Battlefield 4 is now in beta, and one thing immediately became apparent to many PC Gamers testing it…Well, to be fair it’s two things: the first is the usual performance issues that are pretty much endemic of a game in beta, and that hopefully will go away soon enough. The second element is that the game’s graphics are the most scalable in the history of gaming.
Normally PC games have a certain range between which the visuals can be tweaked, and that range is normally quite wide, but not wide enough to let you play the game decently on a PC with specs much inferior to the minimum requirements.
With Battlefield 4 that’s not the case. Among the usual range of options it includes a less visible but crucial one called “Resolution Scale”. That option is a full fledged game changer, and allows you to tweak the internal rendering resolution of the game in order to make the game run faster (and on much slower PCs) via downsampling or to increase the visual fidelity progressively if you have a really beefy rig by supersampling, without changing the final display resolution.
The range allowed is between 25% and 200%, which means that you can force your graphics card to render the picture in a resolution as low as 256 x 192 pixels, or as high as full 4K (3840 × 2160), before stretching or squeezing the image back to your chosen screen resolution.
The result is that, while you have plenty space to increase the visuals of the game to almost crazy levels, you can also decrease it to the point that your grandma’s laptop, which is probably way below the minimum required specs for the game, can run it at a very playable framerate.
The screenshots you can see in this post were taken at two extreme settings. The first is 1920 x 1080, maximum settings and 170% resolution supersampling (the video card of my gaming PC simply didn’t want to go higher without crashing, but more powerful rigs can definitely achieve 200%), meaning that the game was internally rendered at 3264 x 1836 and then squeezed back on my screen to Full HD resolution.
The second setting is 1024 x 768 with all graphical options on their lowest setting and 25% resolution downsampling, meaning an internal rendering at 256 x 192 pixels stretched back up to fit. It looks ugly of course, but guess what? It ran at very acceptable framerates (always over 25 fps) on my crappy workhorse laptop equipped with an Intel Core i3 2266 Mhz and a Mobility Radeon 5145 that is normally grossly insufficient for any gaming need. That’s way below anything supposed to be able to run the game, let alone in a playable way. And it is actually very playable (you just have to squint a bit).
If you want to see it in motion you can check a video using the same settings by the German website PC Games Hardware, that managed to run the game at a framerate even better than mine on a Core i7-4770K with an Intel integrated graphics card.
This option is actually possible with other games, but requires a rather laborious tweaking process on your video card drivers, while the Battlefield 4 beta has it out of the box in its internal settings, just a click away. And we already know that the option is going to be available on the retail version of the game as well.
The best thing? yesterday we learned that Electronic Arts is planning to implement the same option to more games based on the Frostbite 3 engine, so we might find it in further games like Dragon Age: Inquisition or the new Mirror’s Edge. To be completely honest, no PC game should ship without it, as its usefulness to the end user way outweighs the effort required to implement it.