Rise of the Tomb Raider Graphics & Performance Guide

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Rise of the Tomb Raider GeForce.com Graphics & Performance Guide

Rise of the Tomb Raider launches on Steam and the Windows Store today, sporting exclusive PC enhancements in addition to a bevy of other improvements, making Lara Croft's latest outing a graphical tour de force, just like 2013's Tomb Raider.

Crystal Dynamics' Foundation Engine returns for the sequel with upgrades galore. Physically Based Rendering gives materials a natural look under all conditions, HDR and adaptive tone mapping create stunningly bright zone transitions and highlights, deferred lighting with localized Global Illumination increases the realism of lighting, volumetric lighting adds God Rays and other shafts of light, dynamic color grading gives artists control over the appearance of individual areas, reactive water enables dynamic water ripples game-wide, physically correct forward lighting enables translucencies to be accurately lit, particle lighting enables particles to be dynamically lit by light from their surroundings, and Subsurface Scattering and Backscattering increases the quality of lighting on characters' skin.

Of the many additions, Crystal Dynamics' use of Side Effects' Houdini software is the most impressive. With this package highly realistic water effects and avalanches were created offline, recorded as Bink videos, and dynamically merged into real-time cutscenes to display visual effects that would be otherwise impossible to render. Less accurate effects could be rendered in real-time, though they wouldn't appear anywhere near as dramatic or thrilling.

As well as those enhancements, the PC release of Rise of the Tomb Raider also sees several game settings improved with new features and functionality, and the addition of entirely new settings. Not to mention the option to utilize NVIDIA technologies like DSR, G-SYNC, SLI, and Surround.

Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot

In this guide you'll see all of those effects in our screenshots as we examine Rise of the Tomb Raider's many settings and PC-only upgrades. We'll also show comparisons that highlight their benefits, and reveal their relative performance cost at 1920x1080, the most popular PC gaming resolution. Furthermore, we'll reveal the GPUs you require for a max setting experience, and demonstrate how NVIDIA technologies can enhance your time in Rise of the Tomb Raider's stunning environments.

Guide Contents:

 

System Requirements

The official Rise of the Tomb Raider system requirements recommend gamers equip their systems with GeForce GTX 970 or GeForce GTX 980 Ti graphics cards for High-quality, 60 FPS gameplay at 1920x1080 and 2560x1440, respectively. These settings deliver an excellent level of detail, and at 60 FPS it's a super smooth experience free from stuttering and stalls, translating to fluid, responsive gaming. Learn more here.

NVIDIA & Square Enix's Rise of the Tomb Raider Recommended GPUs

This being the PC, you can of course crank many of the settings to Very High, bolstering graphical fidelity that bit further. To discover the system you'll require for a maxed out experience skip to our settings summary.

Rise of the Tomb Raider PC-Exclusive Graphics Enhancements

As is the case with the vast majority of multi-platform titles, Rise of the Tomb Raider looks even better on PC thanks to graphics settings that can run at higher detail levels. In addition, there's a new game-wide application of tessellation, a new shadow setting that applies realistic softening, supersampling anti-aliasing options, and NVIDIA HBAO+ ambient occlusion shadowing. Combined, the PC-exclusive options and other enhancements increase fidelity far beyond the level seen on other platforms, delivering the definitive Rise of the Tomb Raider experience.

For detailed explanations of every enhancement, and demonstrations of their capabilities, keep reading. For a first look, check out our Rise of the Tomb Raider Tech Trailer below:

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 Rise of the Tomb Raider, the Ambient Occlusion option enables players to choose between Microsoft and Crystal Dynamics' custom Screen Space Ambient Occlusion (SSAO) technique, called Broad Temporal Ambient Obscurance (BTAO), and our own HBAO+ and VXAO techniques.

BTAO, seen originally in the Xbox One edition of the game and further tweaked for this PC release, is inspired by a 2012 AO technique called Scalable Ambient Obscurance (SAO). Microsoft built upon the ideas presented in the linked SAO paper to create BTAO, and worked with Crystal Dynamics to customize it for Rise of the Tomb Raider. The result is a technique that is better and faster than Horizon Based Ambient Occlusion (HBAO), which we developed back in 2008.

In 2013 however we improved upon every aspect of HBAO to create HBAO+, and now in 2016 the latest iteration of HBAO+ is found in Rise of the Tomb Raider, creating richer, deeper, more accurate ambient occlusion shadows that further bolster the visual fidelity of the game's fantastic graphics. In a March 2016 update we also introduced NVIDIA Voxel Ambient Occlusion (VXAO), a new AO rendering technique that once again raises the bar. Click here to see how VXAO compares to HBAO+ and BTAO.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Interactive Comparison #001 - NVIDIA HBAO+ vs. On

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #001 - NVIDIA HBAO+ Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #001 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #001 - AO Disabled

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

In this scene, HBAO+ accurately shadows the detail along the wall on the left of the screen, and further enhances the fidelity of other objects and surfaces.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Interactive Comparison #002 - NVIDIA HBAO+ vs. On

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #002 - NVIDIA HBAO+ Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #002 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #002 - AO Disabled

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

Here we see how HBAO+'s accuracy enables all the folds in the tent's cloth to be seen, as well as a general improvement to the accuracy of ambient occlusion shadowing on and around other objects and surfaces.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Interactive Comparison #003 - NVIDIA HBAO+ vs. On

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #003 - NVIDIA HBAO+ Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #003 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #003 - AO Disabled

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

With HBAO+ we're able to add greater depth to the cracks between the tessellated stones, and to combat halos like the one seen around the base of the bucket.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Interactive Comparison #005 - NVIDIA HBAO+ vs. On

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #005 - NVIDIA HBAO+ Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #005 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #005 - AO Disabled

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

And finally, a set of images exemplifying the need for high-quality ambient occlusion techniques in today's games.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Interactive Comparison #007 - NVIDIA HBAO+ vs. On

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #007 - NVIDIA HBAO+ Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #007 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #007 - AO Disabled

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

As the interactive comparisons and screenshots demonstrate, our HBAO+ Ambient Occlusion technique improves upon BTAO, which is itself rather good. With HBAO+, AO shadowing is improved, entirely new shadows are rendered, and detail has even greater depth and realism, with the smallest of details being accurately shadowed.

March 2016 NVIDIA Voxel Ambient Occlusion (VXAO) Update: Derived from our Voxel Global Illumination technology, VXAO is a new cutting-edge Ambient Occlusion technique that improves upon HBAO+ to deliver the most realistic Ambient Occlusion shadowing seen to date in games.

With VXAO, occlusion and lighting information is gathered from a ‘world space’ voxel representation of the scene, which takes into account a large area around the viewer. Included in this voxelization are objects and details currently invisible to the viewer, and those behind the viewer, too. The result is scene-wide Ambient Occlusion shadowing, instead of ‘screen space’ shadowing based on what you can currently see. This allows AO shadows to be cast into a scene from objects near to the player but just outside of their view, and from occluded objects in the distance large enough to affect the appearance of the scene.

In addition, VXAO’s precision and accuracy enables significantly improved Ambient Occlusion shadowing in detailed in-game environments. This is particularly evident in Crystal Dynamics’ Rise of the Tomb Raider, the first game to feature VXAO. As demonstrated below in our interactive comparisons, VXAO dramatically improves the quality of Ambient Occlusion shadowing in the game’s object and geometry-filled locations.

