Assassin's Creed Unity Graphics & Performance Guide

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Assassin’s Creed Unity GeForce.com Graphics & Performance Guide

Assassin’s Creed Unity hits the streets today, boasting a new version of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag's AnvilNext game engine, a stealth system, fresh gameplay mechanics and systems, and a near-perfect recreation of Paris from the time of the French Revolution. On PC, players receive the definitive experience with a whole host of advanced NVIDIA GameWorks effects, and of course the expected assortment of PC-exclusive improvements.

In this article we’ll examine Unity's PC-only upgrades, explain how they work, show comparisons that highlight their benefits, and offer optimal playable setting recommendations for GeForce GTX GPUs that can tackle Unity's graphically-intensive action.

Assassin’s Creed Unity Screenshot

Article Contents:

 

System Requirements

Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Unity system requirements made waves when revealed, being considerably higher than those for Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, and higher than those of most other games. The reason: Assassin’s Creed Unity forsakes previous-generation cross-platform compatibility to focus solely on PCs and new-generation consoles that can power the ambitious vision developers Ubisoft Montreal cooked up. With a massive city, building interiors, thousands of NPCs, and online co-op, Unity needs all the horsepower it can get.

Minimum System Requirements

  • OS: Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8/8.1 (64-bit versions only)
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-2500K @ 3.3 GHz or AMD FX-8350 @ 4.0 GHz or AMD Phenom II x4 940 @ 3.0 GHz
  • Memory: 6GB
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 with 2GB VRAM
  • DirectX: 11
  • Hard Drive Space: 50GB

Recommended System Requirements

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-3770 @ 3.4 GHz or AMD FX-8350 @ 4.0 GHz or better
  • Memory: 8GB or more
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 with 3GB VRAM

Recommendations for compatible configs can be found here.

Assassin’s Creed Unity Screenshot

AnvilNext Engine

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag utilized an upgraded version of Ubisoft's AnvilNext graphics engine, first debuted on PC in Assassin's Creed III. For Black Flag, the engine received a variety of significant upgrades, including pre-baked Global Illumination, volumetric fog, dynamic weather, and dynamic foliage to name but a few examples. For Unity there has been a similar upgrade, with Physically Based Rendering (PBR) being the stand-out addition, enabling materials, objects and surfaces to look and react more realistically to lighting, shading and shadowing. Furthermore, the Global Illumination system is now more realistic with the addition of volumetric technology, physics-led objects react more realistically, and cloth behaves in a realistic manner on the protagonist, in the environment, and on other characters. The world now supports larger landmasses, more objects, bigger buildings, building interiors that can be accessed without loading screens, and many other additions that enhance visual fidelity, immersion, and the gameplay.

Assassin’s Creed Unity PC Screenshot

Behind the scenes, AnvilNext's engine has been completely rewritten to greatly reduce the number of draw calls that have in past games caused CPU bottlenecking, which prevented GPUs from operating to their full potential. In addition to improving performance, draw call optimizations have enabled Ubisoft to dramatically increase the population density of their gameplay areas, with thousands of NPCs now visible on-screen simultaneously, each operating with some degree of artificial intelligence powered by reclaimed CPU cycles.

Assassin’s Creed Unity PC Screenshot

Other changes include improvements to depth of field effects, shadowing effects, reflection effects, level of detail instancing, movement, stealth, object interaction, and much, much more, to the extent it'd be easier to list the items that haven't been upgraded, rewritten, or optimized.

Assassin’s Creed Unity PC-Exclusive Graphics Enhancements

Playing Assassin’s Creed Unity on a high-end PC gives you the grunt to render Unity's many PC-exclusive features, effects, and technologies, which include NVIDIA HBAO+, NVIDIA PCSS, NVIDIA TXAA, and NVIDIA DirectX 11 tessellation. For detailed explanations of each, and demonstrations of their capabilities, keep reading. For a first look, check out the Assassin's Creed Unity GeForce GTX Technology Trailer below:

NVIDIA HBAO+ Ambient Occlusion

Ambient Occlusion (AO) adds contact shadows where two surfaces or objects meet, and where an object blocks light from reaching another nearby game element. The AO technique used and the quality of the implementation affects the shadowing’s accuracy, and whether new shadows are formed when the level of occlusion is low. Without Ambient Occlusion, scenes look flat and unrealistic, and objects appear as if they are floating.

