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Ghost Recon Graphics Settings
by Schenkanator
Published : 15th August 2003
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Introduction

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.

Shadows

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 (respectively).

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

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, and high.

 

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.

Map Textures

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:

Effects Textures

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

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.

Resolution and Bits

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.

Gamma

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.

Character Smoothing 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 then high.

Any further questions regarding tweaking your ghost recon graphics settings should be directed to our Forums.