Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Tweak Guide

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General System Optimization

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Tweak Guide by Koroush Ghazi

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (BFBC2) is the successor to the wildly successful Battlefield 2, using the same popular formula with a range of enhancements to create yet another hit for EA/DICE. The combination of immersive graphics and sound with comprehensive large-scale first person multiplayer action is hard to resist for any gamer. This guide will walk you through the various configuration options available in the game, look at their performance and visual impact, and help you get the most mileage out of your system.

The game's official minimum requirements are provided below, and are quite reasonable for a modern PC game:

  • Processor: Intel Core 2 or better / AMD 64 X2 or better
  • Memory: 1 GB for XP / 1.5 GB for Vista and Windows 7
  • Hard Drive: At least 10 GB of free space
  • DVD-ROM: 8x Speed
  • Video Card: 256MB RAM with support for shader model 3 (e.g. GeForce 6800 or higher)
  • Sound Card: Direct X 9.0c compatible
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c (included), DirectX 10 and 11 supported
  • Online: 2 – 10 Players
  • Input: Keyboard, Mouse, VOIP headset
  • OS: Windows XP SP3 / Vista SP2 / Windows 7

However the requirements for running BFBC2 with decent eye-candy are actually fairly hefty. For those wanting to ramp up the graphics and still keep relatively smooth framerates the official recommended specs are a quad core CPU and a GeForce GTX 260 or better. This shouldn't come as a surprise given BFBC2 is just about the finest looking first person shooter out today. Still, there's plenty of scope to have the game both looking good and running smoothly if you know what you're doing - and that's precisely what this guide is all about.

What follows are full descriptions for BFBC2's in-game settings, including screenshot comparisons to highlight the impact on image quality of changing the various settings. Performance information is also provided for every setting, although bear in mind that the precise impact on your particular system depends on your specific hardware combination and your other game and system-wide settings. The aim here is to give you enough information so that you can make an informed choice as to the settings you enable or disable to obtain the precise balance of visual quality and performance which is acceptable to you.

General System Optimization

Almost as important as any in-game setting is the way your Windows installation is configured. A great many problems and performance issues can be traced directly to sub-optimal settings in Windows and out-of-date or badly configured drivers. For this reason it is recommended that you download the relevant version of the TweakGuides Tweaking Companion (TGTC) and take the time to optimize your Windows installation correctly. At the very least make sure to update your graphics drivers to the latest available version.

Performance Measurement

To successfully conduct any BFBC2 tweaking, you will need some way of objectively measuring your performance in Frames Per Second (FPS). The quickest and easiest way to measure your FPS in any game is to use the free FRAPS utility. Download, install and launch FRAPS before starting up BFBC2. You will now see a yellow FPS counter displayed in the corner of your screen. Pay attention to the FPS figure, particularly during graphically intense scenes, such as in heavy combat - if it dips into the low double or single digits for example, this is a good indication that you need to adjust various settings until your minimum FPS is consistently above 25-30. FRAPS itself has no discernable performance impact unless you choose to record video with it.

Controls & Gameplay

To access the in-game settings, launch BFBC2 and click the Options item on the main screen, then select Settings. The settings you can alter here are covered in detail below, and apply equally to singleplayer and multiplayer. Any changes you make are saved and applied immediately once selected, but certain cases may require you to exit and restart BFBC2 for the changes to take effect.

Controls

Sensitivity, Yaw/Pitch Factors: On the left hand side of the main Settings tab you can adjust the sensitivity of the mouse or joystick using the appropriate sliders. The main Sensitivity slider is for overall mouse or joystick sensitivity to movements. The Yaw Factor and Pitch Factor sliders increase or decrease the degree to which moving your mouse/joystick left and right (Yaw) or forward and back (Pitch) affect movements in conjunction with the Sensitivity slider. This is not the same as mouse acceleration (see below), because it's not affected by how fast or slow you move your mouse; the yaw and pitch factors apply to consistently amplify all movements. If you don't want any form of exaggerated movements, it is recommended that you set the Yaw and Pitch sliders to 0 (far left), and just adjust the main Sensitivity slider until you have the desired level of overall responsiveness.