In Assassin’s Creed Unity, the Ambient Occlusion option enables players to upgrade from the console-quality SSAO technique to NVIDIA HBAO+, which is faster, more detailed, and more precise, adding extra depth and quality to AO shadows, and eliminating the halo effect occasionally seen around objects and characters. HBAO+’s added definition and clarity significantly increases image quality, and should you wish to learn more about its inner workings detailed information can be found on our HBAO+ technology page.

Assassin’s Creed Unity PC Screenshot

Unity's detailed urban environments are ripe for HBAO+ enhancement, with connecting geometry at every turn, hundreds of objects, and thousands of people, each of which can influence the occlusion of light. Below, interactive screenshot comparisons demonstrate these benefits, highlighting the dramatic improvement in image quality when upgrading from the console-quality SSAO technique to NVIDIA HBAO+.

Assassin’s Creed Unity - Ambient Occlusion - NVIDIA HBAO+ Interactive Comparison #1

Assassin's Creed Unity - Ambient Occlusion Example #1 - AO Disabled Assassin's Creed Unity - Ambient Occlusion Example #1 - SSAO Assassin's Creed Unity - Ambient Occlusion Example #1 - NVIDIA HBAO+
HBAO+’s 36 occlusion samples per pixel greatly improve the quality of AO shadowing across the entire scene (particularly so on the statue).

With AO disabled, the improvement you gain when enabling HBAO+ is even greater, as the following interactive comparison demonstrates.

Assassin’s Creed Unity - Ambient Occlusion - NVIDIA HBAO+ Interactive Comparison #1 - HBAO+ vs. No AO

Interactive Comparisons
HBAO+ vs. SSAO HBAO+ vs. No AO SSAO vs. No AO

Other examples of HBAO+'s image-enhancing properties can be found below in additional interactive comparisons and screenshots.

Assassin’s Creed Unity - Ambient Occlusion - NVIDIA HBAO+ Interactive Comparison #2

Assassin's Creed Unity - Ambient Occlusion Example #2 - AO Disabled Assassin's Creed Unity - Ambient Occlusion Example #2 - SSAO Assassin's Creed Unity - Ambient Occlusion Example #2 - NVIDIA HBAO+
HBAO+ benefits darker scenes, and shadows geometry to a higher degree of fidelity over longer ranges. In contrast, SSAO's shadowing is barely noticeable at the end of the street.

Interactive Comparisons
HBAO+ vs. SSAO HBAO+ vs. No AO SSAO vs. No AO

Assassin’s Creed Unity - Ambient Occlusion - NVIDIA HBAO+ Interactive Comparison #3

Assassin's Creed Unity - Ambient Occlusion Example #3 - AO Disabled Assassin's Creed Unity - Ambient Occlusion Example #3 - SSAO Assassin's Creed Unity - Ambient Occlusion Example #3 - NVIDIA HBAO+
Even perching atop a building, HBAO+ has a visible impact on the quality of shadowing below amongst the crowds.

Interactive Comparisons
HBAO+ vs. SSAO HBAO+ vs. No AO SSAO vs. No AO

Assassin’s Creed Unity - Ambient Occlusion - NVIDIA HBAO+ Interactive Comparison #4

Assassin's Creed Unity - Ambient Occlusion Example #4 - AO Disabled Assassin's Creed Unity - Ambient Occlusion Example #4 - SSAO Assassin's Creed Unity - Ambient Occlusion Example #4 - NVIDIA HBAO+
In this basic scene, the increased fidelity and accuracy of HBAO+ is particularly evident, with deeper, smoother shadows, and improved shadowing screen-wide.

Interactive Comparisons
HBAO+ vs. SSAO HBAO+ vs. No AO SSAO vs. No AO

NVIDIA Percentage Closer Soft Shadows

NVIDIA Percentage Closer Soft Shadows (PCSS) are an effective solution for developers wanting to add contact-hardening, realistic soft shadows to their games. As in real life, PCSS shadows progressively soften as the distance from the casting object increases, increasing realism, as this interactive comparison demonstrates.