In this first set of comparisons, VXAO's precision is exemplified. Detailed objects spread across several layers are accurately and richly shadowed, light being cast and reflected in the room is accurately accounted for, and new AO shadows rendered.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Interactive Comparison #008 - NVIDIA VXAO vs. NVIDIA HBAO+

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #008 - NVIDIA VXAO Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #008 - NVIDIA HBAO+ Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #008 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #008 - AO Disabled

Interactive Comparisons
VXAO vs. HBAO+ VXAO vs. On VXAO vs. No AO
HBAO+ vs. On HBAO+ vs. No AO On vs. No AO

Here we can observe VXAO's impact on overall image quality: with improved accuracy and a new technique for rendering AO, the intensity of the bright sunlight is increased, enhancing the look of the scene and improving the visibility of the God Rays on the upper left.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Interactive Comparison #009 - NVIDIA VXAO vs. NVIDIA HBAO+

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #009 - NVIDIA VXAO Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #009 - NVIDIA HBAO+ Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #009 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #009 - AO Disabled

Interactive Comparisons
VXAO vs. HBAO+ VXAO vs. On VXAO vs. No AO
HBAO+ vs. On HBAO+ vs. No AO On vs. No AO

With VXAO the appearance of the shack is realistically improved, adding deep shadows where appropriate, and brightening surfaces and objects that are directly illuminated by sunlight.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Interactive Comparison #010 - NVIDIA VXAO vs. NVIDIA HBAO+

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #010 - NVIDIA VXAO Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #010 - NVIDIA HBAO+ Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #010 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #010 - AO Disabled

Interactive Comparisons
VXAO vs. HBAO+ VXAO vs. On VXAO vs. No AO
HBAO+ vs. On HBAO+ vs. No AO On vs. No AO

VXAO excels in situations such as those shown below, greatly improving the quality of Ambient Occlusion shadowing.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Interactive Comparison #011 - NVIDIA VXAO vs. NVIDIA HBAO+

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #011 - NVIDIA VXAO Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #011 - NVIDIA HBAO+ Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #011 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #011 - AO Disabled

Interactive Comparisons
VXAO vs. HBAO+ VXAO vs. On VXAO vs. No AO
HBAO+ vs. On HBAO+ vs. No AO On vs. No AO

In other locations VXAO subtly improves upon HBAO+. Here, it's increased precision and lack of screen-space blur allows for accurate AO shadowing around each blade of grass, and between every log on the right of the scene.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Interactive Comparison #012 - NVIDIA VXAO vs. NVIDIA HBAO+

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #012 - NVIDIA VXAO Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #012 - NVIDIA HBAO+ Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #012 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #012 - AO Disabled

Interactive Comparisons
VXAO vs. HBAO+ VXAO vs. On VXAO vs. No AO
HBAO+ vs. On HBAO+ vs. No AO On vs. No AO

VXAO's improvements also enable us to accurately shadow scenes illuminated by several light sources of differing intensities.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Interactive Comparison #013 - NVIDIA VXAO vs. NVIDIA HBAO+

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #013 - NVIDIA VXAO Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #013 - NVIDIA HBAO+ Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #013 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #013 - AO Disabled

Interactive Comparisons
VXAO vs. HBAO+ VXAO vs. On VXAO vs. No AO
HBAO+ vs. On HBAO+ vs. No AO On vs. No AO

VXAO improves Ambient Occlusion shadowing in Rise of the Tomb Raider's tessellated snow, and enables richer, more accurate shadows to be formed from the occlusion of light caused by Jacob and Lara's bodies. Elsewhere in the scene, VXAO highlights depth in undulating snow, and improves shadowing on and around the terrain.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Interactive Comparison #014 - NVIDIA VXAO vs. NVIDIA HBAO+

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #014 - NVIDIA VXAO Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #014 - NVIDIA HBAO+ Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #014 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #014 - AO Disabled

Interactive Comparisons
VXAO vs. HBAO+ VXAO vs. On VXAO vs. No AO
HBAO+ vs. On HBAO+ vs. No AO On vs. No AO

VXAO isn't a spectacular particle effect or an obvious addition, but it is there in every scene, improving Ambient Occlusion shadowing to some degree.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Interactive Comparison #015 - NVIDIA VXAO vs. NVIDIA HBAO+

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #015 - NVIDIA VXAO Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #015 - NVIDIA HBAO+ Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #015 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Example #015 - AO Disabled

Interactive Comparisons
VXAO vs. HBAO+ VXAO vs. On VXAO vs. No AO
HBAO+ vs. On HBAO+ vs. No AO On vs. No AO

VXAO's advancements and enhancements raise the bar for Ambient Occlusion shadowing once again, taking us one step closer to photorealism. To check it out for yourself simply select "VXAO" in the "Ambient Occlusion" setting in-game, on a system equipped with a GeForce GTX 900 Series, second generation Maxwell-architecture GPU.

Performance: The cost of Ambient Occlusion in Rise of the Tomb Raider can vary from scene to scene, especially in the early parts of the game. In the larger hub areas and later story sequences the cost of BTAO is around two frames per second, and HBAO+ a few frames per second more. The new VXAO mode, meanwhile, costs an extra 10 frames per second, though it does deliver the most realistic and accurate Ambient Occlusion shadowing seen to date in any game.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Ambient Occlusion Performance

Anisotropic Filter

Texture Filtering, Anisotropic Filtering, and other similarly named options affect the sharpness of textures, especially those seen in the distance, on oblique angles, or on the sides of the screen. Without Texture Filtering surfaces appear blurry, and image quality is significantly degraded.

In Rise of the Tomb Raider players can choose between several Anisotropic detail levels, and a Trilinear mode for potato PCs.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Filtering Interactive Comparison #001 - Anisotropic Filtering 16x vs. Trilinear

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Filtering Example #001 - Anisotropic Filtering 16x Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Filtering Example #001 - Anisotropic Filtering 8x Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Filtering Example #001 - Anisotropic Filtering 4x Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Filtering Example #001 - Anisotropic Filtering 2x Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Filtering Example #001 - Trilinear

Interactive Comparisons
Anisotropic 16x vs. Anisotropic 8x Anisotropic 16x vs. Anisotropic 4x Anisotropic 16x vs. Anisotropic 2x
Anisotropic 16x vs. Trilinear Anisotropic 8x vs. Anisotropic 4x Anisotropic 8x vs. Anisotropic 2x
Anisotropic 8x vs. Trilinear Anisotropic 4x vs. Anisotropic 2x Anisotropic 4x vs. Trilinear
  Anisotropic 2x vs. Trilinear  

Performance: Anisotropic Filtering has a negligible performance cost on PC, with the delta being just 1.2 frames per second between 2x and 16x. Trilinear Filtering does give you a significant speed-up, but no sane person should select the option unless they wish for the complete loss of texture fidelity game-wide.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anisotropic Filter Performance

Anti-Aliasing

The main anti-aliasing option in Rise of the Tomb Raider is FXAA, a fast post-process solution that anti-aliases edges and transparencies to a decent degree. It may not be to everyone's taste, because of texture blur and the introduction of temporal aliasing, but typically in modern games traditional Multisample Anti-Aliasing (MSAA) techniques are either incompatible or too demanding. Those seeking an alternative can try Rise of the Tomb Raider's other anti-aliasing option, Supersampling Anti-Aliasing (SSAA).

