Deus Ex: Human Revolution Tweak Guide

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General Optimization

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Tweak Guide by Koroush Ghazi


November 5, 2011

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the third game in the highly-acclaimed Deus Ex series. The events in this latest expedition into the science fiction world of Deus Ex take place in the year 2027, a quarter of a century before the first Deus Ex game. The main character, security specialist Adam Jensen, is a cybernetically enhanced former SWAT member. He finds himself in the thick of the covert wars being waged between multinational biotech companies as they strive to gain an edge in the field of human augmentation. If you enjoyed the original Deus Ex, then Deus Ex: Human Revolution (HR) should be right up your alley, giving you the freedom to fight, sneak and hack your way through an engaging cyberpunk-themed environment.

The aim of this guide is to allow you to better understand and best utilize all of the configuration options available in Deus Ex: HR.

Before proceeding further, make sure you meet the game's minimum requirements as provided below:

  • Processor: 2 GHz dual core CPU
  • Memory: 1GB RAM (Windows XP), 2GB RAM (Windows Vista/7)
  • Hard Drive: At least 8.5GB of free space
  • Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce 8000 series or equivalent
  • Sound Card: Direct X 9.0c compatible
  • OS: Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7

What follows are full descriptions for all of the settings available in Deus Ex: HR's various options menus. Screenshot comparisons are provided where relevant to highlight the impact on image quality of changing these 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 a balance of visual quality and performance 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issues, especially stuttering, crashes and slowdowns, can be traced directly to sub-optimal settings in Windows and out-of-date or badly configured drivers.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 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 Deus Ex: HR. You will now see a yellow FPS counter displayed in the corner of your screen. Pay attention to this FPS figure, particularly during graphically intense scenes, such as in heavy combat or in highly detailed areas. If your FPS 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 20-25 FPS during normal gameplay, such as when walking around or conversing with others, and higher still (e.g. 30-35 FPS +) during combat to maintain appropriate responsiveness.

General Settings

Before covering the various graphics-related settings which have the most significant impact on performance and image quality, this section examines the other settings. To access the in-game settings, start Deus Ex: HR and in the main menu click the Options button. The Video options are covered on the next few pages, but below we look at the Audio, Controls and Gameplay settings.

Except for Field of View, the settings on this page have no significant impact on performance.

Audio

Music, Dialogs, SFX: These three sliders respectively control the volume of music in the game, the spoken dialog between characters, and the special effects. Set each to suit your taste.

Subtitles: If set to On, text subtitles will be shown under spoken text; if set to Off, no subtitles are shown.

Controls

Inverted Y-Axis: If this option is set to On, moving your mouse upward will result in pointing the camera down, and moving the mouse downward will make the camera point up. Turning this option Off will reverse the arrangement.

Mouse X Sensitivity: This slider determines the level of responsiveness of the mouse to your movements along the X Axis, which is any movement from left to right and vice versa.

Mouse Y Sensitivity: This slider determines the level of responsiveness of the mouse to your movements along the Y Axis, which is any movement up or down.

For the sensitivity sliders above, note that enabling the VSync option, covered later in this guide, can make the mouse feel less responsive and may require that you further increase your mouse sensitivities along both axes, or disable VSync altogether. If your mouse movements still feel laggy, check your framerate with FRAPS, and if it falls below around 20-25 FPS at any time, you will need to adjust your settings to improve FPS and hence keep your mouse feeling suitably responsive.

Keyboard, Gamepad: These two sections allow you to check and if necessary remap the actions for your keyboard/mouse or gamepad controls.

Gameplay

Automatic Inventory Management: If set to On, the game will automatically shift items around in your inventory to make optimal use of free space. This can help ensure that you can pick up more items which would otherwise not fit into the available space if your inventory was not neatly arranged.

Show Cover/Takedown Prompts: If set to On, this option will provide a visual prompt whenever you are close enough to an enemy to attempt a takedown. There are usually two icons shown, one for a non-lethal takedown which puts the enemy to sleep; the other for a kill.

Show Reticle: The reticle is the crosshair/dot in the centre of the screen, and it can be enabled (On) or disabled (Off) as you wish.

Cover Style: This setting controls the way the Cover command works. If set to Hold, whenever you take cover you will only remain in the cover position so long as you hold down the cover button, which is the Right Mouse Button by default. If set to Toggle, you will take cover and remain in cover simply by pressing the cover button once, and are not required to keep holding the button to remain in cover. To move out of cover, just press the cover button again.