Mouse Acceleration: If this box is ticked, the quicker you move your mouse, the larger the resulting movements in-game; the slower you move your mouse, the smaller the in-game movements. Because of its nonlinear nature, some people prefer to disable mouse acceleration so they have predictable mouse movements at all times.

Invert Controls: When the 'Vertical Look' box is ticked, pushing your mouse forward will move the character's viewpoint downwards while pulling it back will move the view upwards; if unticked the behavior is the opposite. Similarly, the 'Vertical Fly' box if ticked means pushing your mouse forward will result in the plane/chopper's nose pointing downward, while pulling the mouse back will point the aircraft's nose upward. The 'Mouse Wheel' box, if ticked, will mean that scrolling your mousewheel forward will cycle backwards through your weapons; if unticked, the opposite will occur. These settings have no impact on performance or responsiveness, they are solely to be set based on your preference.

On Foot, In Vehicle, As Pilot: At the top right of the Settings tab, there are tabs labelled 'On Foot', 'In Vehicle' and 'As Pilot'. Each of these tabs lists the controls currently bound to each particular action for the relevant category: 'On Foot' settings apply to your soldier when he is outside a vehicle; 'In Vehicle' settings apply to all ground vehicles as well as when using mounted weapons; 'As Pilot' settings apply only to your character when he is flying an aircraft. You can change these bindings to suit your needs.

If you've adjusted the mouse settings to suit your tastes, but still have periods where the mouse feels laggy or lacks the desired level of responsiveness, this is typically related to low FPS. Especially in combat scenes with lots of smoke, dust, explosions and other effects, FPS can drop sharply, and this results in periods when there is reduced control responsiveness which can be frustrating. The only solution is to adjust your settings such that your minimum FPS stays above 25-30FPS, or even higher if you want perfectly smooth responsiveness at all times - this holds true for all fast paced games. Turning off VSync, as covered later in this guide, will also help reduce mouse lag.

Gameplay

Subtitles: If this box is ticked, you will see text subtitles appear at the bottom of the screen during cut-scenes and other significant dialog-based events.

Hint System: Ticking this box enables on-screen text hints prompting you to press a button or key to use/activate an item, enter a vehicle or pick up a weapon for example. If this box is unticked, you won't see these text prompts. It is recommended that beginner players leave the hint system enabled to start with; experienced players can disable it to remove a potential distraction.

Allow PunkBuster: This box needs to be ticked if you want to play BFBC2 multiplayer on PunkBuster anti-cheat system-enabled servers and have your statistics officially recorded. If this box is ticked and you are still having problems playing on PunkBuster-enabled servers, you can manually update PunkBuster as detailed here. Also check your Firewall to make sure that BFBC2 and the relevant PunkBuster program(s) are allowed to communicate through it. If that doesn't work, reinstall BFBC2 ensuring that PunkBuster is also installed with full Administrator privileges.

Color Blind: If this box is ticked, the game will subtly alter some of the colors used for certain elements, such as the red, green and blue objective and squad indicators on your minimap, to ensure that they are easier to distinguish for people who are color blind.

Crouch Toggle: If this box is ticked, whenever you press the crouch key, your character will remain crouched until you press the crouch key again; if unticked, your character will only remain in the crouching position as long as you hold down the crouch key.

Zoom Toggle: This option is similar to the Crouch Toggle setting above - if ticked, pressing the zoom button will mean your weapon remains zoomed in until you press the zoom button again.

None of the settings above have any discernable impact on performance, so they should all be set according to your taste.

Video

The video settings have the greatest impact on game performance. In the following section, we'll go through each setting and see how they affect performance and image quality.