SSAA acts much like NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution, increasing the internal rendering resolution of the game before downsampling the result to the display's screen resolution. On a 1920x1080 monitor, 2x SSAA renders Rise of the Tomb Raider at 2688x1512, and at 3840x2160 with 4x SSAA. The output has significantly more detail per pixel, increasing the quality of texturing, the fidelity of effects, and the visibility of background detail. And aliasing is all but eliminated, delivering a super high-quality picture.

Of course, the performance cost is immense, as it would be when rendering natively at a higher resolution on a high-resolution monitor, or using Dynamic Super Resolution to boost the rendering resolution. If you have the horsepower though you can combine SSAA with higher rendering resolutions to output at an effective 7680x4320, which is how DeadEndThrills produced these stunning screenshots.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - 3840x2160 PC Screenshot, with 4x SSAA

As the following comparisons hopefully demonstrate, FXAA often has little affect on aliasing in Rise of the Tomb Raider at 1920x1080, and while SSAA can improve image quality by a significant degree, downsampling with NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution offers greatly flexibility. Compared to SSAA, which essentially offers two resolutions to downsample from, NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution gives you seven, plus the ability to utilize in-game or out of game post process options. This enables greater control over image quality and performance, and results in superior picture quality.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anti-Aliasing Interactive Comparison #001 - SSAA 4x vs. FXAA

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anti-Aliasing Example #001 - SSAA 4x Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anti-Aliasing Example #001 - SSAA 2x Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anti-Aliasing Example #001 - FXAA Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anti-Aliasing Example #001 - Off

Interactive Comparisons
SSAA 4x vs. SSAA 2x SSAA 4x vs. FXAA SSAA 4x vs. Off
SSAA 2x vs. FXAA SSAA 2x vs. Off FXAA vs. Off

In many of the caverns and tombs, FXAA anti-aliasing has minimal impact on image quality, bar the slight-to-moderate blurring of detail, which is especially noticeable on specular effects in this example.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anti-Aliasing Interactive Comparison #002 - SSAA 4x vs. FXAA

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anti-Aliasing Example #002 - SSAA 4x Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anti-Aliasing Example #002 - SSAA 2x Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anti-Aliasing Example #002 - FXAA Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anti-Aliasing Example #002 - Off

Interactive Comparisons
SSAA 4x vs. SSAA 2x SSAA 4x vs. FXAA SSAA 4x vs. Off
SSAA 2x vs. FXAA SSAA 2x vs. Off FXAA vs. Off

Thanks to the Dynamic Foliage setting, almost all of the game's foliage sways and blows in the wind, making temporal aliasing a particular issue at 1920x1080. If you can, boost the resolution or inject a superior post-process anti-aliasing technique.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anti-Aliasing Interactive Comparison #003 - SSAA 4x vs. FXAA

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anti-Aliasing Example #003 - SSAA 4x Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anti-Aliasing Example #003 - SSAA 2x Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anti-Aliasing Example #003 - FXAA Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anti-Aliasing Example #003 - Off

Interactive Comparisons
SSAA 4x vs. SSAA 2x SSAA 4x vs. FXAA SSAA 4x vs. Off
SSAA 2x vs. FXAA SSAA 2x vs. Off FXAA vs. Off

January 29th, 2016 Update: The launch-day build of the game added a SMAA post-process anti-aliasing mode. As you can see in the comparisons below it leaves many surfaces and edges aliased, and in some cases fails to anti-alias them whatsoever, but it does at least avoid FXAA's blurring of textures. Also included in the new set of comparisons is a look at an alternative SMAA technique that is injected into the game via a tool called ReShade. Popular with many enthusiasts, ReShade enables the alteration of a game's appearance through a number of post-process options, as well as the addition of alternative anti-aliasing and ambient occlusion solutions, often producing better results than the in-game settings.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anti-Aliasing Interactive Comparison #004 - ReShade SMAA vs. SMAA

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anti-Aliasing Example #004 - SSAA 4x Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anti-Aliasing Example #004 - SSAA 2x Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anti-Aliasing Example #004 - SMAA Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anti-Aliasing Example #004 - SMAA Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anti-Aliasing Example #004 - FXAA Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anti-Aliasing Example #004 - Off

Interactive Comparisons
SSAA 4x vs. SSAA 2x SSAA 4x vs. SMAA SSAA 4x vs. SMAA
SSAA 4x vs. FXAA SSAA 4x vs. Off SSAA 2x vs. SMAA
SSAA 2x vs. SMAA SSAA 2x vs. FXAA SSAA 2x vs. Off
ReShade SMAA vs. SMAA ReShade SMAA vs. FXAA ReShade SMAA vs. Off
SMAA vs. FXAA SMAA vs. Off FXAA vs. Off

As the comparisons demonstrate, ReShade's injectable post-process SMAA is the best post-process anti-aliasing solution for Rise of the Tomb Raider. It anti-aliases edges far better than SMAA, as is particularly evident on the laptop, desk and lamp, and doesn't blur textures like FXAA.

Setting ReShade SMAA up is pretty simple: download the ReShade app, extract the archive, open Mediator.exe, follow the steps in the readme to add Rise of the Tomb Raider, click on the "Pipeline" tab, untick everything other "SMAA - SweetFX", click "Apply", switch back to the "Setup" tab, save or update your preset, and click "Permanent Push To Application". Now start Rise of the Tomb Raider, configure your options in the launcher to disable anti-aliasing, and load the game. If you've done everything correctly you'll see some ReShade info on the top left of the screen, and have SMAA anti-aliasing similar to that shown in our screenshots.

You can then tweak the SMAA options in Mediator on the SweetFX > SMAA tab, and make further changes to the game's appearance through the many other included options. Alternatively, download other people's ReShade profiles from here.

Performance: As detailed earlier, SSAA can have a significant performance cost, similar to the cost of increasing the rendering resolution. That turns out to be 13 FPS for 2x SSAA, and 21 FPS for 4x SSAA, which pushes our reference-speed GeForce GTX 980 Ti below 30 FPS. If you have a SLI setup though, SSAA is a viable option. The newly-added SMAA, meanwhile, runs about a frame per second slower than FXAA, despite its poor coverage. And ReShade SMAA is that bit slower, though definitely worth it in our opinion.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Anti-Aliasing Performance

Our recommendation stands following the update: use ReShade SMAA if you dislike FXAA, or better yet downsample with NVIDIA DSR and add a post-process solution on top, be that FXAA, SMAA, or ReShade SMAA.

Bloom

Bloom often brightens lights and adds some fringes of light, but here in Rise of the Tomb Raider its integral to the look of scenes, emphasizing tunnels, items of interest, transitions to exterior locations, and more.

