Assassin's Creed III Benchmarked

Florian Glaser, 11/29/2012

A new era. In November, Ubisoft releases two candidates for the game of the year at once. Alongside the open-world shooter Far Cry 3, the action-adventure game Assassin's Creed III seeks to lure the affection of the PC community. This article is primarily devoted to the technology involved and the hardware requirements for the Assassin fable.

Assassin's Creed III

Even if Brotherhood and Revelations were considered more or less add-ons, with Assassin's Creed III Ubisoft is already releasing the fifth part in the popular action series. Although the fascination with assassination and climbing has somewhat abated and lost its charm (keyword hay-cart), this fresh offshoot makes an excellent impression.

Description

Like its forerunners, Assassin's Creed III is split across various time levels. In the present we control Desmond Miles, a cheeky spring chicken, who in part I -- spoiler alert -- is carried off by the mysterious Abstergo organization and hidden under the cover of the obscure "Animus" machine, in order to relive the experiences of his ancestors (here the templar-against-assassin fight dominates).

Abstergo's goal is to obtain the so-called Piece of Eden: a secret artifact that gives the possessor enormous power. At the end of part I, with the help of Lucy, an employee of Abstergo, Desmond escapes.  Assassin's Creed II revolves around the characters' flight. After the runaways have found an adequate hiding place, with his own Animus apparatus, Desmond is sent back into the "past".

Assassin's Creed III is one of the top games of 2012.
Assassin's Creed III is one of the top games of 2012.
In the present we are Desmond once again.
In the present we are Desmond once again.
Ubisoft sends us through world history.
Ubisoft sends us through world history.

With which we're already back to the topic at hand -- as the Abstergo story "only" establishes the narrative and cross-game framework. We spend the majority of our time with the Animus i.e. memory passages. While in Assassin's Creed I you slip into Altaïr's skin and fight your way through the trials and tribulations of the Crusades, in the second part you're on your way as the Renaissance-Italian Ezio.

After the release of the two supplemental chapters, Brotherhood and Revelations, of course fans were excited for the third offshoot's scenario. The French Revolution, our personal favorite, unfortunately wasn't their pick. Instead, Ubisoft Montreal went for the North-American continent and picked the famous American Revolutionary War. To be honest, we were a little skeptical when we heard the announcement -- and even more so when we considered the screenshots. Snowy white forests and brown colonies in the style of the Wild West don't guarantee much variety. The final product quickly taught us a lesson.

Without previous knowledge of the game things are a little hard.
Without previous knowledge of the game things are a little hard.
Shortly into the game we go to the opera.
Shortly into the game we go to the opera.
This is where the first assassination attempt takes place.
This is where the first assassination attempt takes place.
The developers again prove their excellent craftsmanship.
The developers again prove their excellent craftsmanship.
In terms of the technical AC3 performs well.
In terms of the technical AC3 performs well.
The engine has no problem with large crowds of people.
The engine has no problem with large crowds of people.

After the linear but quite well-staged introductory chapter (we go to the opera and take a boat ride) the gamer lands in an architecturally and stylistically well-executed Boston. Ubisoft does an excellent job of creating a believable open-world full of atmosphere. You discover charming details everywhere, for instance roaming animals (mice, dogs, pigs, etc.).

Highest praise in that regard goes to the density of people. Dozens of folks are going about their daily routines, whether in the marketplace or the harbor. They converse among themselves, go fishing, paint the walls of houses, advertise goods, carry barrels, saw wood, etc. etc. etc. Aside from a few KI and Clipping bugs, the illusion creates a "real" environment.

The game provides the tried-and-true delights of the series. Despite the new scenario, the typical "Assassin's Creed feeling" develops quickly. We jump, sprint and exercise our acrobatic moves through narrow spaces between buildings with ease. Great: Ubisoft tightened some of its loose bolts in regards to the controls (though they still take some getting used to). The former artistic quirks are now a touch more fluid and exact.