Assassin’s Creed Unity - Shadow Quality - NVIDIA PCSS Interactive Comparison #1

Assassin's Creed Unity - Shadow Quality Example #1 - Low Quality Assassin's Creed Unity - Shadow Quality Example #1 - High Quality Assassin's Creed Unity - Shadow Quality Example #1 - NVIDIA PCSS
On the left of our interactive comparison you see the game’s highest-quality, 'standard' shadows. Note how every shadow is sharp and clearly defined. On the right, you see NVIDIA PCSS shadows, which naturally soften as the distance from the shadow caster (the tree) increases.

Interactive Comparisons
PCSS vs. High PCSS vs. Low High vs. Low

Assassin’s Creed Unity - Shadow Quality - NVIDIA PCSS Interactive Comparison #2

Assassin's Creed Unity - Shadow Quality Example #2 - Low Quality Assassin's Creed Unity - Shadow Quality Example #2 - High Quality Assassin's Creed Unity - Shadow Quality Example #2 - NVIDIA PCSS
Across a wider view, PCSS shadows are visible from a further distance, increasing image quality by an additional degree.

Interactive Comparisons
PCSS vs. High PCSS vs. Low High vs. Low

Unity's NVIDIA PCSS shadows also include NVIDIA Cascaded Shadow Maps and high-quality shadow filtering to further improves the quality of shadowing, and to reduce shadow aliasing. Together, the three technologies greatly improve the realism and fidelity of Unity's world, though understandably some will prefer sharp, unrealistic shadows everywhere, and as such should select the High option in the in-game menu. The Low option, meanwhile, is virtually identical to High, with only the loss of long range shadows differentiating the two.

NVIDIA TXAA Anti-Aliasing

NVIDIA TXAA is a custom-developed anti-aliasing technique designed to tackle temporal aliasing, the movement of anti-aliased edges when the player’s camera or view point moves. Referred to as crawling and shimmering, this movement is a particular eyesore in games with fine detail, like the expansive urban environments of Assassin's Creed Unity.

Combining Multisample Anti-Aliasing (MSAA) with a custom CG movie-style resolve, and a temporal filter, TXAA effectively combats temporal aliasing whilst simultaneously anti-aliasing geometry to a degree comparable to 4xMSAA. An example of the technology in action can be seen at 1:18 in our Assassin’s Creed Unity GeForce GTX Technology Trailer:

In addition to TXAA, Assassin’s Creed Unity gives players the choice of FXAA and MSAA anti-aliasing modes, though as in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, FXAA is enabled simultaneously alongside MSAA to anti-alias transparent textures, such as those used to create foliage.

Assassin’s Creed Unity - Anti-Aliasing Quality - TXAA Interactive Comparison #1

Assassin's Creed Unity - Anti-Aliasing Quality Example #1 - Anti-Aliasing Disabled Assassin's Creed Unity - Anti-Aliasing Quality Example #1 - FXAA Assassin's Creed Unity - Anti-Aliasing Quality Example #1 - 2xMSAA Assassin's Creed Unity - Anti-Aliasing Quality Example #1 - 4xMSAA Assassin's Creed Unity - Anti-Aliasing Quality Example #1 - 8xMSAA Assassin's Creed Unity - Anti-Aliasing Quality Example #1 - NVIDIA TXAA

Interactive Comparisons
TXAA vs. FXAA TXAA vs. 4x MSAA TXAA vs. 8x MSAA
2x MSAA vs. FXAA 4x MSAA vs. 2x MSAA 8x MSAA vs. 4x MSAA
TXAA vs. No AA 2x MSAA vs. No AA FXAA vs. No AA

Between motion blur, post-process effects, and Global Illumination lighting, aliasing is less of an issue in Unity, but when the action slows down and cutscenes start rolling, you'll definitely want to tackle those jagged edges. If performance isn't a problem, TXAA or 4xMSAA are recommended, but if it is an issue (or you approach the limits of your VRAM), simply find the option that gives you a smooth framerate. With no alternative AA flavours, and the continuous use of post-process AA in addition to hardware AA, performance will be the main differentiator for most folks.