In addition, HDR and adaptive tone mapping are utilized in concert to bolster the fidelity of what we ordinarily see from a Bloom effect, making it a must-have setting in Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Bloom Interactive Comparison #001 - Bloom On vs. Bloom Off

Thanks to the inclusion of Screen Space Reflections, Bloom and HDR lighting is reflected on bodies of water and other suitably reflective surfaces, too.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Bloom Interactive Comparison #02 - Bloom On vs. Bloom Off

Performance: Being a post-process effect Bloom costs just a single frame per second in the overwhelming majority of locations.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Bloom Performance

Depth of Field

Depth of Field is prevalently used for cinematic effect in Rise of the Tomb Raider, helping enhance moments of action and drama.

In cutscenes, variable focus depth of field is utilized, with Bokeh applied to out of focus shapes and particles, imparting a cinematic appearance on these professionally-acted segments of story. In what the game classifies as "cinematics", typically minutes-long cutscenes, 'Very High' Depth of Field is fully utilized even when the lower-quality 'On' setting is selected in the graphics menu.

In shorter cutscenes that transition into and out of gameplay, 'Very High' applies the full Bokeh treatment as before, while 'On' applies a less precise blur lacking Bokeh.

Below, we highlight a spoiler-free moment from a "cinematic", which features identical Depth of Field blurring and Bokeh effects regardless of the setting chosen in the menu.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Interactive Comparison #004 - Very High vs. Off

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Example #004 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Example #004 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Example #004 - Off

Interactive Comparisons
Very High vs. On Very High vs. Off On vs. Off

In comparison, this short gameplay cutscene lacks Bokeh, but still has a bit of blur when 'On' is selected in the game options.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Interactive Comparison #005 - Very High vs. Off

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Example #005 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Example #005 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Example #005 - Off

Interactive Comparisons
Very High vs. On Very High vs. Off On vs. Off

During gameplay, depth of field is applied selectively to distant game elements, when diving underwater, during blizzards, in other scripted moments, and screen-wide when activating Lara's Survival Instinct ability that highlights items of note in the environment.

Using the 'On' setting, depth of field is visible during many of these scenarios, albeit at a lower quality with less blurring, and without Bokeh. Using 'Very High', max quality "cinematic" depth of field is applied to near-camera objects that are behind Lara and around the edge of the screen, to the occasional distant building or landmark, underwater, during blizzards, and in Instinct mode on all game elements.

Below a dramatic gameplay scene does a particularly good job at demonstrating the differences between the detail levels.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Interactive Comparison #001 - Very High vs. Off

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Example #001 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Example #001 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Example #001 - Off

Interactive Comparisons
Very High vs. On Very High vs. Off On vs. Off

Underwater, Very High completely blurs the surface, and when there are visible lights and particles Bokeh is also applied.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Interactive Comparison #002 - Very High vs. Off

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Example #002 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Example #002 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Example #002 - Off

Interactive Comparisons
Very High vs. On Very High vs. Off On vs. Off

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Interactive Comparison #006 - Very High vs. Off

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Example #006 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Example #006 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Example #006 - Off

Interactive Comparisons
Very High vs. On Very High vs. Off On vs. Off

Similarly, blizzards also receive the Very High treatment, creating a real sense of limited visibility from the storm raging around Lara. With 'On', a slight blur can be seen if you enhance the pixels in Photoshop.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Interactive Comparison #003 - Very High vs. Off

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Example #003 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Example #003 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Example #003 - Off

Interactive Comparisons
Very High vs. On Very High vs. Off On vs. Off

Performance: Depending on whether it's a gameplay scene, cutscene or cinematic, and the amount of action occurring, Very High Depth of Field costs between three and seven frames per second.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Depth of Field Performance

If you've got the performance to spare, Very High will greatly increase the fidelity of the game's often-stunning cutscenes, and will slightly improve fidelity during general gameplay.

Dynamic Foliage

On Xbox One the occasional larger piece of foliage could be affected by the movement of Lara, and by the weather. For the PC release just about everything is interactive, and the density of foliage has been increased, too, making for a more realistic and immersive environment.

With the 'High' setting selected, foliage sways in the wind, and bends and parts as Lara, enemies and larger animals traverse through the environment. See it in action at 02:40 in the Rise of the Tomb Raider tech vid:

Lower detail levels reduce the amount of interactive foliage and also decrease the density and detail levels of foliage, especially so on Low, which we recommend avoiding unless you're in dire need of performance.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Dynamic Foliage Interactive Comparison #001 - High vs. Low

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Dynamic Foliage Example #001 - High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Dynamic Foliage Example #001 - Medium Rise of the Tomb Raider - Dynamic Foliage Example #001 - Low

Interactive Comparisons
High vs. Medium High vs. Low Medium vs. Low

Performance: Increasing foliage density and enabling more interactivity costs at most 7 to 8 frames per second in a later level that's thick with affected bushes, grass and trees.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Dynamic Foliage Performance

If extra performance is required lower the setting to Medium, which doesn't decrease foliage density to a noticeable degree.

Film Grain

Previously part of the Screen Effects setting, Film Grain was spun out into its own setting in the first Rise of the Tomb Raider update, released February 5th, 2016.

Whether you do or do not like Film Grain, be aware that turning it off can affect the intensity of lighting effects, and the brightness of scenes, as demonstrated below.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Film Grain Interactive Comparison #001 - Film Grain On vs. Film Grain Off

Performance: Film Grain has an undetectable performance impact in our testing.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Film Grain Performance

Lens Flares

Numerous cutscenes, directed views, and gameplay scenes feature bright light or sunlight, and with Lens Flares enabled visual quality is enhanced, like so:

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Lens Flares Interactive Comparison #001 - Lens Flares On vs. Lens Flares Off

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Lens Flares Interactive Comparison #002 - Lens Flares On vs. Lens Flares Off

Performance: Lens Flares have a minimal cost, albeit one that's a smidge higher than other post-process settings in the game.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Lens Flares Performance

Level of Detail

As you'd expect, the Level of Detail setting adjusts the quality and visibility of game elements at medium and long ranges to improve performance on slower systems. Per Nixxes Software, the studio that created the PC version, "for specific cases where large areas are replaced with low-res placeholder meshes, we have created entirely new meshes to better represent these areas with higher fidelity content, even when the full content is streamed out." This allows performance to be increased without completely removing all detail, which would otherwise leave a void in the scene.