You can be the commander for some of the naval battles.
You can be the commander for some of the naval battles.
On the first ship we learn the fight controls.
On the first ship we learn the fight controls.
The captain fears there will be a mutiny.
The captain fears there will be a mutiny.
The action epic includes lots of mini-games.
The action epic includes lots of mini-games.
The characters' faces are quite detailed.
The characters' faces are quite detailed.
The developers do a great job with the costumes as well.
The developers do a great job with the costumes as well.

Technologically improvements are equally noticeable. Along with the quantity of characters, the quality of textures and effects (water, lighting, etc.) has also been enhanced. The main characters in particular score big with lots of details; though you shouldn't expect too great a quantum leap. In a league with The Witcher 2  Assassin's Creed III can't make it up too far; but most gamers will be satisfied with the visual effects. The graphics are good enough to plunge you into an imaginary world.

Also excellent: the music and the English speakers are delightfully high-quality. The "console" menus and the somewhat insufficient enemy intelligence aren't so phenomenal. In general the level of difficulty is most suited to beginners. As soon as you've internalized the fight mechanics and the counter-attack methods, AC3 tends towards being too simple. This drawback was true of its predecessors too.

Otherwise the action game hardly has any issues. Ubisoft created a motivating, atmospheric and distinct specimen of this genre. A little tip for the Assassin's Creed newbies: in order to understand some of the story elements, it would help to read up about the saga in advance.

The Canadian producers captivate with fantastic architecture.
The Canadian producers captivate with fantastic architecture.
The player meets all kinds of historical figures.
The player meets all kinds of historical figures.
Watch stations aren't always our enemies.
Watch stations aren't always our enemies.
Tons of animals are wandering about in this world.
Tons of animals are wandering about in this world.
We get new gear from merchants.
We get new gear from merchants.
For longer distances a horse avails itself.
For longer distances a horse avails itself.

Benchmark

The benchmark sequence we selected is quite demanding, once again. The arrival in Boston formally presents itself for speed measurements. The second chapter begins with a sweeping tracking shot, displaying an expansive harbor basin with several ships. The picture zooms in on the playable characters, who are received on the pier by Charles Lee. A close-up presents the detailed countenances of the two figures.

After a short conversation, we are led through the animated harbor-area in the direction of our accommodation. Along the wooden bridges hordes of ground staff bustle about, which truly works the hardware to its full capacity. We follow Charles Lee until a woman to the right trips with her crate, and oranges roll all over the ground.

The complete sequence lasts about 60 seconds. To determine the average display refresh rate we used the Fraps tool, as usual. In order to play comfortably it should be 25 fps at minimum in the benchmark.

Settings

The graphics menu doesn't exactly have a lot of adjustable screws at the ready. Resolution, texture sharpness, environment quality, shadow details and anti-aliasing: those are the only options. Changes are generally only noticeable based on the conditions of your current place in the game. Looking at screenshots, in some cases it's difficult to see any difference at all.  Even when using the "Normal" level the action-cracker looks little more than acceptable. With all the controls on stop the display becomes not only calmer (better anti-aliasing) but also somewhat crisper and more vivid. The shadow edges improve as well. High-quality TXAA is only available to certain Nvidia GPUs.

Tip: for the benchmarks we manually deactivate the vertical synchronization. In Windows' Owner folder, under Documents/Assassin's Creed III there is an .ini file named "Assassin3" (created after the start of the first game), which can be easily opened in an editor. Near the top we replace VSync=1 with VSync=0.

Normal
Normal
High
High
Very High
Very High

A look at the results reveals that currently AMD graphics cards are still at a distinct disadvantage. For example the Radeon HD 7970M: the high-end GPU still sometimes has to admit defeat in the face of the competing mid-class GeForce GT 650M. But at our Ultra setting (1920x1080, Very High) it still reaches the GTX 675M level.