Objective Locators: For every mission or side quest objective you have in the game, an indicator will appear on the screen in the general direction of that objective. Using this setting, you can choose whether to disable (Off) or enable (On) these objective locators.

Object Highlight: If set to On, any objects you can interact with will have a bright yellow outline. This effect is supposed to be part of your character's Augmented Reality ability. You can choose however to turn Off this effect, or depending on your Difficulty setting, it may already be disabled. This makes it more challenging to find interactive objects in the game environment.

Field of View: This setting determines your Field of View (FOV), which is how much of the game world you can see at once on the screen. The default is 75 degrees, and raising FOV can reduce performance due to more of the game world being visible.

Text Language: This setting determines the language used for any text displayed, such as Subtitles. When set to Auto, it should use the correct text language for your region as set by your system. However you can manually alter it to one of the other choices to select a specific language. This option only affects the language of any text shown, not spoken language; that is determined by your language options in Steam, found under the Steam menu>Settings>Interface.

On the next page we begin our look at the various graphics-related settings in Deus Ex: HR.

Video Settings

To access the full range of video settings, first launch Deus Ex: HR and then click the Options button on the main menu and select the Video button. Alternatively, you can select the 'Setup Deus Ex: Human Revolution' option when launching the game in Steam to access a standalone configuration window. Either method is fine and equally as comprehensive.

In the following section, we'll go through each of the video settings 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 the maximum possible, including DirectX 11 On, FXAA High, 16x Anisotropic Filtering, and Vertical Sync Off. From this baseline, we vary individual settings to measure their effect on performance and image quality. To see how various combinations of settings work for other NVIDIA GPUs, check out the Optimal Playable Settings section of the site.

Test System Configuration

  • GeForce GTX 560 1GB
  • Intel Core i7 940
  • 3GB RAM
  • Win7 64-bit
  • Nvidia 285.27 Beta Drivers

 

Resolution, Refresh Rate & Aspect Ratio

The Video settings are broken up into several screens. When you first click the Video button on the main Options screen, you will be taken to a screen which has only three options, the first of which is covered below:

Luminosity: This is simply a brightness slider. Adjust it so that in the test images above it, you can still faintly see the character on the far left. This setting has no performance impact.

Next, when you click the 'Display Mode' button, you will be taken to another screen where there are several additional basic graphics settings:

Resolution

This setting determines the Resolution of the game image, measured by the number of pixels horizontally and vertically (e.g. 1920 pixels x 1080 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. However higher resolutions also generate an increased load on your system, particularly your graphics card, and hence will reduce your overall performance. The performance impact can sometimes be substantial, so if adjusting the other settings fails to sufficiently improve your performance, reduce your resolution. For the sharpest image on an LCD monitor, either select the maximum available resolution here, which is also referred to as your Native Resolution, or if choosing a resolution below your maximum, set the Fullscreen option to Off - see further below.

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

Performance Comparison: Resolution

The graph confirms that progressively higher resolutions will reduce your FPS significantly.

Refresh Rate: This typically cannot be changed, as Refresh Rate is a physical limitation of your monitor. It will only impact on your performance if you enable the VSync option as covered later in the guide. To alter your graphics card's default refresh rate in Windows, see the Refresh Rate setting in your graphics control panel. For example, in the NVIDIA Control Panel go to the Display>Change Resolution section and check under the 'Refresh Rate' menu for available options.

 

Aspect Ratio: This setting controls the ratio of the game image's width to its height. Basically, the 4:3 and 5:4 ratios are for the squarer non-widescreen monitors which run maximum resolutions such as 1024x768, 1280x1024 or 1600x1200; the 16:9 ratio is for widescreen monitors typically with a native resolution of 1920x1080; and the 16:10 ratio is for slightly taller widescreen monitors which run a native resolution of 1920x1200. For the majority of people, simply selecting the Auto option will provide the correct aspect ratio and ensure there are no black bars above and below, or to the sides of the image, and the image is not squashed or otherwise distorted. By itself this setting has no performance impact.

Fullscreen: If you want to run the game in a window on your Desktop, as opposed to taking up the entire screen, then select Off here. Running Deus Ex: HR in windowed is best done if you want to reduce the game's screen resolution but still maintain a crisp image. However to prevent problems with memory management and hence overall stability, I recommend setting Fullscreen to On.

Stereoscopic 3D: This option can be enabled to allow the Stereoscopic 3D on systems which support it, such as those running NVIDIA 3D Vision compatible hardware. If 3D is enabled, use the 'Stereo 3D Strength' button under the Advanced graphics options or use the NVIDIA Control Panel 3D settings as relevant to vary the 3D effect.