In addition, Level of Detail can affect the visibility of lighting effects, visual effects and shadows, most noticeably on Medium and Low.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Level of Detail Interactive Comparison #001 - Very High vs. Low

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Level of Detail Example #001 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Level of Detail Example #001 - High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Level of Detail Example #001 - Medium Rise of the Tomb Raider - Level of Detail Example #001 - Low

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

Here we see the aforementioned impact of the Level of Detail setting on shadows and lighting.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Level of Detail Interactive Comparison #002 - Very High vs. Low

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Level of Detail Example #002 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Level of Detail Example #002 - High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Level of Detail Example #002 - Medium Rise of the Tomb Raider - Level of Detail Example #002 - Low

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

At close range some detail can be scaled back, and the occasional shadow removed. Note also the steps-slash-shelves above the water in the center of the picture - skulls, bones and other remains are removed in favor of general debris, an example of the mesh replacement mentioned by Nixxes Software.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Level of Detail Interactive Comparison #003 - Very High vs. Low

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Level of Detail Example #003 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Level of Detail Example #003 - High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Level of Detail Example #003 - Medium Rise of the Tomb Raider - Level of Detail Example #003 - Low

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

Across wider views geometry is scaled back, additional detail removed, and forests thinned out, though never is the overall draw distance affected; you can always find your way from A to B by following the always-visible landmarks.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Level of Detail Interactive Comparison #004 - Very High vs. Low

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Level of Detail Example #004 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Level of Detail Example #004 - High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Level of Detail Example #004 - Medium Rise of the Tomb Raider - Level of Detail Example #004 - Low

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

Performance: Adjusting the level of detail can be particularly beneficial in scenes featuring numerous lights, visual effects, and shadows affected by Shadow Quality and Sun Soft Shadows, though most of the time the gain from switching to Low from Very High is only around six to seven frames per second.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Level of Detail Performance

PureHair

PureHair is Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix's hair rendering technology, which like our own HairWorks technology adds tens of thousands of hair strands to a character model. These hairs act realistically, swaying and moving in concert with character movement, and can be affected by water, wind and snow, and are lit and shaded in real-time by the scene.

In Rise of the Tomb Raider, up to 30,000 strands of hair are applied solely to Lara, with large groups of hairs controlled by master strands that dictate their movement and properties, preventing each individual hair strand from acting independently, and keeping physics calculation costs in check.

Rise of the Tomb Raider Development Image

In-game, three options are on offer: 'Off' disables PureHair entirely, adding approximated hair rendering in its place; 'On' is the recommended detail level for most players, with a good amount of hairs visible and full physics and material interaction applied; while 'Very High' adds cinematic-quality PureHair to every moment of the game, increasing hair strand counts to 30,000 in close-ups.

And as with the previously-discussed Depth of Field effects, 'Very High' hair is rendered during longer cinematics even if 'On' is your selected setting.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - PureHair Interactive Comparison #001 - Very High vs. Off

Rise of the Tomb Raider - PureHair Example #001 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - PureHair Example #001 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - PureHair Example #001 - Off

Interactive Comparisons
Very High vs. On Very High vs. Off On vs. Off

A profile view highlights the number of visible hairs, as well as PureHair's realistic lighting and shading.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - PureHair Interactive Comparison #002 - Very High vs. Off

Rise of the Tomb Raider - PureHair Example #002 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - PureHair Example #002 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - PureHair Example #002 - Off

Interactive Comparisons
Very High vs. On Very High vs. Off On vs. Off

During gameplay the difference between the two PureHair settings is tough to spot, especially when you can only see the back of Lara's head unless you manually turn the camera. In the two sets of comparisons below, note the thicker hair and the additional strands of hair near the hood of her jacket.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - PureHair Interactive Comparison #003 - Very High vs. Off

Rise of the Tomb Raider - PureHair Example #003 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - PureHair Example #003 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - PureHair Example #003 - Off

Interactive Comparisons
Very High vs. On Very High vs. Off On vs. Off

Rise of the Tomb Raider - PureHair Interactive Comparison #004 - Very High vs. Off

Rise of the Tomb Raider - PureHair Example #004 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - PureHair Example #004 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - PureHair Example #004 - Off

Interactive Comparisons
Very High vs. On Very High vs. Off On vs. Off

On occasion the camera does close-in in confined spaces, maximizing hair counts during gameplay. Here, Very High has a visible impact on the fidelity and realism of PureHair.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - PureHair Interactive Comparison #005 - Very High vs. Off

Rise of the Tomb Raider - PureHair Example #005 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - PureHair Example #005 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - PureHair Example #005 - Off

Interactive Comparisons
Very High vs. On Very High vs. Off On vs. Off

Other humans as well as animals and fur-lined coats are comprised of alpha textures, placed onto "Alpha Cards" as individual clumps of hair. These can then be positioned and layered on a model or asset to create high-fidelity hair and fur, albeit without the dynamic movement of Lara's PureHair. The developer images below take you through the process.

Rise of the Tomb Raider Development Image Rise of the Tomb Raider Development Image Rise of the Tomb Raider Development Image Rise of the Tomb Raider Development Image Rise of the Tomb Raider Development Image

Performance: As with other hair rendering technologies dynamic level of detail scaling adjusts the visual quality and performance of hair on the fly. During gameplay, Lara's hair costs between 4 and 8 frames per second depending on the camera's position, up to 12 frames per second when the camera goes in for a close-up , and between 14 and 20 frames per second during cutscenes and cinematics.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - PureHair Cutscene Performance

Rise of the Tomb Raider - PureHair Gameplay Performance

If you can afford the cost, enabling PureHair increases the realism and fidelity of Lara's hair as she runs, jumps and blasts her way through Rise of the Tomb Raider. If not, the look of the basic hair is OK, and there is a basic level of approximated movement. For most though, 'On' is the recommended level, adding realistic hair at a minimal performance cost during gameplay.

Screen Effects

Blood, hexagonal flares, dirt, snow, and other effects can appear on-screen with this setting enabled. Compared to Tomb Raider 2013, these effects fade and fall from the screen faster, and are only brightly lit when a light source is shining directly at the the game's virtual camera lens.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Screen Effects Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider - Screen Effects Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider - Screen Effects Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider - Screen Effects Screenshot

Performance: Another post-process effect, another negligible performance impact.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Screen Effects Performance

Screen Space Reflections

Many of Rise of the Tomb Raider's surfaces can reflect the world around them, improving fidelity greatly or subtly depending on the reflectivity of the surface in question. Most visibly, bodies of water reflect their surroundings, enhancing image quality greatly.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Screen Space Reflections Interactive Comparison #001 - Screen Space Reflections On vs. Screen Space Reflections Off

Without Screen Space Reflections the muddier water of the game can look particularly flat and dull, decreasing image quality and immersion.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Screen Space Reflections Interactive Comparison #002 - Screen Space Reflections On vs. Screen Space Reflections Off

Screen Space Reflections are visible throughout the game, though sometimes only for a split second.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Screen Space Reflections Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider - Screen Space Reflections Screenshot

Performance: Screen Space Reflections often cost a significant number of frames per second, though in this case we're looking at just a few frames per second thanks to an efficient implementation from Crystal Dynamics and Nixxes.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Screen Space Reflections Performance

Specular Reflection Quality

Specular Reflection Quality was introduced with the first Rise of the Tomb Raider update. As the name suggests it affects the quality of specular reflections, which can be found on floors, walls and other surfaces and objects throughout the game. Note however that larger bodies of water, like those shown in our interactive comparisons in the Screen Space Reflections section, are not affected by the setting and run at max quality at all times.

Many applications of Specular Reflections are subtle within Rise of the Tomb Raider, naturally enhancing the quality of a scene through the addition of glimmer and other small details you ordinarily wouldn't pay attention to. On occasion though a larger puddle of water will be seen with enough surface area to clearly reflect details in the environment.

It is on these larger wet surfaces that the impact of the new setting is particularly evident. With Very High, reflected detail is significantly clearer, and in-motion flickers and shimmers far less, bolstering image quality. On High reflection quality is reduced, and aliasing introduced from the blending of the lower-resolution specular reflection with the full-resolution scene. Furthermore, foliage and other transparencies blended with the lower-resolution specular reflections can see their fidelity decreased as well, reducing clarity and detail by a fair degree. On Normal, the value used in previous versions of the game, reflection quality remains the same, though a bilateral up-sampling algorithm is applied only on areas detected as edges, decreasing image quality ever so slightly in areas where transparencies are being blended.