NVIDIA MFAA Anti-Aliasing

Multi-Frame Sampled Anti-Aliasing (MFAA) is a new Anti-Aliasing technique exclusive to second-generation Maxwell Architecture GPUs, improving upon the performance of Multisample Anti-Aliasing (MSAA) to give you faster frame rates in your favorite games.

MSAA is one of the oldest and most popular forms of AA, but its use substantially impacts performance. MFAA reduces this performance impact whilst delivering a comparably smooth image thanks to new NVIDIA-developed technology and the advanced hardware of the GeForce GTX 980, 980M, 970, and 970M, as explained in the video below.

Using GeForce Game Ready Driver 344.75 WHQL, or newer, switching to MFAA can improve your Assassin's Creed Unity frame rates by 10-30% (21% on the system featured in this guide), noticeably improving performance and anti-aliasing quality.

To enable MFAA, open the NVIDIA Control Panel, navigate to 'Manage 3D Settings', change the 'Multi-Frame Sampled AA (MFAA)' option to “On”, and click 'Apply'. Next, in a supported game, simply set the MSAA graphics option to 2x or 4x, and our driver will take care of the rest.

GeForce Game Ready 344.75 WHQL Driver - MFAA NVIDIA Control Panel Global Game Configuration GeForce Game Ready 344.75 WHQL Driver - MFAA NVIDIA Control Panel Per-Game Configuration GeForce Game Ready 344.75 WHQL Driver - MFAA In-Game Configuration

When enabled, the result will be MFAA anti-aliasing comparable to 4x MSAA when 2x MSAA is selected, and comparable to 8x MSAA when 4x MSAA is selected. Also of note, MFAA current works with the following technologies and features, with more to come, and in the near future will be fully integrated into GeForce Experience and its one-click Optimal Playable Setting recommendations.

  • NVIDIA Adaptive VSync
  • NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR)
  • NVIDIA G-SYNC
  • NVIDIA Optimus
  • DirectX 10 and 11
  • Standard VSync on/off
  • Ultra-high resolutions, including 4K
  • Virtual Reality

MFAA support for SLI systems and other configurations will be introduced in future Game Ready Drivers.

NVIDIA GeometryWorks DirectX 11 Advanced Tessellation

A post-release update will introduce gamers to our GeometryWorks DirectX 11 Advanced Tessellation technology, which enables developers to quickly and easily generate tessellation displacement maps from pre-existing assets, and to efficiently integrate tessellation rendering into their engines with minimal work. Furthermore, our tessellation tech comes pre-packaged with adaptive tessellation factor calculation and frustum culling, making widescale usage a reality in open-world games like Unity.

In Unity, GeometryWorks is being used to add tessellation to roof shingles, roof tiles, cobblestones, brick roads and paths, archways, statues, architecture, and much, much more. And because this tessellation is real geometric detail, as opposed to simulated detail from bump mapping or normal mapping, tessellated detail in Unity is accurately shadowed by NVIDIA HBAO+ and NVIDIA PCSS, significantly improving image quality.

Take a tiled roof for example: without tessellation the bulk of the roof is a single flat texture and therefore cannot receive HBAO+ shadowing, nor will PCSS shadows warp around its simulated detail. With tessellation enabled, every single tile is 'real', receives HBAO+ shadowing, and affects PCSS shadows cast on the roof. The difference is demonstrated in our interactive comparison below.

Assassin's Creed Unity - NVIDIA GeometryWorks DirectX 11 Advanced Tessellation Interactive Teaser

For further details about the Assassin's Creed Unity tessellation update stay tuned to GeForce.com.

Additional Graphics Settings

The Assassin's Creed Unity graphics menu has comparatively few options, as many of the performance-intensive features and effects of the game are intrinsic to its appearance. Disabling Global Illumination for example completely alters the look and aesthetic of Unity's world, and paring back the character count reduces city-wide riots to small social demonstrations. Clearly, Unity's creators drew a line in the sand, demanding every version of the game meet a minimum standard when rendering their detailed and expansive recreation of French Revolution-era Paris.

