With the release of Tomb Raider we’re introduced to an industry first physics effect that’s dedicated solely for realistic hair simulation. The news was happily announced by AMD last week, but the good news is that the TressFX technology isn’t limited to just AMD cards, NVIDIA cards can also run it since the tech is based on DirectCompute.
Now Tomb Raider itself is an impressive looking game on the consoles, but on PCs it takes a life of its own; much like the recently released Crysis 3. As for TressFX, here’s a small excerpt from AMD:
“DirectCompute is utilized to perform the real-time physics simulations for TressFX Hair. This physics system treats each strand of hair as a chain with dozens of links, permitting for forces like gravity, wind and movement of the head to move and curl Lara’s hair in a realistic fashion. Further, collision detection is performed to ensure that strands do not pass through one another, or other solid surfaces such as Lara’s head, clothing and body. Finally, hair styles are simulated by gradually pulling the strands back towards their original shape after they have moved in response to an external force.”
While TressFX certainly makes a lot of visual difference and adds life to the character, the effect itself can be jarring at times as the hair seem to float in the air as collision detection isn’t so accurate.
TressFX Collision Detection
Furthermore, there’s a lot of aliasing issues with the hair, especially with individual hair strands becoming very obvious with extreme jaggies, despite having the 4x SSAA enabled.
For testing Tomb Raider I basically grabbed all the cards lying around in our labs and fired up the game using the latest drivers (AMD Catalyst 13.2 Beta 7 and NVIDIA GeForce 314.10)
And these were the settings used for all the cards used:
And now for the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the benchmark results from the in-game benchmark for Tomb Raider.
While I wasn’t surprised at the performance from the HD 7770 and the GTX 650Ti, being budget cards and all, the GTX 680′s abysmal performance really took me by surprise in TressFX where the HD 7970 outperformed GTX 680 by 34%! Even without TressFX AMD seems to trounce NVIDIA. Clearly an optimization patch is in order because NVIDIA fans will definitely not be happy with this level of performance.
On the AMD front their claim that the GCN architecture is key to providing a great TressFX experience is certainly true, as the previous generation HD 6970 was totally brought to it’s knees with TressFX on.
Basically if you want a great gamin experience with Tomb Raider, any medium to high-end current generation card will do fine in 1080p. For TressFX, however, AMD definitely seems to win out, especially with the higher-end cards. Of course, with TressFX itself isn’t the end-all-be-all factor to consider to play Tomb Raider since the shadows are far from using anti-aliasing properly and they’re a bit too “floaty” in their current form. Fingers crossed for that patch that not only improves TressFX visuals but also the performance hit!