We trust that AMD will be working on some improvements in the coming weeks and months.  Our drivers were certainly the most current on the market (see below).  Older versions should be categorically avoided -- especially as an AMD user (with the Catalyst 12.4 we had terrible graphics errors).

Normal
Normal
High
High
Very High
Very High

Results

Assassin's Creed III only makes moderate demands on the hardware. For 1366x768 pixels and high settings even a mid-class GPU like the GeForce GT 630M (about 30 fps) is satisfactory.  Very high detail and 1920x1080 pixels are distinctly more demanding. Without a potent high-end graphics card this action game quickly becomes a mass of jolts. Nothing less than a GeForce GTX 675M can shoulder the above settings with 25 fps.

The poor AMD performance also concerns the desktop models. As such, the Radeon HD 7970 is ranked behind the actually weaker GeForce GTX 660 Ti. In general, the CPU is often the limiting factor at low resolutions and settings -- at least with luxury graphics cards. As we are already speaking of processors: with the Intel chips HD Graphics 3000 and HD Graphics 4000 (both under 20 fps) gamers aren't going to be at all pleased. Cheaper or older entry-level models can barely handle the game, or can't handle it at all, period.

Benchmark table: Assassin's Creed III

Verdict

Assassin's Creed III is an absolutely obligatory buy for action-adventure fans. Ubisoft worked very hard on the conceptual design and development of the fable-universe. The game plays with comfortable fluidity and entertains at a high level. Audio-visually the developers did a great job as well. The same goes for the interesting story.

The environments turn out to be diverse.
The environments turn out to be diverse.
The English speakers are outstanding.
The English speakers are outstanding.
Among other things you carry out escort orders.
Among other things you carry out escort orders.

Test Systems

Many thanks to Schenker Notebooks, who kindly provided us with the three following laptops (mysn.de):

  • XMG P502 (Core i7-3610QM, GeForce GTX 660M, GTX 670M, GTX 675M(X), GTX 680M & Radeon HD 7970M, 8 GB RAM)
  • XMG A502 (Core i5-3360M, GeForce GT 650M & HD Graphics 4000, 8 GB RAM)
  • Xesia M501 (Core i7-2630QM, GeForce GT 630M & HD Graphics 3000, 8 GB RAM) 

The GPU driver versions used for the listed laptops were: Nvidia 310.61 Beta, AMD 12.11 Beta 8 & Intel 9.17.10.2875.

from left to right: Schenker XMG A502, Xesia M501 & XMG P502
from left to right: Schenker XMG A502, Xesia M501 & XMG P502