Once you've adjusted the settings on this screen, make sure to click the Apply button.

DirectX 11 & Anti-Aliasing

Click the Video button on the main Options screen, then click the Advanced button on the next screen to open a screen full of more detailed graphics options. Importantly, to access all of the options listed in this guide, make sure you click the small orange down arrow just above the Back button - this will scroll down to reveal more options than first available on this screen. All options are covered below:

DirectX 11: Deus Ex: HR can be run using DirectX 9, which is compatible with every graphics card. However for PC gamers who want improved graphics and performance, you can enable the DirectX 11 option here if you are running Windows 7 or Vista, and have a DirectX 11-capable graphics card. Note that if DirectX 11 is set to Off, then you're running DirectX 9 in Deus Ex: HR; there is no DirectX 10 option available. When DirectX 11 is enabled it provides access to three additional graphics options which are otherwise not available: Soft shadows can now be enabled under the Shadows option; the Depth of Field option can now be set to High; and a Tessellation option becomes unlocked and can be enabled. See the descriptions for these settings later in the guide for more details. Furthermore, on DX11 systems you should actually see a general performance improvement over DX9, as well as a reduction in any stuttering.

 
DX9
DX11
Click to enlarge

 

To compare DX11 and DX9, examine the screenshots above. The most noticeable differences come in the form of the subtly improved blurring which DirectX 11 brings, allowing for soft shadows and better depth of field effects, along with more realistic curves on characters - these are best demonstrated in separate screenshots later in the guide. In the shots above, look closely at the shadows on the boxes at the far left and bottom of the screen, and the light at the top right of the screen. There are also slight changes in lighting and detail throughout the scene. For the most part though, using DirectX 11 is more about enabling subtle visual improvements along with better performance.

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

Performance Comparison: DirectX 11

As promised, DX11 provides a performance boost over DX9 in most parts of the game. If you have a DirectX 11-capable system, there should be little reason for you to disable DirectX 11, unless it's for troubleshooting purposes.

Anti-Aliasing: A method of reducing the jaggedness of lines in computer graphics, Antialiasing (AA), can be enabled using several different techniques in Deus Ex: HR. You can't force standard Multisample Antialiasing (MSAA), as that is incompatible with the game. Thus the available options come down to No AA, Edge AA, FXAA, or MLAA. These post-processing shader-based techniques do not completely remove jagged edges in Deus Ex: HR, but they can smooth them out to various extents. Edge AA is the least effective form of AA, but also brings the least performance hit. FXAA and MLAA are more effective, and come with a very mild drop in FPS on most systems.

 
No AA
EdgeAA
FXAA Low
 
FXAA Medium
FXAA High
MLAA
Click to enlarge

 

When examining the screenshots above, I recommend focusing on certain areas which best demonstrate the impact of the various types of AA shown: keep an eye on the top left rear edge of the Neuropozyne billboard structure; the front edge at the top of the Limb billboard; the horizontal railings directly above the 'M6 24M' objective locator; and the line between the Limb billboard and the smaller billboard to the right of it.

The screenshots show that Edge AA provides a tiny amount of edge smoothing, which is better than No AA, but comes at the cost of some FPS. For those who prefer something more effective, the choice comes down to FXAA and MLAA. In the shots above, even at Low, FXAA provides a nice improvement over Edge AA. As higher levels of FXAA are used, the only change is an almost imperceptible additional smoothing. Finally, when comparing MLAA with any level of FXAA, as you flick between the shots, pay close attention to the areas pointed out further above - these show that FXAA provides better smoothing in each of these areas. However FXAA also seems to add some moire noise to the image with the face on the billboard to the far right.

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

Performance Comparison: Anti-Aliasing

The graph shows that there is a marked reduction in performance from enabling Edge AA, with successively miniscule drops in FPS through the three FXAA levels and finally MLAA. I recommend FXAA Low if you want a good compromise of performance and image quality.

Shadows, DoF & SSAO

Shadows: This setting controls the quality of the shadows in Deus Ex: HR. The available settings are Off, Normal, and Soft - though Soft is only accessible if you also have the DirectX 11 setting On. Many of the shadows in the game are static, and thus are not affected by this setting. Some shadows are dynamic however, and will be cast from objects whenever they are near certain light sources. As this setting is raised, performance drops.

