowdowns. Again, the game is not designed for 2 year-old hardware, and this is the sad truth about PC gaming: you need to upgrade relatively often if you want to play current games properly.
If you haven't bought GRAW yet, then download the GRAW Demo (531MB) and consider the following: If you are having major problems running the demo, if you're dissatisfied with the quality of the visuals, especially the lack of Antialiasing, or if you just get very low framerates then I don't recommend buying the game. The demo and the full version are almost totally indentical in terms of performance and options, and the game's developers have specifically stated that Antialiasing is not possible given the Deferred Lighting method the game uses. These issues are not going to be patched away - at least not anytime soon. So I urge you to run through this guide, tweak the demo to the best of your ability, optimize your system with the TweakGuides Tweaking Companion, and then if you still find the game unacceptable, don't buy it. That's all you can do as a consumer.
Update: As of the 1.16 patch, GRAW now has a form of 'fake' Antialiasing option (Edge Smoothing). See page 6 for details, however note that it is not genuine antialiasing, it is simply a blur shader applied to the image to make everything look smoother. Genuine antialiasing is not possible with GRAW.
Having done an earlier version of this guide for the GRAW demo, and now for the full version (with minimal changes), I'm fairly confident it has the bulk of optimization information for the game. I've received a fair bit of user feedback, as well as more research on various forums and using the game myself, so I have a fair idea of what is and isn't possible with the GRAW engine. I hope you found the guide useful, and if you have any additional working tweaks or descriptions, please email me with the details. As always, please keep in mind that I can't provide any tech support, and that includes helping you work out how to apply these tweaks, or giving you upgrade advice. You can do some further research on our TweakGuides Forums, but please keep in mind that if you join the forums to beg for help or expect to be spoonfed answers then you will be quickly banned. Sorry, but PCs require that you put in some effort to learn how to optimize and maintain them, and that's precisely what my guides provide, so hit them first for your main source of information.
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In any case, as I always say at the end of my guides, until next time take care!