Overview

Show Restrictions
Pos      Model                                     Assassin´s Creed III
 Assassin´s Creed III (2012)
med.
1366x768
Normal
high
1366x768
High
ultra
1920x1080
Very High
 3NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M SLI
82.3
81.8
53.7
 5AMD Radeon HD 8970M Crossfire
44.6
43.1
32.5
 6NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680M SLI
81.2
78.6
47.6
 11NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
64.9
61.6
47.4
 12AMD Radeon HD 7970
56.4
54.2
39.7
 17NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti
76.6
73.8
43.7
 19NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M
82
79.3
42.63
 25AMD Radeon HD 8970M
43
27.92
20.252
 29NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680M
70.4
66.9
34.22
 30NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M SLI
82.8
81.7
37.3
 32AMD Radeon HD 7970M
37.7
26.252
24.63
 34NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670MX SLI
57.7
55.7
31.2
 38NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770M
76.252
71.622
30.282
 47NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675MX
66.8
64
27.8
 48NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M SLI
56.8
52.4
25.1
 49NVIDIA GeForce GTX 850M
49.4
21.4
 54NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M
76.62
68.054
22.84
 60NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675M
63.6
62.3
25.4
 63AMD Radeon HD 7770
55.3
51.6
21.2
Pos      Model                                     Assassin´s Creed III
med.highultra
 64NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M SLI
63
59.9
22.2
 71NVIDIA Quadro K3100M
72
25
 72NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670MX
57.3
56.352
21.42
 74NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760M
64.6
21.4
 76NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670M
66.2
62.9
20.8
 80AMD Radeon HD 8870M
22.4
21.2
13.4
 86NVIDIA Quadro K2100M
57
52
15
 94NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M
61.6
57.2
18.6
 99AMD Radeon HD 8790M
37
32
11
 105NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M
55.9
48.6
13.2
 106NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M
44.7
42.4
15
 107NVIDIA GeForce 840M
41.42
37.32
17.2
 108NVIDIA Quadro K1100M
52
43
12
 109NVIDIA GeForce GT 745M
51.9
44.9
12.4
 116NVIDIA GeForce GT 740M
45.952
38.152
10.822
 120NVIDIA GeForce GT 735M
37.9
31.2
8
 134NVIDIA GeForce GT 730M
36.612
34.292
11.732
 136*NVIDIA GeForce GT 645M
45
39.4
11.4
 138AMD Radeon HD 8750M
20.9
19.4
7.3
 145NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M
42.32
37.562
12.732
Pos      Model                                     Assassin´s Creed III
med.highultra
 173AMD Radeon HD 8730M
18.1
16.8
6.8
 190AMD Radeon HD 8650G + HD 8670M Dual Graphics
15.8
 193AMD Radeon HD 8550G + HD 8670M Dual Graphics
13.9
12.7
 213AMD Radeon HD 8650G
16.7
 218NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M
354
294
8.12
 225NVIDIA GeForce GT 720M
27.7
24.9
 227Intel Iris Graphics 5100
17.6
14.2
5.8
 231AMD Radeon HD 8450G + Radeon HD 8570M Dual Graphics
6.8
 233NVIDIA Quadro K610M
33
26
7
 234AMD Radeon HD 8550M
7.2
6.8
 239Intel HD Graphics 4600
14.9
 244AMD Radeon HD 7660G
16
14.3
9.8
 248Intel HD Graphics 5000
16.56
11.23
 261ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650
23.4
20.4
5.1
 271AMD Radeon HD 7610M
29
22
5
 276Intel HD Graphics 4400
11.4
 279AMD Radeon HD 7550M
24.2
17.8
 287AMD Radeon HD 7600G
9.1
7.6
 313Intel HD Graphics 4000
17.352
15.5
3.7
 316AMD Radeon R5 (Beema)
10.5
10
Pos      Model                                     Assassin´s Creed III
med.highultra
 326AMD Radeon HD 8450G
8
 342AMD Radeon HD 8330
10.1
 364AMD Radeon HD 7420G
10
8.5
 404Intel HD Graphics 3000
12.32
12
 426Intel HD Graphics 2500
13.8
* Smaller values are better. / * Approximate position

 

Legend
5Stutters – This game is very likely to stutter and have poor frame rates. Based on all known benchmarks using the specified graphical settings, average frame rates are expected to fall below 25fps
May Stutter – This graphics card has not been explicitly tested on this game. Based on interpolated information from surrounding graphics cards of similar performance levels, stutters and poor frame rates are expected.
30Fluent – Based on all known benchmarks using the specified graphical settings, this game should run at or above 25fps
40Fluent – Based on all known benchmarks using the specified graphical settings, this game should run at or above 35fps
May Run Fluently – This graphics card has not been explicitly tested on this game. Based on interpolated information from surrounding graphics cards of similar performance levels, fluent frame rates are expected.
123Uncertain – This graphics card experienced unexpected performance issues during testing for this game. A slower card may be able to achieve better and more consistent frame rates than this particular GPU running the same benchmark scene.
Uncertain – This graphics card has not been explicitly tested on this game and no reliable interpolation can be made based on the performances of surrounding cards of the same class or family.
The value in the fields displays the average frame rate of all values in the database. Move your cursor over the value to see individual results.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Assassin's Creed III Benchmarked
Author: Florian Glaser, 2012-11-29 (Update: 2012-11-29)