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The Division 2 settings, system requirements, and performance

The past few months have been a great time for major game releases. From the surprise launch and excellent experience of Apex Legends, to the tragic singing (not really) of Anthem, with post-apoc Metro Exodus journeys and more, we’ve had a lot going on. I’m just one man, however, and can’t benchmark everything. But I tested The Division 2 beta in February, and with the final game in hand, it’s time for the full update.

The good news is that performance has improved by about 15 percent on average compared to the beta, which is always nice. It could improve further over time, but given the impressive level of detail for the D.C. environments and other areas, not to mention the mature game engine, I don’t expect too many changes going forward. Also, note that The Division 2 is an AMD promo game, which means along with the AMD Ryzen/Radeon splash logo when you launch the game, it’s more likely to be tuned to run best on AMD graphics hardware. AMD CPUs, I’ll get to later, but basically performance is fine as long as you have a 6-core or better processor.

A word on our sponsor

As our partner for these detailed performance analyses, MSI provided the hardware we needed to test The Division 2 on a bunch of different AMD and Nvidia GPUs, multiple CPUs, and several laptops—see below for the full details, along with our Performance Analysis 101 article. Thanks, MSI!

The Division 2 hits many important features, but it does come up short. Two big issues are the lack of modding support and custom FoV. Other than a few reshade mods for the original The Division, you’re basically stuck with the game as Ubisoft provides it, and that likely won’t change with the sequel. That’s pretty typical of looter shooters, though, so if you’re a fan of the genre it’s the price you get to pay.

Field of View is more problematic. Some people get headaches or motion sickness if the FoV is too narrow, so having it locked down isn’t ideal. There’s of course the anti-advantage perspective (forcing everyone to have the same view restrictions), but this isn’t such a competitive shooter that I feel that’s necessary. Plus, the game auto-adjusts FoV based on your resolution and aspect ratio, so ultrawide displays would already have an advantage (in theory).

But at least there are a ton of graphics settings, you can unlock the framerate (or lock it to anything from 30-200 fps), and it supports every resolution I tried. There’s a photo mode as well, and the UI will auto-hide (and can mostly be hidden if you prefer), but there’s no way to fully disable the UI outside of the photo mode.

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Woah, that’s a lot of settings!

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Are you still reading this!?

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The Division 2 settings overview

There are a lot—and I mean, a LOT—of graphics settings you can tweak in The Division 2, 25 of them to be precise (and that’s before counting things like resolution, rendering API, and more). But as is often the case, the visual and performance impact from many of the settings is slight at best. I’m just going to lump everything that affects performance less than 3 percent into one large group, and focus the settings discussion on the things that can actually help improve framerates. I’ll also skip lengthy descriptions for most settings, as the game provides those.

The following graphics settings had very little effect on performance (see the 1060 6GB and 580 8GB charts above): Contact Shadows, Sharpening, Particle Detail, Reflection Quality, Vegetation Quality, Sub-Surface Scattering, Parallax Mapping, Depth of Field, Lens Flare, Vignette Effect, Chromatic Aberration, Projected Texture Resolution, High Resolution Sky Textures, and Terrain Quality. Some of those are a bit surprising, like reflection quality, others not so much. If you’re keeping score that’s 14 of the settings that only cause a minor difference in appearance and performance. Turn all of these settings to minimum and performance only improves by around 4 percent compared to the ultra preset. Woo!

Beyond those, there are seven more settings that only cause a modest (less than 10 percent) change in performance: Shadow Quality (5 percent, though setting this to Very High will drop performance 10 percent), Spot Shadows (6-8 percent), Spot Shadow Resolution (6 percent), Anisotropic Filtering (6-8 percent), Ambient Occlusion (5 percent), Extra Streaming Distance (7-8 percent), and Water Quality (5 percent). Again, combined, turning all seven of these to minimum boosts performance about 30 percent. That’s a bigger jump, but only in aggregate. That leaves just three settings that can give a more significant boost in framerate, at the cost of image quality.

Volumetric Fog (12 percent) determines the rendering quality of fog volumes, used for things like god rays and other effects. This can cause a pretty severe hit to framerates and many don’t find the presence of ‘fog’ that important, so this is a great one to turn down if you’re looking to boost performance. (This has a smaller impact in the release version; in the beta it could improve performance by 28 percent.)

Object Detail (13 percent vs ultra’s default setting of 60) is last, and a better name for this might be object pop-in. Set this to 0 and The Division 2 almost feels like a pop-up book. View distance for many objects is severely reduced and the level of detail on foliage and other objects is reduced, and I find the result very distracting. I prefer setting this at 100 personally, but that drops performance 5-6 percent.

There’s also Resolution Scale, which renders the game at a lower internal resolution and then upscales the result (while keeping the UI at the target resolution). I generally prefer to adjust the resolution directly, but you can set this to 50 percent to boost performance by 15-20 percent.

MSI provided all the graphics hardware for testing The Division 2, including the latest GeForce GTX and RTX cards. All of the GPUs come with modest factory overclocks, which in most cases improve performance by around 5 percent over the reference models.

My primary testbed uses the MSI Z390 MEG Godlike motherboard with an overclocked Core i7-8700K processor and 16GB of DDR4-3200 CL14 memory from G.Skill. I’ve also run additional tests on other Intel CPUs, including a stock Core i9-9900K, Core i5-8400, and Core i3-8100. AMD’s Ryzen 7 2700X and Ryzen 5 2600X processors (also at stock) use the MSI X470 Gaming M7 AC, while the Ryzen 5 2400G is tested in an MSI B350I Pro AC (because the M7 lacks video outputs). All AMD CPUs also used DDR4-3200 CL14 RAM. The game is run from a Samsung 860 Evo 4TB SATA SSD on desktops, and from the NVMe OS drive on the laptops.

I’ve used the latest Nvidia 419.35 and AMD 19.3.2 drivers for testing for these results. Future driver updates and patches could change things, but there’s not much I can do about that.

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