If you didn't know already, you do now: DICE's shooter Battlefield 3 is expected to hugely drive new hardware and OS adoption when it hits this fall, given the highly advanced nature of the engine and what it's produced so far, and of course the company's stellar reputation for quality community-driven titles. If you're in that camp, now is about the time to plan a new system build if you haven't already, so we've done some research which serves as guidelines for what to look out for and when.
Disclaimer: the game is still in the pre-alpha development stage -- more precise estimations will be able to be made as the release date nears.
Operating system & RAM
Firstly, BF3 will not support DirectX 9 at all, so forget the ancient, aging terribly XP and that dusty old DX9 card. DICE says Windows 7 64-bit and a DirectX 11 card are ideal, though you can also use Vista and/or a DX10 card. With a 64-bit OS, you'll need 4GB DDR3 RAM or more to take full advantage of it; lesser is acceptable but not exactly advisable on 64-bit. Thankfully, RAM prices finally dropped drastically recently -- you can pick up a 4GB or 8GB set for $40-100.
Before you start groaning, know there are numerous benefits to these new architectures including improved GPU and CPU performance, improved stability and security, more realistically rendered textures, and tons more, so you get your money's worth and then some.
It's been confirmed the excellent debut gameplay trailer was shown to the press recently (seen above) was running on a GTX 580 video card. This of course is the really high end stuff which should allow you to max out the game fully. If you're in this camp, you may also be happy to know DICE plans to "efficiently support" both Crossfire and SLI setups.
For those who don't have deep pockets or the desire to empty them on a single piece of hardware, note you should be able to max it out excepting some minor tweaking on cards a tier or two down; essentially you can save a bundle and only have to turn off or down a few more or less insignificant settings like AA and shadows. Not to worry -- your card, if you purchase wisely, will still stand the test of time, it's simply that certain settings are almost always very taxing. The good news for budget gamers is a 1GB card won't be required, but if you do have the juice, BF3 should take full advantage of it thanks to the Frostbite 2 engine's superb scaling abilities.
At this stage we'd recommend AMD's 6950, or NVIDIA's 560, both of which are good value for money in the short and long term; note price on the 6950 is expected to drop around June. As always, it's down to you to research what's coming up and what's best for your needs, of course. AMD's new lineup is expected to hit late this year or early next, and if rumors are to be believed, everything excepting the high-end will be a reworking of the 6xxx series, so with any luck, there will be no good reason to hesitate come summer if you're an AMD fan.
3D fans: the game will support "explicit" 3D stereo rendering, which will work with both NVIDIA's 3D Vision and AMD's new open-ended HD3D technology. Using this method, unique frames are rendered for each eye, plus deferred shading (more advanced and efficient) is covered, as well as all surfaces. The downside is performance requirements are higher than usual (two times the number of draw calls), so you may want a 580 or 6970 or Crossfire/SLI setup if that's your bag.
It can be assumed the requirement in this department will be at least what we saw with Bad Company 2 -- a Pentium D 3.0GHz, Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz, or Athlon 64 X2. DICE have been doing performance testing on a more than two years-old quadcore Intel Core i7 2.66ghz (likely a 920), but given over half of all ~30 million Steam users currently host dual core processors, this may be the minimum, with a quadcore or possibly even higher serving as the recommended.
Let us not forget the ever-important power supply unit. If you're reaching into the high-end department with your other components, generally we'd advise a minimum 800W unit, though amperage must be observed closely as well -- be sure to cross-reference. A formidable, quality unit with significant overhead will ensure maximum stability and long-lasting components, which should be top priority in any build.
Minimum system requirements (estimated):
- Windows Vista 32-bit
- 512mb video card (DirectX 10)
- 2GB RAM
- Dual-core processor 2.0ghz
Recommend system requirements (estimated):
Note considerably lower may be on the box, though this gear would likely offer significant improvements over the official requirements regardless.