Assassin’s Creed Unity PC Screenshot

Texture Quality

Texture Quality adjusts the clarity and quality of textures game wide. Unity offers three options for textures: Low, High, and Ultra High. Low is recommended for graphics cards with 2GB of VRAM, High for cards with 3GB, and Ultra High for cards with 4GB.

From our comparisons, which are as close to 1:1 as possible given the need for an engine restart between setting changes, we can see the difference between High and Ultra High is minimal in most scenes, and near-imperceptible during gameplay. The difference between Low and High however, is evident, with a major loss in fidelity found on at least one game element in every scene. In some scenes we see a loss of surface quality, such as on roofs, and in others we see a loss in texture quality on objects. The item, items, or surfaces that suffer vary wildly, but in general the reduction in image quality from Low is noticeable, even during fast-paced gameplay.

Note: enabling MSAA increases VRAM usage, and 2GB GPUs may struggle with anything other than FXAA at 1920x1080. On High, 3GB cards should be OK with 4xMSAA, as should 4GB cards when running Ultra High.

Assassin’s Creed Unity - Texture Quality Interactive Comparison #1

Assassin's Creed Unity - Texture Quality Example #1 - Low Quality Assassin's Creed Unity - Texture Quality Example #1 - High Quality Assassin's Creed Unity - Texture Quality Example #1 - Ultra High
In this early game scene, the floor loses a small degree of detail when reducing the Texture setting from Ultra High to High, whereas the quality of the table and chair to the left is greatly decreased. Moving to Low, further quality loss is seen on the aforementioned game elements, with large quality loss also being observed on characters, other surfaces, and decoration such as the painting.

Interactive Comparisons
Ultra High vs. High Ultra High vs. Low High vs. Low

Assassin’s Creed Unity - Texture Quality Interactive Comparison #2

Assassin's Creed Unity - Texture Quality Example #2 - Low Quality Assassin's Creed Unity - Texture Quality Example #2 - High Quality Assassin's Creed Unity - Texture Quality Example #2 - Ultra High
In our second scene, only the roof texture Arno is standing atop suffers to any noticeable degree when lowering the Texture setting.

Interactive Comparisons
Ultra High vs. High Ultra High vs. Low High vs. Low

Assassin’s Creed Unity - Texture Quality Interactive Comparison #3

Assassin's Creed Unity - Texture Quality Example #3 - Low Quality Assassin's Creed Unity - Texture Quality Example #3 - High Quality Assassin's Creed Unity - Texture Quality Example #3 - Ultra High
Unity's randomized pedestrian clothing makes it hard to see, but on Low NPC clothing is one of the features hardest hit by the Texture Quality setting. Elsewhere, the mud and gravel roadway is the only other item within the scene to noticeably impacted.

Interactive Comparisons
Ultra High vs. High Ultra High vs. Low High vs. Low

If your GPU features 3GB of VRAM, the Unity experience won't be impacted to any great extent by the use of the High setting, and outside of screenshot comparisons you likely won't notice during gameplay. Those on 2GB cards may wish to consider an upgrade, however, for Unity and other games coming down the pipe that use more VRAM than we're accustomed to.

Finally, if you wish to sharpen distant textures and those viewed on an angle, forcibly enable High Quality Anisotropic Filtering via the NVIDIA Control Panel, like so:

Assassin’s Creed Unity NVIDIA Control Panel Anisotropic Filtering Texture Quality Improvement Assassin’s Creed Unity NVIDIA Control Panel Anisotropic Filtering Texture Quality Improvement

Environment Quality

Assassin's Creed Unity's AnvilNext upgrades extend to its Level of Detail system, which dynamically adjusts the amount of game elements visible on-screen at any one time, and the quality at which they are shown. For Unity, the system's upgrade enables more to be seen simultaneously and at a comparatively higher detail level. Furthermore, additional steps are introduced between High and Low detail levels, and the transitions between those steps is smoother, which should make on-screen transitions less noticeable, increasing your immersion in the game world.

Supplementing that system is the Environment Quality setting, returning from Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. As in last year's swashbuckling romp, Environment Quality adjusts medium and long range graphical fidelity of minor details, the density and visibility of foliage, rocks, and other terrain features, and the density of close-range bushes. This year, however, it has a lesser impact due to the urban environments of Unity, which lack the lush foliage and rocky environs of Black Flag. Instead, Environmental Quality primarily adjusts the quality and visibility of minor details on street surfaces, such as papers, trash and straw, and the visibility of grass tufts and flowers. Occasionally, window boxes, ladders, and other minor details will be removed at long range, and the quality of some NPC clothing changed, but again, the impact on scene quality is minor.