In the performance graphs shown, for each setting we start with a "baseline" where all options are set to their maximum, along with 4x Antialiasing, 16x-Anisotropic Filtering, and HBAO on. From this baseline, we vary individual settings to measure their effect on performance and image quality.

The test system consists of a GeForce GTX 460 1GB and Intel Core i7 940 CPU. To see how various combinations of settings work for other NVIDIA GPUs, check out the Optimal Playable Settings section of the site.

Full System Configuration:

  • GeForce GTX 460 1GB
  • Intel Core i7 940
  • 3GB RAM
  • Win7 64-bit
  • NVIDIA 257.21 Drivers

Resolution & Brightness/Contrast

Resolution

This option lets you choose the Resolution of the game image, measured by the number of pixels horizontally and vertically (e.g. 1920 pixels x 1200 pixels). The number of resolutions available here is limited by the capabilities of both your graphics card and monitor. The higher the resolution you choose, the more detailed the image will be, with noticeably less blurriness and jaggedness. However higher resolutions also generate an increased load for your system, particularly your graphics card, and hence will reduce your overall performance. The performance impact can be quite substantial, so if adjusting the other settings fails to sufficiently improve your performance, reduce your resolution.

BFBC2 automatically scales the image to suit your monitor's aspect ratio, such that widescreen monitors whether 16:9 or 16:10 are catered for without any black bars appearing, except in the main menu and in cut-scenes. However to avoid distortion you should select a resolution which precisely matches your monitor's aspect ratio - see the chart in this Wikipedia Article for assistance. Furthermore if you have an LCD monitor and want the sharpest image, you should select the maximum available resolution, which is also referred to as your Native Resolution. If you find the game screen goes into windowed mode when changing resolution, either double-click on the window to maximize it again, or press ALT+ENTER to switch back and forth between fullscreen and windowed mode at any time.

For advanced users

By default BFBC2 uses a vertical Field of View (FOV) of 55 degrees. If you want to adjust this so that you can see more of the game world at any one time, you will need to do so outside of the in-game settings. Go to the \My Documents\BFBC2 directory under your personal folders, open the Settings.ini file with a text editor like Windows Notepad (first make a backup copy of it), and alter the value shown in the line Fov=55. Progressively higher values increase what you can see at one time, leading to an exaggerated fish-eye view of the world at very high values (e.g. Fov=120). Save and close this document then start the game to see the change. Note that this only affects FOV in multiplayer.

Brightness, Contrast

These sliders control the visual difference between light and dark areas (contrast) and the overall brightness of the game image. Changing these settings has no impact on performance, they are there to allow you to ensure that the image is not overly bright and washed out, and not so dark that all detail is lost in dark areas. If you wish to reduce the hazy glowing lighting effect used in the game, rather than adjusting the Brightness or Contrast, you should see the Effects Quality setting later in this guide.

Overall Quality

This option allows you to select from three presets which have an impact on both the image quality and performance you experience in BFBC2. The preset values are Low, Medium and High. If you select Advanced, a separate settings area will open which allows you to individually configure the key elements of BFBC2's graphics settings. It is strongly recommended that you select 'Advanced' here and then take the time to configure each of the advanced settings covered below to ensure the best trade-off between image quality and performance to suit your particular system.

Click to enlarge

A screenshot comparison of the image quality between the three presets is provided above. The most noticeable difference between High and Medium is a reduction in shadow quality and depth; for most intents and purposes the two settings look extremely similar in other respects at short and medium range - at longer range the LOD (Level of Detail) reduction results in a noticeable drop in distant geometry details. When going from Medium to Low, there is a major difference in image quality, the most noticeable of which is the complete removal or drastic reduction in the quality of most of the foliage. Specifically, the blades of grass in the foreground have been removed, and the trees in the background have become blocky and unrealistic. The lighting and shadow quality has also been reduced, with only a few generic dynamic shadows and the rest being static shadows.

