Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box, Performance Analysis

Image-Quality Settings

It turns out that Burnout Paradise is easy to run, especially considering how darn good it looks. Because of this, we have set all of the visual-quality settings to their highest levels for all our tests, except for the Screen Space Ambient Occlusion (SSAO) feature. We only enabled SSAO in its own dedicated benchmark comparison.

Image Quality: Radeon vs. GeForce

First off, we took a few screen shots from the Radeon HD 4850 card and compared them to results we got from a GeForce GTX 260. At first glance, the image quality appears absolutely identical, without anti-aliasing (AA), with 8x multi-sampling anti-aliasing (MSAA) enabled, and then with SSAO enabled:

Upon closer inspection, we start to see some noticeable differences during game play. The one that stands out the most is the shadow quality of the car's rear spoiler. On the Radeon cards, this shadow appears clean, but on the GeForce cards, the shadow has banding artifacts, as if it's a lower resolution than the Radeon's shadow.

Other differences appear with a little more scrutiny. The GeForce cards, for example, seem to display deeper-and-darker shadows such as the one under the player's car. The Radeon shadows appear lighter and paler in comparison.

We can also see some differences in the way the buildings are affected by light. There appears to be some brightness/contrast fluctuations on certain objects, but there's nothing else of real note. The 8x AA quality seems right on par for both cards.

The good news is, on the whole, it really doesn’t matter from which vendor your graphics card came if you’re worried about image or AA quality. The only issue we ever actually noticed while playing was the banding shadows on the player's car, and this isn't going to make or break your gaming experience.

SSAO Visual Setting: What is it and what can it do?

SSAO is the new buzz word in modern 3D engine lighting realism, pioneered in the once-bleeding-edge title Crysis. Simply put, ambient occlusion is an illumination algorithm that simulates many aspects of ray tracing. It can illuminate the entire scene globally, while highlighting the way that light has a difficult time penetrating confined or closed spaces, such as cracks. The bottom line is that lighting looks much more realistic with the ambient occlusion setting turned on.

Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. The method that Burnout Paradise uses to render ambient occlusion causes a strange dark halo effect around thin items in the scene. It’s especially distracting on items like railings and telephone pole wire. When enabled, it also causes a massive frame-rate hit as we will see later in the benchmarks.

Here's an example of SSAO. The SSAO feature seemed to work similarly between the GeForce and Radeon cards, aside from the brightness differences they already exhibited:

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  • cruiseoveride
    Where is the people's champion? The HD4870?

    I felt the lighting looked a little more natural on the geforce. The colour on the radeon looked better though
  • IzzyCraft
    I like the nvidia shadows more makes it less bland look imo a more definitive look which i like.

    I was wonding why no 4870 like above.

    SSAO on :) reminds me of ripping dvd's and messing with sharpness, debanding etc the telephone wire atleast.
  • enterco
    Considering how 'hardware friendly' is this game, probably it will be very successful.
  • SpadeM
    The first screen shot comparison is quite tricky :) on the first look you might think the geforce does not render the red car at all.
  • ufo_warviper
    Nice article so far. I'm still reading the article, but I just wanted to point out that on page 7 of this review, I think the author somehow confused (a couple times) the 4830 with the 4850, and also the GTS 250 with the GTX 260 cards.


    With the resolution increased to 1920x1200, only the Radeon HD 4830 and GeForce GTS 250 barely pass the playable standard with over 30 FPS minimum frame rates.

    Clearly, he meant the other cards here.
  • IzzyCraft
    SpadeMThe first screen shot comparison is quite tricky on the first look you might think the geforce does not render the red car at all.

    A roll over png or jpg would have probably done better then the color restrivie .gif that was used, Shame that IE8 doesn't support APNG like opera and ff does, it would def make the format much more popular.
  • chyll2
    I really like the additional benchmark that imitates different number of cores and clocks. It gives us an idea of performance we would get on similar specs with our system.
  • linaaslt
    Somehow i missed benches from hd4770 or 4870/4890 and gtx275. but maybe it's because this game doesn't require good GPU to be playable.
  • zehpavora
    I think that, if you want to play this game with 8x MSAA, 8x AA, and High settings, a GTX 275 SLI will work. This game must be amazing at those settings! I like Race Games too, but NSF also lost me on Pro Street. I hope Burnout delivers what EA couldn't...
  • DjEaZy
    Phenom 940 @ 3400 [no need to amp voltage]
    HD4870 core@790 GRAM512Mb@4400Mhz
    2x2GB 1066Mhz 5-5-5-15
    this all on 22"@1680x1050 all fx crankt up...
  • Mottamort
    A great and thorough article. Good job Toms :)
  • Mottamort
    @ DjEaZy

    50~100fps ?
    How were you able to get past the 60 ceiling into the 100's?
  • neiroatopelcc
    It's a nice game alright, but it has one drawback that offsets how easy it is to run it. It has no LAN only gaming options, so how little hardware is required becomes irrelevant as you're forced to have internet access to play with your own family.
  • DjEaZy
    ... tha 100fps iz rear in the hills... just turned v-sync off and turn up tha AMD fusion tool... it's rear, that it drops below 50fps...
  • cknobman
    ATI image quality blows Nvidia away, hands down. (for the record I own a GeForce so no ATI fanboy here)
  • bill gates is your daddy
    DjEaZy... tha 100fps iz rear in the hills... just turned v-sync off and turn up tha AMD fusion tool... it's rear, that it drops below 50fps...

    That's funny. I guess Don was lying to us when he wrote the following...

    "While EA was nice enough to provide us with testing materials, it wasn't able to give us access to the developers to see if there was a way around the vsync limitation for our benchmarks. Regardless, we will benchmark with a 60 frame per second (FPS) limit cap, and this will reflect exactly the kind of experience that you, the user, will have."
  • erloas
    Well the 60Hz V-sync limit is only the limit if that is what your monitor refreshed at. If someone has a good quality CRT still its very possible to have them with refresh rates in the 75-85Hz range. I haven't see any with 100Hz refresh yet. (I happen to be using a 21" CRT still that does 75Hz at 1600x1200. I've got a 26" LCD in the mail though, we'll see how they compare)
  • bill gates is your daddy
    "Up front, we have to say that there is no way to turn off vsync in this game. Forcing vsync off with the Radeon or GeForce drivers had no effect."

    "It looks like every card we tested is bumping up against the 60 FPS vsync limit"

    "hitting the 60 FPS vsync barrier"

    "still hitting the vsync barrier, suggesting it has more to give"

    Everyone claiming they reached higher fps rates please post how you did it and show screenshots for proof.
  • DjEaZy
    ... maybe a glitch in FRAPS?!...
  • Geibys
    Liked the article but when they do game reviews or tests like this article why don't they use the Nvidia Performance to crank up the settings to 16xQ in the control panel to see if there is a difference, especially with the new Antialiasing SLI mode.