In the interactive comparisons below, note the clarity of the foliage reflection, the clarity of the foliage directly to Lara's right, the detail of leafy foliage, the addition of aliasing around the cobblestones, the higher degree of aliasing on foliage, and the addition of aliasing on the building's porch next to "Reload Checkpoint".

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Specular Reflection Quality Interactive Comparison #003 - Very High vs. Normal

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Specular Reflection Quality Example #003 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Specular Reflection Quality Example #003 - High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Specular Reflection Quality Example #003 - Normal

Interactive Comparisons
Very High vs. High Very High vs. Normal High vs. Normal

At higher resolutions the impact of Specular Reflection Quality is less pronounced, though those with an eagle eye will spot the loss of fidelity on Lara's bow next to the second arrow's feather, as well as the aforementioned issues.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Specular Reflection Quality Interactive Comparison #003 - Very High vs. Normal (3840x2160)

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Specular Reflection Quality Example #003 - Very High (3840x2160) Rise of the Tomb Raider - Specular Reflection Quality Example #003 - High (3840x2160) Rise of the Tomb Raider - Specular Reflection Quality Example #003 - Normal (3840x2160)

Interactive Comparisons
Very High vs. High Very High vs. Normal High vs. Normal

At 4K we also see the impact on specular-enhanced terrain when the Specular Reflection Quality is decreased.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Specular Reflection Quality Interactive Comparison #003 - Very High vs. Normal (Enlarged 4K Crop)

Performance: Surfaces with Screen Space Reflections are far more noticeable in Rise of the Tomb Raider, but it is the surfaces with Specular Reflections that are in fact more pervasive, subtly enhancing many scenes, and clearly enhancing others. It should come as no surprise then that Specular Reflections can have a greater impact on performance, and have this impact far more frequently.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Specular Reflection Quality Performance

With this new Specular Reflection Quality setting players can now improve graphical fidelity beyond the level possible one week ago by selecting 'Very High' or 'High', or increase performance by lowering it to 'Normal'.

Shadow Quality

As the name suggests, Shadow Quality adjusts the quality of shadows. There's nothing particularly exciting to add, as the setting merely adjusts the shadow map size. In other words, the resolution and detail of shadows.

On High, the second best setting, some shadow definition is lost on finer details, like the chain link fence and leaves shown in examples below, and temporal instability begins to creep in. On Medium this is particularly evident, with dynamic shadows flickering heavily as they move.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Shadow Quality Interactive Comparison #001 - Very High vs. Off

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Shadow Quality Example #001 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Shadow Quality Example #001 - High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Shadow Quality Example #001 - Medium Rise of the Tomb Raider - Shadow Quality Example #001 - Off

Interactive Comparisons
Very High vs. High Very High vs. Medium Very High vs. Off
High vs. Medium High vs. Off Medium vs. Off

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Shadow Quality Interactive Comparison #002 - Very High vs. Off

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Shadow Quality Example #002 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Shadow Quality Example #002 - High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Shadow Quality Example #002 - Medium Rise of the Tomb Raider - Shadow Quality Example #002 - Off

Interactive Comparisons
Very High vs. High Very High vs. Medium Very High vs. Off
High vs. Medium High vs. Off Medium vs. Off

On larger shadows the loss of definition is less evident, though the trade-off is more visible shadow aliasing.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Shadow Quality Interactive Comparison #003 - Very High vs. Off

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Shadow Quality Example #003 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Shadow Quality Example #003 - High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Shadow Quality Example #003 - Medium Rise of the Tomb Raider - Shadow Quality Example #003 - Off

Interactive Comparisons
Very High vs. High Very High vs. Medium Very High vs. Off
High vs. Medium High vs. Off Medium vs. Off

Off, meanwhile, is only for the slowest of systems, completely removing dynamic shadows, and removing the vast majority of other shadows, too. The loss of fidelity is immense, especially in outdoor daytime environments where shadows ordinarily cast by trees and other objects are entirely missing.

Performance: If you've got performance to spare, setting Shadow Quality to High will give you well-defined shadows in most scenes. If you can however, set Shadow Quality to Very High to maximize the fidelity of the many shadows seen during gameplay, and to further increase fidelity when using the Sun Soft Shadows setting detailed below.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Shadow Quality Performance

Sun Soft Shadows

A supplementary shadow setting, Sun Soft Shadows naturally softens shadows cast as a result of sunlight. Typically this results in the softening of foliage shadows, though other shadows can also benefit, though not as noticeably.

Because Sun Soft Shadows is enhancing already-cast shadows, the quality and efficacy of this effect changes with your Shadow Quality setting. For instance, Very High Shadow Quality and Sun Soft Shadows Very High results in clearly defined leaves that are softened, removing the unnaturally sharp shadows that you simply don't see in reality.

Decreasing Shadow Quality, meanwhile, decreases the clarity and detail level of said leaves, and so softening smudges the shadow. This does however mask the low-res appearance of said shadows, and helps combat the flickering that can occur.

Below, our interactive comparisons demonstrate the impact on shadow visibility by changing the Sun Soft Shadow setting when Very High, High, or Medium Shadow Quality is selected.

Sun Soft Shadows, Shadow Quality Very High

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Sun Soft Shadows Interactive Comparison #001 - Very High vs. Off

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Sun Soft Shadows Example #001 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Sun Soft Shadows Example #001 - High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Sun Soft Shadows Example #001 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - Sun Soft Shadows Example #001 - Off

Interactive Comparisons
Very High vs. High Very High vs. On Very High vs. Off
High vs. On High vs. Off On vs. Off

Sun Soft Shadows, Shadow Quality High

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Sun Soft Shadows Interactive Comparison #002 - Very High vs. Off

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Sun Soft Shadows Example #002 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Sun Soft Shadows Example #002 - High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Sun Soft Shadows Example #002 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - Sun Soft Shadows Example #002 - Off

Interactive Comparisons
Very High vs. High Very High vs. On Very High vs. Off
High vs. On High vs. Off On vs. Off

Sun Soft Shadows, Shadow Quality On

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Sun Soft Shadows Interactive Comparison #003 - Very High vs. Off

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Sun Soft Shadows Example #003 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Sun Soft Shadows Example #003 - High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Sun Soft Shadows Example #003 - On Rise of the Tomb Raider - Sun Soft Shadows Example #003 - Off

Interactive Comparisons
Very High vs. High Very High vs. On Very High vs. Off
High vs. On High vs. Off On vs. Off

And for reference, here's how the scene looks without shadows.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Sun Soft Shadows Example #004 - Shadow Quality Off

Performance: Enabling Very High Sun Soft Shadows costs around two frames per second, and should be enabled on all systems in our opinion, if only to combat flickering of shadows.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Sun Soft Shadows Performance

Take a look in-game and decide yourself. In our opinion, less visible shadows trump flickering shadows.