To correctly change this setting you must alter the in-game preset then completely exit BFBC2 and relaunch the game. This is required for the applicable texture quality to be implemented properly.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Level of Detail

The Level of Detail (LOD) determines the general complexity of the objects in the game world, especially as they recede into the distance. Therefore LOD changes are most noticeable when viewing medium to long-range scenes, but changing this setting does also affect some closer objects as well, particularly foliage. At lower LOD settings objects such as trees and buildings lose detail in return for higher performance - basically the geometry of objects is made simpler to reduce the load on your system, but this also makes them less rounded, more blocky and hence less realistic. The available settings are Low, Medium and High, and a screenshot comparison is provided below to demonstrate the difference. As you can see, from High to Medium the most visible changes occur around the middle distance and beyond: the mountainside loses some of its shape and distant trees become blocky. As a consequence of this the shadows also become less complex, however this isn't a reduction in shadow quality - it occurs because the objects casting shadows are less complex. From Medium to Low, the image quality impact is very clear - a great deal of foliage is removed or turned into blocky versions, the mountainside and cliffs in the distance become even simpler, and at the very bottom of the screenshot even the row of logs lose their roundness and become less complex.

Click to enlarge

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Texture Quality

This setting controls the quality of the textures used in the game. Textures are the images which cover the surface of every object in the game. Lowering the texture quality results in blurrier looking objects. From medium to long distances the change is not so noticeable; upon closer inspection the difference is very clear. The available settings are Low, Medium, and High, and a screenshot comparison is provided below to demonstrate the difference. As you can see, from High to Medium there is a noticeable but not major drop in the detailing of the ground; at Low the details are almost completely lost, replaced by very blurry and blocky textures - even the surface of the rock has become quite washed out. While reducing texture quality may improve framerates, the reason to reduce this setting would be to reduce the load on your graphics card's video memory, which in turn reduces loading times and also reduces the potential for periodic stuttering and sudden slowdowns.

Click to enlarge

To correctly change this setting you must alter the in-game Texture Quality setting then completely exit BFBC2 and relaunch the game for the new textures to be loaded up properly.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Shadow Quality

This setting controls the appearance of shadows used in the game (in combination with the HBAO and DirectX Version settings - see details below). Many objects cast dynamic shadows in BFBC2 when a source of light is shining on them, and this setting determines how detailed their shadows will be. The available settings are Low, Medium, and High, and a screenshot comparison is provided below to demonstrate the difference. As you can see, at Medium the shadows cast by the boxes and the gun are blockier than those at High. The gun itself also seems to lose some of its sheen, getting a more general lighting treatment. The most noticeable change is from Medium to Low, whereby all the dynamic shadows either disappear, or turn into indistinct blobs such as the leaf shadows at the top right or under the resting gun. Many shadows however are not dynamic. These static shadows remain the same regardless of what the Shadow Quality setting is. This is most obvious in multiplayer where lowering Shadow Quality still leaves plenty of shadows cast by fixed buildings and terrain.

Click to enlarge

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

The performance impact of reducing shadows can be quite noticeable, particularly in scenes with lots of moving objects which cast dynamic shadows, such as during heavy combat. You can't disable shadows completely however, and you can't remove static shadows as aside from the lack of realism, this would be give an unfair advantage in multiplayer.

Effects Quality

This setting controls the overall lighting and environmental effects of the game world. The available settings are Low, Medium, and High. A screenshot comparison is provided below to demonstrate the difference. As you can see there is effectively no real difference between High and Medium, however when switching to Low, the lighting used in the game changes. The bloom-based lighting which gives the world a warm, slightly hazy, and realistic glow is gone. You will also notice that the water which was previously transparent along the shoreline in High and Medium is now completely opaque at Low. Changing this setting doesn't seem to affect particle-based effects like smoke or explosions, or things like muzzle flash or fire.