 
Shadows OFF
Shadows NORMAL
Shadows SOFT
Click to enlarge

 

The screenshots above show that at Off, there are still some small shadows visible on and under the couch to the left, and around the boxes, as well as on the curb outside the door. However when Shadows is set to Normal, the scene suddenly develops some much-needed depth and realism. Most noticeably, the doors now cast dynamic shadows, and although not pictured in the shots above, so do any characters in the room. The use of Soft Shadows in the last screenshot smooths the edges of the shadows, blending them more realistically. For example, look closely at the door shadow cast on the flattened cardboard box against the wall; at Normal it has saw-toothed edges, at Soft it has feathered edges.

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

Performance Comparison: Shadows

The graph shows that enabling shadows definitely reduces performance, especially Soft Shadows. If you don't mind the slightly ragged edges, Normal Shadows should be sufficient to provide suitable realism.

Depth of Field: Depth of Field (DoF) in gaming is an effect which usually makes objects in the foreground appear sharper and more distinct, and those in the background increasingly blurred and hazy. It is used to add a heightened sense of depth to a scene, and make it look more cinematic. There are three available options here: Off, Normal and High - though High is only accessible if you also have the DirectX 11 setting On. For the most part, DoF will only be visible in cutscenes and when having conversations with certain characters in Deus Ex: HR. In instances where it is used, the performance impact can be significant, so lower or disable it if you notice slowdowns. Or you may wish to disable it simply because you don't like the effect.

 
DOF HIGH
DOF NORMAL
DOF OFF
Click to enlarge

 

The screenshots above demonstrate that when Depth of Field is set to High, there is pronounced blurring in the background behind Adam Jensen, while Adam himself remains completely crisp and in focus. As DoF is reduced to Normal, the background blurring also eases slightly. At Off, the background becomes completely clear, but notice that it does reduce the impression of depth in the scene.

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

Performance Comparison: Depth of Field

The graph confirms that the performance impact of Depth of Field can be very noticeable, particularly at High.

SSAO: Screen Space Ambient Occlusion (SSAO), which is described in more detail in this guide, subtly enhances realism and depth in the way ambient light generates shadows. The available options here are Off, Normal and High. This is not a dramatic effect as such, and because it has a substantial performance impact, can generally be disabled without a large reduction in image quality.

 
SSAO OFF
SSAO NORMAL
SSAO HIGH
Click to enlarge

 

In the screenshot comparison above, the difference between SSAO Off and Normal should be immediately apparent in the depth which SSAO-based shadowing adds to the cycle, especially around the curved areas of the bike. SSAO also adds realistic shadowing to the ground under the bike, as well as under the hammer and wrench lying nearby, and the papers lying on the table to the top left. At High, the main change is improved resolution for the SSAO-based shadows.

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

Performance Comparison: SSAO

The graph provides evidence that aside from Resolution, SSAO is the single biggest performance killer, almost halving frame rates when set to High. As a very subtle effect, it should only be enabled on high-end systems where you have plenty of FPS to spare.

Post-Processing & Texture Filter

Post-Processing: Whenever effects are added to a scene after it has been rendered, they're referred to as post-processing effects. In Deus Ex: HR, the Post-Processing setting essentially controls the way the lighting looks, particularly through a technique known as Color Correction. This obviously impacts on the general atmosphere of the game, which is an important element in Deus Ex: HR. When Post-Processing is On, the world takes on a slightly more stylized, darkened and yellow-cast appearance. Turning Post-Processing Off removes this effect, giving a brighter and more normal look, and also improves performance slightly.

 
Post Process ON
Post Process OFF
Click to enlarge

 

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

Performance Comparison: Post-Processing

The graph shows that Post Processing is indeed only slightly more strenuous when enabled, than when it is disabled. Again, it should mainly be set according to taste rather than out of performance considerations, as it has a tangible impact on the atmosphere of the game.

Texture Filter: This setting controls the level of filtering used to improve the appearance of textures, which are the images covering every surface in the game. The available options are Bilinear, Trilinear, and then 1x, 2x, 4x, 8x and 16x Anisotropic Filtering. You can read more about these texture filtering methods in this guide. The key difference is that while Bilinear and Trilinear Filtering make textures perpendicular to the character's view more crisp, only some form of Anisotropic Filtering can improve the sharpness of textures which appear at an angle to your view, such as those receding into the distance. In general, given the textures in Deus Ex: HR are not incredibly detailed, some level of Anisotropic Filtering is recommended to keep them looking sharp.

