Unlike many games (Operation
Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis comes to mind), Ghost
Recon has a rather complex and intricate set of
graphics options that can change anything from how
realistic what you see appears to be, to whether or
not your refresh rate is good enough to mow down the
enemy that just walked around the corner with an AK.
Your ability to achieve visual perfection is almost
entirely dependant on your machine, and someone with
a P4 3.06GHz and a GF4TI4800 is likely to be able to
have all options on high (apart from shadows -
more on that later), and still achieve ridiculous framerates,
but for the average Joe with his 'average Joe computer'
(ie. Mine, P4 1.5GHz with a GF4TI4200), graphic selection
plays a crucial role in both the believability of what
I see, and my ability to respond to what I see.
Some people turn their
graphics settings all down to low to improve their chances
in multiplayer. Effectively, they make Ghost Recon look
like Quake (one), so that enemy's stick out more
clearly, and are easier targets. This has obvious advantages
on maps such as MO1 Caves, and other heavily wooded maps,
as when Tree Model Detail and Map Texture Detail are
both on low, people who think they're hiding under branches
stick out like a sore thumb. While I disagree with this
method of gameplay, and prefer a real even handed challenge
myself, I think that if you are willing to play what
looks like an aged game in order to get a couple more
kills that is your own business.
The most obvious visual
option in terms of framerates are Shadows, there
is no doubt about it. Shadows can look superb
if you are in the right situation, and add that extra
bit of realism to what you see, but the extra calculations
required to show them are enough to make even the best
graphics card stutter. In the following test changing
shadow detail from 'off' to 'high' made a 15fps change
in Framerate. Below are three images showing the
'Human Shadows' setting on Off, Low, and High
As with all parts of this
report, the final decision is up to you; a trade off
between making the game run smoothly and making it look
its best. Find the combination that works best for you,
but in general, I would suggest that no matter what system
you have, you turn your shadows (both Human and Vehicle)
to 'off' to maximise performance. It's not like your
going to be shooting at the shadow anyway (hopefully
you shoot at the target itself).
Character textures add
a lot of visual appeal to Ghost Recon, and help
set it apart from other similar games. The faces of the
characters, and their uniforms, are extremely detailed,
and when set on High can help to camouflage when hiding
under a tree or in long grass. Unlike shadows (see above),
increasing character texture detail from low to high
has negligible impact on graphics performance, and on
my computer only decreased the framerate by 1 (one).
Shown below are three screenies with character textures
set on low, medium, and high respectively.
Having character texture
detail set to medium or high is worthwhile for most people,
as the increase in visual appeal outweighs the small
decrease in framerate.
Character Model Detail
Changing the Character
Model Detail changes how many polygons each character
is constructed from. Higher polygon counts come with
higher detail, and look smoother and 'more realistic,'
as ammo pouches and the limbs take on more shape, but
it can also (as with all graphics settings) lower your
framerate slightly (in general - only to the same extent
as Character Texture detail). It is therefore worthwhile
to have your character model detail as high as you dare
to set it, as it will increase your visual experience,
without severely compromising performance. Below are
screenshots of Character Model Detail set on low, medium,
Tree Model Detail
Most of the maps in Ghost
Recon, with the exception of the Desert Siege campaign
maps, are heavily wooded, with trees taking up most of
the screen on your page. The enemies, and you yourselves,
use the trees to your advantages, as you hide under them
and take cover behind their trunks. It is therefore important
to have your trees 'look as best they can' if you want
to really feel immersed in the Ghost Recon environment.
I like to keep my tree
model detail turned up to high, because it 'feels' better
being in the game, but I know that on many systems, doing
this would render the game unplayable. I would recommend
having your tree model detail set to at least medium,
possibly at the expense of character model detail, because
you will find yourself looking at trees a whole lot more
than you are looking at characters.
Another way to 'have your
trees and your framerates too' in single player, is to
set treemodeldetail to high, and then (in the command
input - press numpad Enter to bring it up and Escape
to make it go away) type in "toggletreesmove" (without
the "s) and press Enter. This turns Ghost Recon's amazing
swaying trees into static objects, taking some work away
from your system, improving performance.
The following screenshots
show "treemodeldetail" set to low, medium, and high respectively.
Much like tree models,
map textures add visual appeal and believability to the
Ghost Recon environment. In general, they do not impede
performance noticeably, so it is almost a certainty that
you should have permanently set to High.
Map texture detail set
to Low and High respectively is shown:
Explosions look better
with effects texture detail on high. That is the simplest
way to put it. The computer will dig out higher quality
images for your viewing pleasure as the grenade goes
off, or the AT-4 trails away from you, and you will rock
back in your chair in a sense of awe (or shock, if you
are on the receiving end - did a grenade really just
go off next to me?). Even on low the game looks good,
but you get what you pay for, and if my system could
handle it, I would be sure to have effects detail set
to high. Anything else seems a waste.
Effects Texture detail
set to low and high are shown below
Texture compression did
not seem to noticeably affect my framerate or what I
was viewing when it was tested. I therefore recommend
you leave it on.
32 bit graphics look better,
because it enables a whole lot more colours to be viewed.
It also hits hard on lower end systems, and can chop
up your framerates. I recommend using 16-bit graphics
unless you have a top of the line machine. For the resolution,
I recommend 1024*768. It is sharp, and not so big as
to slow down your framerate. If you are running a top
end machine you may choose to go to a higher resolution,
and conversely, those on lower spec systems might find
that 800*600 performs better. For these settings you
must "feel your way" to the best combination for you.
Shown are (16 bit) 640*480, and 1280*1024, followed by
(32 bit) 640*480 and 1280*1024.
The "gamma" setting affects
how bright the map appears to be. Too high, and it's
like there are lights shining in your eyes. Too dark,
and you may miss the Russian soldier hiding under the
tree. I keep it simple, and leave it set at "50". I recommend
you do the same.
and Effects Detail
During the testing for
this report I could not find any noticeable change whatsoever
when either character smoothing or effects detail graphics
settings were changed from on to off, and in the case
of FX-Det low to high. It did not alter performance either,
so in my opinion, they should both be left on 'on/high'.
Shown are character smoothing
off and on high, followed by effects detail on low and
Any further questions regarding
tweaking your ghost recon graphics settings should be
directed to our