Low End PC Performance Guide: Borderlands 2

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The first Borderlands was a big success thanks to its massive world with a variety of creatures, a bazillion guns, comic-style graphics, and humor. Gearbox Software released Borderlands 2 with more from the first one, with new characters and little customization. Like the first one, it also uses heavily modified Unreal Engine 3, but with the addition of Physx effects, meaning you have more and realistic effects like cloth, blood, fluids, and explosions, available only with mainly mid-range-or-better NVIDIA video cards.

Test System and Requirements

Our system scored P4766 points in 3DMark Vantage with 3802 GPU score and 20083 CPU score at Performance preset.

 TEST SYSTEMMINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
Borderlands 2Borderlands 1
ProcessorIntel Celeron G550 2.6 GHz Dual-core2.4 GHz Dual-core2.4 Ghz or equivalent processor
Memory2GB DDR3 1600MHz2GB1GB
Video CardnVidia GeForce 9600GT 512MB DDR3 (Green Edition)nVidia GeForce 8500GTGeforce 7 series / Radeon HD 2400
Driver / Patch versionnVidia Forceware 306.97
Operating SystemWindows 7 SP1 64-bitWindows XP SP3, Windows Vista SP2 or Windows 7 SP1Windows XP


If you have played the first Borderlands with minimum requirements, you need to upgrade a little to play the second one; it’s been three years since.

 

Image Comparison and Performance

All of the tests were initially set with the processor’s stock clock, 2GB of RAM, and a GeForce 9600GT. Within the game’s settings, Field of view set to 90, Vsync set to off and Framerate set to unlimited. We used 90–second Fraps up to three times (3x) to measure the frames per second from the “Sawtooth Cauldron” level. Below is our benchmarking scene. All tests were done with the lowest settings at 1280x720 resolution.

GeForce 9600 GT 512MB | Borderlands 2 | Intel Celeron G550 2.6 GHz Dual-core

The following are image comparisons of each setting along with its graph showing its performance impact.

 

Anisotropic Filtering

Filtering makes the ground texture crispier and the paint in the middle of the road becomes more visible. Turning this to 16x made no evident performance impact and we recommend setting this to either 8x or 16x.

 

Bullet Decals

There’s no visible difference between High and Normal settings. Turning this off remove the holes created by the bullets. The performance impact is minimal and we recommend setting this to Normal.

 

Foliage Distance

The difference is very visible, turning this setting to Near removes the grasses from afar and only shows what is near. The performance impact is minimal and we recommend setting this to Far.

 

Texture Quality

The Texture Quality setting controls what the surfaces look like. Setting this to Medium made the surfaces sharper and other details clearer. Setting this to High made them even sharper. There is no significant difference between the settings and we recommend setting this to High.

 

Game Detail

There are no visible differences among the settings and the performance impact is negligible. We recommend setting this to Low since there’s no visible change on the scene.

 

Ambient Occlusion

Ambient Occlusion adds additional shadows to corners and objects. Turning this On reduces the performance by 8 frames per second and we recommend turning this Off to boost performance.

 

Depth of Field

Depth of field adds a cinematic look when aiming with iron sights. It blurs the background except for where you are aiming. Turning this On made a 4 fps deduction on the performance and we recommend setting this to Off.

 

FXAA

Turning this on removes the jagged lines on the edges and makes the game smoother at the cost of 2fps. We recommend turning this off to save additional frames per seconds, especially on low-end video cards.

 

View Distance

This setting controls how many objects and landscapes to show. When changing from Low to Medium setting, the difference is very visible. There are objects added both from afar and from nearby. Additional landscape details were also added. From Medium to High, there are also visible changes but to a lesser extent. From High to Ultra, the difference is minimal. The performance impact is almost negligible but we recommend setting this to High since the visual change from High to Ultra is minimal and still, it diminishes performance.

 

Physx Effects

Borderlands 2 PhysX Comparison

Phsyx adds realistic particle effects, such as debris, flares, cloth animation, blood, and fluids. The affected object also reacts to the environment, such as cloth responding to wind and blood coming out of the body.

physx

This setting has an impact on the performance to the point where it is no longer enjoyable. We recommend setting this to Low.

