The console version of Battlefield 3 is roughly equivalent to the PC game running at the lowest graphics setting, according to DICE.
An exhaustive hour-long presentation from Johan Andersson, the game's rendering architect, at the recent GeForce LAN 6 event in San Francisco, detailed in full how the game's PC visuals were put together and what its graphical settings actually mean.
In a nutshell, here's how Andersson broke it down:
Low = "lowest possible":
- Similar visuals to consoles, lots of stuff disabled
- Still contains the essential visuals not to be unfair in MP
- Minimum: GeForce 8800 GT 512 MB RAM
Medium = "good performance":
- Most important visual features enabled
High = "what the game is designed for":
- All major features on except MSAA (if you have DX11 card)
- Recommended: GeForce 560 TI or better
Ultra = "highest possible":
- Intended mainly for multiple GPU machines for 60+fps
Want to know what you're missing out on if your machine can't handle Ultra mode?
"Ultra sort of cranks things up further," explained Andersson.
"The shadows are a little bit sharper, the terrain is a little bit more tessellated. And also a big setting we have on Ultra is anti-aliasing. We use our multi-sampling there which is really memory-consuming and performance-consuming in general.
"It looks better but it's not a giant step in visual quality. So if you have a multi-GPU machine, like a dual 580 or a dual 560 for that matter, you can run Ultra at 60fps."
You can see the full presentation below, broken up into six manageable chunks. Make sure you've got your jargon dictionary to hand.