Click to enlarge

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

Reducing Effects Quality can provide a slight improvement in performance, though mainly when dropped to Low as this turns off Bloom and removes water transparency.

For advanced users

If you wish to alter water transparency independent of the Effects Quality setting, in your Settings.ini file set Water=high for high quality transparent water or Water=low for low quality non-transparent water; alternatively, if you wish to control Bloom lighting independently, in your Settings.ini file set Bloom=false or Bloom=true as desired.

Anti-Aliasing

This setting controls Anti-Aliasing (AA), covered on the second page of this guide. This technique is used to reduce the jaggedness of lines in computer graphics. The higher the sample rate of the AA selected here, the smoother lines will appear. AA can be very costly in terms of performance, especially at higher sample rates. Aside from the sample rates themselves (e.g. 2x, 4x, 8x), you can also select different types of Anti-Aliasing such as Multisample Anti-Aliasing (MSAA) or Coverage Sampling Anti-Aliasing (CSAA). A demonstration of AA along with an explanation of the different types of AA is provided in the link above. Note that Anti-Aliasing is not available when using Windows XP or the DirectX 9 renderer in Windows Vista or Windows 7.

Click to enlarge

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

As you can see, applying anti-aliasing has a dramatic effect on performance. Generally, 4x provides a good balance between image quality and performance. If you want higher quality without burning too much performance, the CSAA modes are a good option if available to you. CSAA uses less memory than traditional anti-aliasing while maintaining similar quality.

Anisotropic Filter & VSync

Anisotropic Filtering

This setting controls Anisotropic Filtering (AF). This is a texture filtering technique designed to improve the clarity of textures that are displayed at an angle to the screen, such as those covering the ground or walls when looking down a corridor. The higher the sample rate, the sharper receding textures will appear in return for a relatively minor reduction in performance on modern graphics cards. Sample screenshots of AF are provided below.

Click to enlarge

To correctly change this setting you must alter it then completely exit BFBC2 and relaunch the game for the new sample rate to be properly applied.

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

As you can see, modern GPUs can generally apply anisotropic filtering with very little slowdown.

VSync

Vertical Synchronization (VSync) is the synchronization of your graphics card and monitor's abilities to redraw an image on the screen a number of times each second, measured in Hz. This is not the same as FPS, but when VSync is On your maximum FPS will be capped to your monitor's Refresh Rate which for most people is 60Hz (60FPS). When VSync is Off, you may experience a phenomenon known as 'tearing' - portions of the image temporarily appear to be out of alignment. This does no harm to your system, however it can be distracting. Enabling VSync removes tearing but can also reduce your FPS by up to 50% or more. To benefit from VSync without taking the performance hit, enable Triple Buffering. For the highest framerates however, and to also prevent mouse lag, VSync is best left Off.

HBAO & DirectX Version

HBAO

HBAO stands for Horizon-Based Ambient Occlusion, a rendering technique developed by Nvidia which can be enabled in BFBC2 on DirectX 10 and 11 graphics cards. Ambient occlusion in general is a method by which shadows are made richer and more realistic. HBAO specifically improves the perception of depth and curvature through appropriate subtle soft shadowing, particularly where two objects meet. This setting can be turned On or Off, and a screenshot comparison is provided below to show the difference. When HBAO is on, the shadows between the logs are richer, improving the illusion that they are curved objects. The shadows at the base of the logs are also deeper and more realistic, and the small tufts of grass to the left of the logs also cast shadows - indeed all grass and foliage takes on more depth and realism as a result of improved shadowing from HBAO.

Click to enlarge

An indication of the performance impact of changing this setting is shown below:

While HBAO can add to the realism in a scene, it places a very heavy load on your graphics card. If you're pressed for performance, it is best to leave this option disabled.

