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Tombs, tesselation, and TressFX: PAR experiences Tomb Raider on PC

Tombs, tesselation, and TressFX: PAR experiences Tomb Raider on PC

Tomb Raider

$49.99 MSRP

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If there is one thing you must know, only one thing to sell you on the PC version of Tomb Raider, it’s this: Lara’s hair can look nice on a high-end gaming PC. Like, really nice.

Lara’s locks

Before we get into a discussion about a fictional girl’s ponytail, let’s go over Tomb Raider‘s system specs.

Minimum System Requirements:
  • OS: Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8
  • Processor: AMD Athlon64 X2 2.1 Ghz or better, Intel Core2 Duo 1.86 Ghz or better
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM (2 GB RAM on Vista)
  • Hard Disk Space: 12 GB free hard drive space
  • Video Card: AMD Radeon HD 2600 XT or better, NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GT or better
  • DirectX: 9.0c or greater
  • Sound: Standard audio device

Recommended System Requirements:
  • OS: Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8
  • Processor: AMD Phenom II X2 565 or better, Intel Core i5-750 or better
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Hard Disk Space: 12 GB free hard drive space
  • Video Card: AMD Radeon HD 4870 or better, NVIDIA GeForce 480 GTX or better
  • DirectX: 11
  • Sound: Standard audio device

I played on a rig consisting of an Intel i5-3550 processor, 16 GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GeForce 680 GTX with 2GB of on-board video memory. I installed the game on a 256 GB solid state drive. There, now we can talk about hair.

The PC version of Tomb Raider contains within its graphics menus an option called “TressFX.” TressFX is an AMD-developed technology that allows for a character’s strands of hair to be rendered and affected by physics in real-time, meaning a more realistic image for the player. It takes into account things like wind, moisture, and character movement, and the end result is an elevated experience.

That’s the theory, anyway.

In reality, TressFX is awesome, but only just so, and not all the time. It looks wonderful in calm scenes without much movement, or in rainy scenes where moisture would hold Lara’s hair down. Once Lara starts moving and her hair gets placed in a dry environment though, things take a turn for the strange.

Should Lara so much as slightly turn her head to the left, her hair will whip around and fan from behind her shoulder to to her chest, like she’s modeling for a new shampoo. If that’s realism, I want to get stranded on a dangerous island so I can get my hair to be so luxurious.

TressFX isn’t the draw for Tomb Raider that the doubled framerate for the PC version of DmC was, but then, Tomb Raider doesn’t feel held back by console limitations if you’re playing on 360 or PS3; it’s a complete experience no matter what system you’re playing on.

Ships aren’t the only thing crashing

Tomb Raider‘s other enhanced graphics have been causing PC gamers considerable problems. Kirk Hamilton at Kotaku reported a dip in frames with TressFX, as well as several crashes with tesselation turned on, and NVIDIA apologized to its userbase for poor performance – with a very passive-aggressive jab at Crystal Dynamics for good measure.

I never experienced a crash myself, though I’m only three hours in, but the game has been patched since its release, and it’s possible my combination of hardware isn’t on the list of what’s affected. Mind you, I also didn’t have any day one problems logging onto SimCity, and look how that turned out.

Just keep in mind that others have reported problems, and those voices are worth noting. If the thought of crashes, framerate dips, or bugs bothers you, it might be worth sticking to the consoles. Digital Foundry has the most extensive comparison between all three versions of Tomb Raider, and it’s worth checking out if you’re curious.

I also tried playing the game with mouse and keyboard, and it’s not something I could recommend. This game was built with a controller in mind, and it doesn’t feel right any other way.

Tomb Raider is a fantastic game, regardless of platform. If you’re looking for stability, or lack a gamepad PC controller, console may be the way to go. If you’re craving extra frames, higher resolution textures, and hair that could only rival the DOA girls or Nariko in terms of flowiness, PC is your go-to choice.