Assassin’s Creed Unity - Environment Quality Interactive Comparison #1

Assassin's Creed Unity - Environment Quality Example #1 - Ultra High Assassin's Creed Unity - Environment Quality Example #1 - Very High Assassin's Creed Unity - Environment Quality Example #1 - High Assassin's Creed Unity - Environment Quality Example #1 - Medium Assassin's Creed Unity - Environment Quality Example #1 - Low
Moving from Ultra High to Very High, we see a very minor change in the outfits of the distant civilians near the tomb, though this change has no real impact on image quality. Following this, no further changes are noted until the Medium detail level is selected, where aforementioned ground detail is removed, having a moderate impact on image quality in this scene, but a minor one in most city scenes. On Low, the eagle-eyed among you will spot the removal of a window box at the very rear of the scene, again having a minor impact on image quality.

Interactive Comparisons
Ultra High vs. Very High Ultra High vs. Low Very High vs. High
High vs. Medium   Medium vs. Low

Assassin’s Creed Unity - Environment Quality Interactive Comparison #2

Assassin's Creed Unity - Environment Quality Example #2 - Ultra High Assassin's Creed Unity - Environment Quality Example #2 - Very High Assassin's Creed Unity - Environment Quality Example #2 - High Assassin's Creed Unity - Environment Quality Example #2 - Medium Assassin's Creed Unity - Environment Quality Example #2 - Low
In our second, very different scene, we see a minor reduction in the detail of the mud surface when moving from Very High to High, along with the near-unnoticeable removal of bush layers in the rear of the picture. Switching to Medium we again see a wide-scale loss of surface detail, though in this rare rural scene it does make a large impact to image quality. In the background there's again a small reduction in foliage density, followed by a larger density reduction when moving to Low (particularly visible around the trunk of the tree in the upper left of the image).

Interactive Comparisons
Ultra High vs. Very High Ultra High vs. Low Very High vs. High
High vs. Medium   Medium vs. Low

Occasionally a leafy scene will be found that takes full advantage of the Environment Quality setting, but for 95% of the game its lowering to Very High to High won't harm image quality to any great degree, and you'll regain a few frames per second as a bonus.

Game Ready Assassin’s Creed Unity Driver

For the best Assassin’s Creed Unity experience we recommend updating to the latest Assassin's Creed Unity GeForce Game Ready Driver drivers, which feature the latest performance optimizations and tweaks for the game. A SLI profile is also included, and while most users will see performance gains we are continuing to improve the SLI profile in concert with Ubisoft Montreal. Download here, or via GeForce Experience.

GeForce Experience: Optimal Playable Settings With A Single Click

The best way to automatically configure and apply Assassin’s Creed Unity's game settings for your specific system configuration is through GeForce Experience, an invaluable tool for all GeForce GTX users. In addition to optimizing over 200 games, the free GeForce Experience application can automatically update drivers and profiles, record and stream gameplay with ShadowPlay, and can wirelessly stream PC games, including Assassin’s Creed Unity, to NVIDIA SHIELD devices.

Taking into account your GPU and CPU, as well as many additional factors, GeForce Experience’s game recommendations can be applied with a single click, and are updated over time should developer patches and NVIDIA drivers improve performance further still. This one-click solution is perfect for gamers who wish to play instead of fiddling, and for those with little experience in configuring settings for an optimal experience.

Assassin’s Creed Unity Optimal Playable Settings

If you do like fiddling, here are game setting recommendations for GPUs meeting Unity's demanding system requirements, with the aim of maintaining at least forty frames per second at all times at 1920x1080, the most popular gaming resolution. Our settings should be considered a starting point for your own personal config as we’re unable to account for differing CPUs and overclocks in this table. Please also note that the recommendations below were made using a pre-release build featuring logging and debug tools, meaning performance should be higher in retail releases.