DirectX Version

By default BFBC2 will automatically detect and set the highest supported DirectX version based on your graphics card's capabilities combined with the version of Windows you are using - Windows XP users can only have DirectX 9 graphics regardless of their graphics card, while Windows Vista and Windows 7 users can have DirectX 9, 10 or 11 depending on their graphics hardware. BFBC2 was designed with DirectX 10 as the baseline, so when running in DirectX 9 mode some enhancements such as Anti-Aliasing and HBAO are not available. Conversely, when running in DirectX 11 mode with appropriate hardware (e.g. using a GeForce GTX 400 series card on Windows 7), the game will automatically select the DirectX 11 path. The DirectX 11 path improves image quality through softer looking shadows.

For advanced users

You can force BFBC2 to use a particular DirectX version - as long as it is also supported by your hardware and the version of Windows you are using - by editing your Settings.ini file. Find the line DxVersion=Auto and change it to DxVersion=11 for DirectX 11, DxVersion=10 for DirectX 10, or DxVersion=9 for the DirectX 9 render path. For Windows Vista and Windows 7 users in particular, if you don't have DirectX 11-capable hardware, forcing the DX 9 render path can improve performance over DX 10 at the cost of some image quality. If for some reason you try to force a DirectX version which your system does not support, BFBC2 will automatically try the next lower version until it finds a supported one.

Audio

Audio

Sound, Music, Dialogue Volume: These sliders control the volume level for overall Sound, the Music, and spoken Dialogue respectively. Adjust each to suit your taste.

Your Sound System: This setting controls audio quality and should be selected based on the type and size of your audio playback setup. The Headphones setting provides customized two-channel output best suited to headphones; Small Speakers has reduced dynamic range so as not to overwhelm and distort smaller speakers; Hi-Fi which is the default setting has standard dynamic range for medium-sized speakers; Home Cinema is more appropriate for multi-channel setups using larger full-range speakers; War Tapes provides an exaggerated audio stage for a more atmospheric feel, however some people may find it has too much echo and lacks detail. There is no single optimal setting - you should experiment to see which setting best suits your tastes and audio configuration.

Enemy Team VO: This setting controls the language of the dialog used by enemy teams in multiplayer. When set to Original, the Russians will speak in Russian; when set to Localized, they will speak mostly in English with a Russian accent. Localized is recommended if you wish to understand what is being said by the enemy. Original gives a more authentic experience but can place you at a tactical disadvantage on the battlefield.

Voiceover Language: Similar to the Enemy Team VO setting above, this setting controls the language used by your own team. Original means that if you are on the Russian team, you will hear the voiceovers - such as teammates spotting enemy positions or requesting assistance - in the original Russian language; if set to Localized, all voiceovers are in your language. Unless you speak the foreign language used by the voiceover, it’s strongly recommended that this option be set to Localized so you can fully understand what is being said by your own team.

A Tip on Fast Communication

Make sure you use the 'Issue Order / Communicate / Spot' key (Q by default) to communicate your needs and to assist your team. This key is context sensitive; simply look at an enemy vehicle or enemy infantry for example and press Q - your character will give an appropriate yell and the position will be flagged in red on the minimap, serving as a useful warning for your entire team. If you need a health pack, look at a medic (indicated by a cross icon) and press Q to request one; if you need repairs, look at an engineer (indicated by a spanner icon) and press Q; if you need a pickup, look at a friendly vehicle and press Q, and so on. By the same token, if you're a medic, engineer, driving a vehicle, or just another soldier on the battlefield, listen and look out for these prompts from teammates and respond to or take heed of them. Good communication makes all the difference in BFBC2.

Conclusion

Hopefully you're now armed with all the info you need to get the most out of BFBC2 on your system. Don't forget to keep an eye on your soldier's status using the Official BFBC2 Stats Site and if you've played two or more of the previous games in the Battlefield series (and can remember your account details), you qualify for Veteran Status which gives your soldier additional weapon unlocks in BFBC2. Have fun on the battlefield!

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