Tessellation

The first half of Lara's latest outing places her on snow-covered mountains and in some other snowy regions. To depict her travels through these snow-filled environments adaptive level of detail tessellation is employed, creating realistic snow tracks as Lara, characters and animals move through the environment.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Snow Tessellation Screenshot

If that sounds familiar it's because Crystal Dynamics referenced Warner Bros. and NVIDIA's snow tessellation technology from Batman: Arkham Origins in the creation of their new and improved multi-platform technique.

The result is a more accurate and detailed implementation that creates tracks of varying depth and width based on the movement and action of characters. And as with the Arkham Origins technique, ambient occlusion shadowing is accurately applied, further increasing the fidelity of the effect.

Without tessellation enabled in-game, some snow deformation is still rendered in select scenes where the effect is crucial to the story. For instance, when Lara is tumbling and trudging through waist-high snow. In areas with only a light coating, the adaptive tessellation technology is disabled and basic footstep imprints rendered instead.

Elsewhere in the PC edition of Rise of the Tomb Raider, new PC-only tessellation enhances the geometric detail of many surfaces and objects throughout the game. Floors, walls, statues, trees, destructible barriers, climbable surfaces, and other game elements all gain extra geometric detail that improves their level of detail. Moreover, the added geometric detail is realistically shadowed by your selected Ambient Occlusion technique, and bends shadows cast upon them, subtly enhancing the appearance of innumerable scenes and surfaces for the duration of your time with Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Tessellation Interactive Comparison #001 - Tessellation On vs. Tessellation Off

Some applications of tessellation are extremely subtle, but not this one.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Tessellation Interactive Comparison #002 - Tessellation On vs. Tessellation Off

Examples of tessellation can be found in virtually every scene, further improving PC image quality. Here, the climbable rock face is enhanced, enabling shadows and Ambient Occlusion shadowing to be applied realistically.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Tessellation Interactive Comparison #003 - Tessellation On vs. Tessellation Off

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Tessellation Interactive Comparison #008 - Tessellation On vs. Tessellation Off

In the first hub area, which is predominately covered by snow, ground tessellation can be fairly sparse.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Tessellation Interactive Comparison #004 - Tessellation On vs. Tessellation Off

Later areas, as well as tombs and cliffs, feature many more enhanced surfaces and objects, improving the image quality of just about everything.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Tessellation Interactive Comparison #005 - Tessellation On vs. Tessellation Off

Performance: With a Maxwell GeForce GTX 900 Series graphics card, which crunches tessellation tasks up to three times faster than previous-generation NVIDIA GPUs, Rise of the Tomb Raider's tessellation costs around four frames per second.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Tessellation Performance

The new PC-exclusive tessellation is a mostly subtle enhancement that may go unnoticed as you charge through the game's environments. As such, if you're in need of extra performance you can safely disable it without harming image quality too significantly. Those who can enable the extra tessellation will bolster image quality that bit further.

Texture Quality

Unsurprisingly, Texture Quality adjusts the clarity and quality of textures game wide, and in Rise of the Tomb Raider four detail levels are on offer.

From our comparisons and over 16 hours of gameplay and testing, we can confidently state that the difference between Very High and High is minimal in most scenes, with only the occasional object or surface suffering a noticeable loss of detail. Below High, the level found on consoles, detail and clarity does decrease across each scene, with barely any surface untouched.

On Lara, close-ups expose the gulf in image quality between High and Medium, and reveal one of the few textures that benefits greatly from the Very High setting.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Interactive Comparison #005 - Very High vs. Low

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Example #005 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Example #005 - High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Example #005 - Medium Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Example #005 - Low

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

In the majority of scenes there's a minimal improvement on Very High, as exemplified by the following set of images and comparisons.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Interactive Comparison #001 - Very High vs. Low

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Example #001 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Example #001 - High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Example #001 - Medium Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Example #001 - Low

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

On Very High texture resolutions can reach 4K x 4K, adding an extra degree of detail. Here, we can observe an improvement on the wet rocks around Lara.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Interactive Comparison #002 - Very High vs. Low

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Example #002 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Example #002 - High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Example #002 - Medium Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Example #002 - Low

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

If you look closely there are a number of differences between Very High and High in this scene, starting with the generator on the bottom left of the picture; on the large wall we see more detailed markings from the freezing and thawing of water and ice, with Very High enabled.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Interactive Comparison #003 - Very High vs. Low

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Example #003 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Example #003 - High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Example #003 - Medium Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Example #003 - Low

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

Murals can be found throughout the game, helping advance the story and Lara's language skills. Like many surfaces, they're slightly sharper on Very High.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Interactive Comparison #004 - Very High vs. Low

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Example #004 - Very High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Example #004 - High Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Example #004 - Medium Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Example #004 - Low

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

Those with 4GB GPUs are recommended to use High as VRAM stuttering can be observed on Very High, especially when swapping between gameplay, cutscenes and cinematics, and between gameplay zone transitions.

For a smooth experience with those max-quality, 4K x 4K textures, a 6GB GPU is instead recommended. And to crank things up to 4K (3840x2160), with Very High textures and max settings, we'd recommended GeForce GTX TITAN X GPUs with 12GB of VRAM, as usage can near 10GB over prolonged sessions.

Performance: As you'd expect, adjusting Texture Quality has a minimal impact on performance, with only two frames per second separating Very High and Low.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Texture Quality Performance

Vignette Blur

An extremely subtle effect, Vignette Blur slightly blurs the corners of the screen in select scenes, highlighting that Lara is hurt and on the verge of unconsciousness, or the surroundings are scorching hot from a fire, for example.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Vignette Blur Interactive Comparison #001 - Vignette Blur On vs. Vignette Blur Off

Performance: Given the subtlety of this post-process effect you'll be unsurprised to learn that it costs less than 1 frame per second.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Vignette Blur Performance

Settings Wrap-Up

As you've likely gathered by now Rise of the Tomb Raider can be extremely demanding when every setting is maxed out. You don't have to run at max settings, but many an enthusiast desires that definitive level of detail. So for those that want to know, here is the GeForce GTX 900 Series benchmarked at three of the most popular resolutions, with max settings and FXAA Anti-Aliasing enabled:

Rise of the Tomb Raider - GeForce GTX 900 Series Performance
Click to enlarge

In our demanding scene that makes full use of the game's settings, performance is bottlenecked at 1920x1080, with only 8-10 frames per second being gained on our fastest GPUs when run in SLI. Other scenes run significantly faster, but this location half-way through the game better represents performance in many of the game's scenes and areas, in our opinion.

With a slight overclock on our reference-speed graphics cards we pushed through the 60 FPS barrier, and with CPU overclocking, custom GPU coolers (as found on almost all graphics cards), and the higher clock speeds that accompany said coolers, we're sure performance would be far higher for you at home.

If you're sporting high-end cards, and/or SLI configs, we strongly recommend playing at 2560x1440 and downsampling to 1920x1080 with NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution. Your GPU shouldn't encounter bottlenecks, graphical fidelity will be greatly improved, and aliasing noticeably reduced.

For max setting 4K gameplay, meanwhile, you're going to need the best of the best, and maybe even a 3-Way SLI configuration, which is supported by the SLI profile in our new Rise of the Tomb Raider Game Ready driver.

Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot

If you want to improve performance, consider dialing Depth of Field and PureHair down to 'On' from 'Very High', disabling tessellation, and taking Dynamic Foliage and Shadow Quality down a notch. The differences can be observed in the static screenshots found on this page, but during gameplay you're far less likely to notice, especially if you're a game who has Motion Blur enabled and makes constant use of the Sprint button.

February 5th, 2016 Update: A new game update improves SLI scaling.

NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution

To increase the quality of your graphics even further, activate Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR) to receive up to 4K-quality graphics on your HD monitor. How it works is simple: compatible games, such as Rise of the Tomb Raider, are rendered at a higher, more detailed resolution, and the image intelligently shrunk back down to the resolution of your monitor using a custom-made filter, giving you up to 4K-quality graphics on your screen. The video below explains more, and the images show how to activate the setting in the NVIDIA Control Panel.

Rise of the Tomb Raider NVIDIA Control Panel Dynamic Super Resolution Setup #1 Rise of the Tomb Raider NVIDIA Control Panel Dynamic Super Resolution Setup #2

With DSR enabled, textures benefit from improved clarity, aliasing is further reduced, objects have better definition, vegetation is more detailed, and distant game elements are clearer. If you've used DSR in other games you'll know of these benefits already, but if you haven't had the chance here's a look at how Rise of the Tomb Raider's graphics scale with rendering resolutions.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution Comparison #001 - 1920x1080 vs. 3840x2160

Rise of the Tomb Raider - NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution Example #001 - 3840x2160 Rise of the Tomb Raider - NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution Example #001 - 3325x1871 Rise of the Tomb Raider - NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution Example #001 - 2880x1620 Rise of the Tomb Raider - NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution Example #001 - 2715x1527 Rise of the Tomb Raider - NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution Example #001 - 2560x1440 Rise of the Tomb Raider - NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution Example #001 - 2351x1323 Rise of the Tomb Raider - NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution Example #001 - 2103x1183 Rise of the Tomb Raider - NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution Example #001 - 1920x1080

Interactive Comparisons
1920x1080 vs. 3840x2160 1920x1080 vs. 3325x1871 1920x1080 vs. 2880x1620
1920x1080 vs. 2715x1527 1920x1080 vs. 2560x1440 1920x1080 vs. 2351x1323
1920x1080 vs. 2103x1183 2103x1183 vs. 3840x2160 2103x1183 vs. 3325x1871
2103x1183 vs. 2880x1620 2103x1183 vs. 2715x1527 2103x1183 vs. 2560x1440
2103x1183 vs. 2351x1323 2351x1323 vs. 3840x2160 2351x1323 vs. 3325x1871
2351x1323 vs. 2880x1620 2351x1323 vs. 2715x1527 2351x1323 vs. 2560x1440
2560x1440 vs. 3840x2160 2560x1440 vs. 3325x1871 2560x1440 vs. 2880x1620
2560x1440 vs. 2715x1527 2715x1527 vs. 3840x2160 2715x1527 vs. 3325x1871
2715x1527 vs. 2880x1620 2880x1620 vs. 3840x2160 2880x1620 vs. 3325x1871
  3325x1871 vs. 3840x2160  

Performance: Using a reference GeForce GTX 980 Ti, the DSR rendering resolution was increased in a benchmark that is representative of Rise of the Tomb Raider's most demanding moments.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution Performance

And with SLI enabled, here's a second set of results.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution Performance

If you've got the hardware, and dial back the detail of high-cost settings by a single notch, a 4K experience can be attained on SLI configurations. If you need help configuring your settings, try GeForce Experience's one-click Optimal Playable Settings.

February 5th, 2016 Update: A new game update improves SLI scaling.

NVIDIA Surround

If your system is sporting three monitors with identical resolutions, you can enable NVIDIA Surround in Rise of the Tomb Raider, giving you a super-wide field of view, allowing you to see significantly more of the game world as you play. Here are a few shots taken on max settings in Surround at 5760x1080.

Rise of the Tomb Raider NVIDIA Surround Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider NVIDIA Surround Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider NVIDIA Surround Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider NVIDIA Surround Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider NVIDIA Surround Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider NVIDIA Surround Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider NVIDIA Surround Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider NVIDIA Surround Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider NVIDIA Surround Screenshot

G-SYNC: Eliminating Stutters & Tearing For The Ultimate Experience

NVIDIA revolutionized computer displays in 2013 with the introduction of variable refresh rates, enabling gamers to enjoy highly responsive, tear-free, stutter-free experiences on G-SYNC monitors. Reviews are phenomenal, and gamers everywhere agree that it's painful to play on anything other than a G-SYNC display once you're used to the flawless experience it provides.

With Rise of the Tomb Raider's and G-SYNC monitors, you can run, jump, explore and shoot in optical bliss with none of the artifacts or hang-ups associated with ordinary monitors or TVs.

Game Ready Rise of the Tomb Raider Driver

For the best Rise of the Tomb Raider experience we recommend updating to the Rise of the Tomb Raider GeForce Game Ready drivers. Included are the latest performance optimizations and tweaks for Rise of the Tomb Raider, and a SLI profile for 2 and 3-Way SLI systems, giving you the performance to play at 4K and in Surround. Download now via GeForce Experience.

February 5th, 2016 Update: A new game update improves SLI scaling.

GeForce Experience: Optimal Playable Settings With A Single Click

The best way to automatically configure and apply Rise of the Tomb Raider's game settings for a smooth, enjoyable, 60 FPS experience is through GeForce Experience, an invaluable tool for all GeForce GTX users. In addition to optimizing over 300 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 Rise of the Tomb Raider, to NVIDIA SHIELD devices.

Rise of the Tomb Raider GeForce Experience Support

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 driver updates improve performance further still. This one-click solution is perfect for gamers who wish to simply play their games, and for those with little experience in configuring settings for an optimal experience.

Overclocking

For increased performance in Rise of the Tomb Raider consider overclocking your GPU, as the game uses every ounce of power you can throw at it. Discover how with the help of our GeForce Garage guide.

4K Screenshot Gallery

To close things out, here's a large selection of max-setting screenshots taken at 3840x2160 in the opening hour of the game, plus a few further shots later into Lara's adventure.

Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC Screenshot Rise of the Tomb Raider 4K PC 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The Definitive Rise of the Tomb Raider Experience

With the addition of HBAO+, additional tessellation, thicker and more reactive foliage, higher-quality detail levels for every setting, higher rendering resolutions, higher framerates, Supersampling Anti-Aliasing, and other enhancements and features like DSR, G-SYNC, ShadowPlay and GeForce Experience, GeForce GTX gamers receive the definitive Rise of the Tomb Raider experience.

In conclusion, Nixxes Software have once again produced an incredible PC port, improving upon Crystal Dynamics' fantastic work. Go grab it now from Steam or the Windows Store. It's a great game, and an amazing piece of PC programming that'll push your system to its limits in the search of the best graphics you'll likely see for some time.

P.S. If you're looking for a new GPU so you can play Rise of the Tomb Raider, select GeForce GTX graphics cards are currently bundled alongside the game. Further details can be found here.

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