Face-Off: F.E.A.R. 3 • Page 3

Why Fettel for less?

At 720p, the PC presents a clearer and crisper image compared to the consoles and moving to higher resolutions greatly increases the effectiveness of the experience. In 1080p, image quality is generally improved upon regardless of which anti-aliasing settings you choose. Things generally appear noticeably sharper, with the softening effects of the game's edge blur filter having far less of a detrimental impact on the graphical make-up of the game. This is especially apparent when using 4x MSAA, in which any blurred edges appear sharper with less in the way of unwanted aliasing artefacts.

There is a small range of anti-aliasing options on offer in F.E.A.R. 3. As expected, both 2x and 4x MSAA obviously come as standard, and work in delivering a decent amount of edge smoothing while maintaining the sharpest image possible. In addition to these we also have the post-process-based FXAA, which aims to deliver even higher levels of smoothing still, but with a minimal impact on performance.

The end results though are somewhat mixed, which is surprising bearing in mind the success of our own experiments with FXAA: the reduction of jaggies when using it appears to be roughly on par with 2x MSAA but with an additional blurring of the image and less in the way of sub-pixel sampling. Jaggies are more visible on objects made up of small pieces of geometry: something you can see clearly in our 720p comparison vid above.

Fine details and edges become a little too soft in many places, most noticeably on distant parts of the scenery - not helped by the additional edge blur filter also present. This is less apparent in 1080p, in which the image is obviously clearer, although given that the performance cost of FXAA appears to be very similar to 2x MSAA on our GTX460 regardless of resolution, there seems to be very little reason to use it over the other options.

Speaking of performance, you should be able to get a 60FPS update with max settings on something approaching a Core i5 and GTX460 set-up easily, although this does come with a compromise to overall image quality when running at higher resolutions. Our preferred target frame-rate was achievable after reducing down anti-aliasing to either 2x MSAA or FXAA in 720p, and by disabling it altogether when running in 1080p. While this might irk some of those wanting the very best image quality available, there's also a real sense that reducing or even turning off edge smoothing completely has a minimal impact on the overall look of the game when running it in 1080p60. Here the most important factor is maintaining that extra level of sharpness and detail, while also preserving the faster controller feedback to the player.

Despite the peculiarities of the game's edge blur solution and the somewhat disappointing performance of FXAA compared to the more traditional AA solutions, there's no question that the PC version of F.E.A.R. 3 offers up the finest experience of the three releases. Graphically, Point Man's latest encounter with the supernatural might not stand out compared to today's biggest triple-A titles, but simply boosting resolution and frame-rate improves the experience significantly, as you would expect from a fast-paced shooter.

It's not all bad for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 owners though. The art is very similar to the PC game on both platforms and the differences are hardly striking in a direct 720p comparison. Ultimately, both are good games worthy of purchase, but given the choice, Microsoft's console offers up the better experience of the two with smoother frame-rates and higher quality shadow filtering adding that extra bit of polish.

Either way, F.E.A.R. 3 is well worth consideration no matter which platform you own. While the supernatural elements do not engender the same sense of terror as they did when the series debuted in 2005, the shooting is as good as ever, and the implementation of the drop-in co-op feature in the game's campaign mode provides a compelling reason to return. In fact, had Day 1 made Fettel central to the game's campaign mode - alternating between him and Point Man - this would have made for a far more interesting and varied take on the staple shoots-outs which make up the core gameplay...

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