Mantle, first impressions in Battlefield 4.

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Last week DICE released an update to the Battlefield 4 game on the PC. This update supports the Mantle AMD Graphics Processor Unit API. A day later AMD released their AMD 14.1 beta v 1.6 driver which supports this API. There are known issues with this driver so be weary. All graphics processors based on the Graphics Core Next architecture are supported by Mantle. I’m not going to get into details about the architecture or which devices are supported, but if you would like that information just head over to the AMD site. I had a chance to quickly test the performance of the API and Game. This was a very brief test and there are no metrics associated with this, only my experience.

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Either way my setup is as follows:

Eyefinity with 3 Dell IPS monitors @ 1920×1200, with 16:10 aspect ratio. Gigabyte Windforce OC HD7970 card. AMD Athlon II x6 1090T processor, with 16 GB or RAM, and everything stored on SSD drives.

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Collectively in eyefinity the max resolution achievable on this hardware is 5760×1200. However I have been playing Battlefield 4 @ 5040×1050 resolution which relates to a 16:10 aspect ratio monitor with 1680×1050 resolution. Truth is the system could not handle the higher resolution and playing on low was not an option. That resolution was being played on high with a couple tweaks.

With mantle and the BF4 update, I was able to go from 5040×1050 resolution in BF4 to 5760×1200. That is pretty good, I thought I would have to wait another generation before I could max out my resolution on my monitors.

What does Mantle do? Mantle helps and assist the rendering process by optimizing it and sending batches from the processor to the GPU in parallel. DirectX is supposedly also capable of these parallel communications, but developers have not yet been able to achieve this with DirectX, and instead it sends the batches in serial. Basically with Mantle the information gets there faster, there is more of it, and it is optimized for the hardware as it is not a generic API meant for all hardware.

What does this mean? This means that if you have a slower multi-core processor and a mid range to high end video card you will see some performance increases. As it is in my case I was able to go from 5040×1050 resolution to 5760×1200, without any performance hits. Prior to mantle this was not possible on DirectX and the hardware.

What about high end PCs? Higher end machines, with really fast processors that are capable of fast single threaded processing will not see a big performance boost. Mantle is meant for the Mid range, the AMD sweet spot. There are also other hardware limitations to Mantle, lower end GPUs are not seeing a great performance boost either. Hardware is a factor here. The sweet spot seems to be mid range CPU with a mid range to high end GPU.

Mantle shows great promise for the future, especially for games that will be built from the ground up to support this technology. I’m also sure that there is some more performance that can be squeezed out of the hardware and API, it is still in it’s infancy.

Now if DICE could only fix the broken game.

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PS4 is failing, COD hasn’t changed, and BF4 is back on track.

ps4-rhombox-croppedAs of this writing the PS4 is having a little trouble. Their PSN network has crashed twice so far, units are arriving DOA, and some units have bad HDMI ports.

I hope for all the gamers out there, this is an isolated event and the 0.4% failure rate remains at that. We won’t know the full story till next week though, the first 72 hours is critical, this is the burn in stage. This is where people really put the system through the cycles, and if the quality is sub par it will come out during this time. Also real world use differs from the lab. Temperatures and environments differ from house to house unlike the lab/factory setting. This is not to say that PS4 will fail, if we learned anything from the 360 launch is that if handled correctly despite it’s problems it can still succeed and Sony needs this win, last time I checked they were deep in the red. Also Sony is loosing $60 per unit sold, which they hope to get back from PSN subscriptions and game licensing. Similar to what MS did with the 360 last generation.

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Recently here in Canuck land, Best Buy and Futreshop had a amazing trade in deal. If you brought in any old used game into the store you could trade it in for a brand new copy of either BF4, COD Ghosts, or Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag for the PS3, 360, or Wii U. I took advantage of this offer and got myself a copy of COD Ghosts and AC IV BF. Black Flag is a decent adventure game, something one would expect from the franchise. COD Ghosts on the other hand is the same old with a new setting. It’s absurd how this franchise is being milked for every last penny. It’s the same run and gun garbage of COD past, nothing has changed, level design is basic, and it is still full of newbs. This game doesn`t even pose a challenge online anymore. They need to do something about this franchise and shake things up. Once again I was very disappointed with this.

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Finally let’s talk about Battlefield 4. The PC launch of the game was abysmal, network lag, server crashes, and stutter. Plagued with problems reminiscent of the BF3 launch it was unplayable. Before launch there were promises of the new and improved Netcode, which was supposed to improve online performance. This was not the case. There were problems when playing online, sometimes it would appear that one would get shot around corners, it seemed that there was too much network lag. Sometimes the game would crash at random intervals, and servers would also crash at random intervals. I gave up and put the game down. Then came two weeks of server updates, and on November 14th a 1GB client update. What a difference the update made. Online play is now smooth, enemies are no longer appearing from nowhere, and the game is finally competitive again. Once again I am able to play the Battlefield franchise which I have been playing since the first version “1942”, in college on a LAN environment. If you’ve never played the BF games I suggest you give them a try. They are a squad based, scratch that… squad oriented cooperative games, you have to work together. If you play the lone gun man like in COD you will go down faster than a teenage girl on prom night. The only advice I have to you in this game, is always play cooperatively, this makes the difference between winning and losing.

See you on the Battlefield.

UPDATE: It looks like both systems have their issues after all. XBO has Blue-Ray drive issues. Glad I bought a Wii U. I think Nintendo is the only company that can build a proper gaming console. I’m really sick and tired of this beta culture.