 
Bilinear
Trilinear
1x Anisotropic
 
2x Anisotropic
4x Anisotropic
8x Anisotropic
 
 
16x Anisotropic
 
Click to enlarge

 

For the sake of completeness, the full range of options for this setting are illustrated in the screenshots above. However to better see the differences, I recommend comparing Bilinear or Trilinear with 4x Anisotropic, and then comparing 4x Anisotropic with 16x Anisotropic. Pay particular attention to the brightly lit path of gravel on the ground. At Bilinear or Trilinear, it is generally fairly blurry and indistinct; at 4x Anisotropic a very noticeable increase in crispness and detail can be seen in the same area; at 16x Anisotropic, any improvements are incredibly subtle, at least in this particular scene.

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

Performance Comparison: Texture Filter

The graph shows that Texture Filtering on a modern GPU like our GTX 560 has a negligible performance impact. The use of at least 4x Anisotropic is recommended, but there's no reason not to go all the way up to 16x Anisotropic unless you're absolutely desperate for FPS.

VSync, Triple Buffer & Tessellation

VSync: Vertical Synchronization 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 also be capped to your monitor's Refresh Rate - see the Refresh Rate setting earlier in this guide. For most people this is around 59-60Hz, which means your framerate will be also capped to around 60 FPS. 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, but it can be annoying. Enabling VSync removes tearing but aside from capping the framerate, it can also reduce your FPS by up to 50% or more, and importantly, introduce some mouse lag. To benefit from VSync without taking the performance hit, you can enable the Triple Buffering option, covered below. Otherwise the easiest way to guarantee the highest framerates, and to prevent any mouse lag, is to simply set VSync to Off.

Triple Buffering: This setting allows you to enable or disable Triple Buffering, which is a technique used to improve performance when VSync is enabled. If you've turned VSync on to prevent tearing, your FPS may drop by as much as 50%. It is recommended that you turn Triple Buffering on to prevent this potential performance drop. However even with Triple Buffering enabled, you still may notice some slight sluggishness in your controls which would otherwise not be there if VSync was off.

Tessellation: A technique introduced in DirectX 11, Tessellation smooths out curved areas on objects and characters, and can also add more detail. You must have the DirectX 11 setting On to access this option. In Deus Ex: HR, Tessellation is only implemented on characters, not on objects or the environment. When in effect, it makes people seem less polygonal and more realistic, though at the cost of some performance.

 
Tessellation OFF
Tessellation ON
Click to enlarge

 

The screenshots above show that when Tessellation is enabled, Mr. Sarif's form fills out and rounds noticeably. Pay particular attention to his shoulders and chest, his rolled-up sleeves, and the bottom of his waistcoat to see the major changes. These gain a lot of detail and curvature when Tessellation is enabled, which certainly adds to realism.

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

Performance Comparison: Tessellation

The graph shows that the performance impact of Tessellation is not huge, but certainly noticeable. However it really only kicks in when around other characters, so much of the time it has no effect on your performance. Turn it off if you notice slowdowns around enemies and during dialog.

Stereo 3D Strength: Controls the degree of the 3D effect if enabled. See the Stereoscopic 3D option for more details.

That covers our look at the settings available in the in-game options of Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Conclusion

It's fortunate that Deus Ex: Human Revolution provides PC gamers with a large number of in-game settings to adjust the game to better suit their tastes and system capabilities. The descriptions in this guide, combined with some general system optimization as covered on the first page, should have you playing the game without any major issues. Several recent patches have also fixed the bulk of the initial problems, so make absolutely certain your game is up to date. However if you're still having difficulties with the game, whether performance-wise or story-wise, then head on over to the Official Deus Ex: HR Forums, or check the Deus Ex Wiki for help.

In terms of advanced tweaking, Deus Ex: HR appears to have minimal possibilities in this regard, at least for anything truly useful. There are no user-editable .ini or .cfg files, and no useful console commands have been discovered as yet. However for advanced users interested in investigating this area further, look under the following key in your Registry:

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Eidos\Deus Ex: HR]

There are also [Controls] and [Graphics] sub-keys which contain more settings, but the majority of these simply reflect options you can already change fully from within the game, and the remainder are of no great consequence or should not be changed as they should already have optimal values and/or will simply reset themselves each time you launch the game.

As a final gameplay-related tip, remember that Deus Ex: HR is designed to reward you for using stealth and exploring in areas off the beaten path. Take the time to really savor the atmosphere and detail in the game; using a run and gun approach means that not only will you miss out on a lot of cool stuff, it will also make the game much harder to play and thus more frustrating.

Until next time, take care!

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