1920x1080 AA AO Bloom Env. Quality Shadows Textures
GTX 980 TXAA HBAO+ On Ultra High PCSS Ultra High
GTX 970 TXAA HBAO+ On Ultra High PCSS Ultra High
GTX TITAN Black TXAA HBAO+ On Ultra High PCSS Ultra High
GTX TITAN TXAA HBAO+ On Ultra High PCSS Ultra High
GTX 780 Ti 2xMSAA HBAO+ On Ultra High PCSS High
GTX 780 FXAA HBAO+ On Very High PCSS High
GTX 770 FXAA Off On High High Low
GTX 680 FXAA Off Off Low Low Low

If you need extra performance, overclocking your GPU with an app like MSI Afterburner is an excellent start, but you'll also want to overclock your CPU to give Unity's city simulation even more power to play with. For that, Google your CPU name and motherboard model to bring up hundreds of system-specific guides.

Delivering The Definitive Assassin’s Creed Unity Experience

Assassin’s Creed Unity Screenshot

With the addition of HBAO+, PCSS, TXAA, MFAA, and DirectX 11 tessellation, the PC edition of Assassin’s Creed Unity extends its advantage over other versions, having already topped them with higher-quality textures and effects, and sharper detail all round. The trade-off is the requirement for a speedy system assembled in the last few years, with Ubisoft recommending a GeForce GTX 680 for minimum-setting gameplay. This requirement caused a great deal of consternation within the PC gaming community, but from our testing it's clear that a minimum level of fidelity has been desired by Ubisoft Montreal, and that combined with the larger scale of Unity has caused the increase in requirements.

Take the world of Unity for example: it lacks the wide open oceans of Black Flag, which required little in the way of horsepower, and instead opts for densely-packed cities and detail filled set pieces (you may have seen a certain video online...). Within Paris there are massive buildings, accurately-recreated monuments, thousands of on-screen civilians, seamlessly-accessible interiors, and a whole lot more. In comparison, Black Flag's biggest land locations feature a few dozen civilians at any one time, fewer buildings, no interiors, and a lot less of everything else. Unity's developers could have dialed up the level of detail settings and turned a cathedral into a featureless box, and they could have removed all civilians, effects, and Global Illumination lighting, but they chose not, because that would ruin the look and feel they designed for their game. Therefore, a powerful GPU, faster than the one required for Black Flag's minimum settings, is required.

Next, we come to the hot topic, 'optimization'. Frequently referenced in heated online debates, 'optimization' is commonly and incorrectly used to describe a game's general level of performance, be that good or bad. Instead, optimization should be used to determine a game's comparative performance. "Does the game running on engine x output more graphically intensive scenarios than game y using the same engine?" "Does the new game in a franchise run better than the previous version, and with improved graphics?" "Does a game utilize all available CPU cores, and to a high degree of utilization, in comparison to a similar game or a previous game in the same franchise?" "Is the game in question significantly nicer-looking than another similar game, yet running better?" These are just some of the questions that should be asked when determining if a game is 'optimized'.

In the context of Unity, it's immediately obvious that Ubisoft Montreal's new game is doing far more on Low settings than Black Flag did on settings suitable for a GTX 680, and the answers to the questions above are all "yes" when you step back and analyze exactly what Unity is doing on-screen and in the background.

Beyond that baseline GTX 680, we see the GeForce GTX 780 Ti running identical settings in Unity as it did in Black Flag, yet doing so much more. Both games run with max settings enabled and 2x MSAA, but unequivocally there's more happening on a technical level in Unity. This is, by its very definition, optimization.

In conclusion, whether you've got a GeForce GTX 680 running Low settings, or a GeForce GTX 780 Ti running Max settings, Assassin’s Creed Unity delivers a carefully crated graphical experience that continues to improve as the settings and NVIDIA GameWorks technologies are cranked up.

Be sure to tell us of your experiences in Paris, and check out our Far Cry 4 Graphics, Performance & Tweaking Guide to get the scoop on Ubisoft's other highly anticipated November release.

Assassin’s Creed Unity is launching worldwide this week, and is also included in the NVIDIA GeForce GTX Pick Your Path Bundle alongside Far Cry 4 and The Crew. Further details can be found here.

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