 

Presets

Borderlands 2 didn’t have image quality presets, so for Low preset we set every detail to its lowest setting possible, and for the High preset, we set every detail to its highest setting possible. Based on our recommendations on which detail should be turned on and off, we formulate our own Custom settings.

 LowHighCustom
Anisotropic FilteringOff16x8x
Bullet DecalsOffHighNormal
Foliage DistanceNearFarFar
Texture QualityLowHighHigh
Game DetailLowHighLow
Ambient OcclusionOffOnOff
Depth of FieldOffOnOff
FXAAOffOnOff
View DistanceLowUltra HighHigh
Physx EffectsLowHighLow

There are very few differences between High and our custom settings – the extra lighting caused by the ambient occlusion and edges were smoother in High than in Custom settings, caused by the FXAA.

Our system performed very well at Low preset even at 1920x1080 resolution, giving us 32fps on the average. Switching on to High preset, our system still managed to give us a playable experience at 1280x720 with an average of 37fps and 27 on the minimum. Turning on the Physx effects held everything back to “no longer enjoyable” zone especially at 1920x1080 with a minimum of 0fps. This means that the game stopped at certain points during the gameplay. Our Custom settings gave us very good results with 47fps on the average and safe 31fps on the minimum. At 1920x1080, we still managed to get an average of 30fps.

 

Tweaking

In addition to in-game graphical options, you can also tweak the game by modifying its initialization files (.ini) and further improve gameplay experience. In our case, we modified the “WillowEngine.ini” located at “\Users\[Username]\My Documents\My Games\Borderlands 2\WillowGame\Config\” directory. The following are the changes we made and some images showing the changes before and after tweaking. Be sure to make a copy of the original .ini file in case something went wrong during or after tweaking.

After opening the “WillowEngine.ini” file on notepad, press Ctrl+F and enter the variable to quickly find the line and value.

[Engine.Engine]

MipFadeInSpeed0=0

MipFadeOutSpeed0=0

MipFadeInSpeed1=0

MipFadeOutSpeed1=0

[SystemSettings]

DynamicLights=False

DynamicShadows=False

bAllowLightShafts=False

Distortion=False

DetailMode=0

MaxWholeSceneDominantShadowResolution=128

AllowImageReflections=False
AllowImageReflectionShadowing=False

bSmoothFrameRate=FALSE

DefaultPostProcessName=WillowEngineMaterials.WillowScenePostProcess

Change it to

DefaultPostProcessName=WillowEngineMaterials.RyanScenePostProcess

 

DynamicLights

DynamicLights variable controls the lighting and light sources. Changing it to “False” also caused the inventory items to look like this:
dynamiclights-false2

 

DynamicShadows

Setting this to False, shadows cast by the objects were removed.

 

bAllowLightShafts

Also called as “God Rays”,  shafts of light through objects and light source will be removed when set to False.

 

MaxWholeSceneDominantShadowResolution

This variable controls the resolution of the shadows. If set with lower value, the shadows are blurred and look generic. If set with higher value, the shadows are more defined and look the way they should.

 

DefaultPostProcessName

Setting its value to “WillowEngineMaterials.RyanScenePostProcess” removes the black outline on landscape and objects making the scene more realistic.

Before we made changes to the .ini file, we set the game to High preset with low Physx. Now let us see how it looks when we put together the changes we have made.

 

CPU Performance

borderlands-cpu-utilization3

cpu-performance2

The game requires a dual-core processor at 2.4 GHz. But even at 1.6 GHz, it is possible to have a playable experience provided that you have a better video card. Single-core processors even clocked at 2.6 GHz, held back the performance down to 30fps.

 

Memory Performance

There is no substantial performance increase going from 2GB to 4GB except for improving the minimum by 5fps. This improved the overall gameplay and you probably won’t feel the slowdowns during heavy gunfights. Going from 4GB to 6GB gave us nothing; this means that 4GB of memory is sufficient for the game. Removing the pagefile also gave us almost nothing. If you already have sufficient RAM, you don’t have to remove the pagefile for this game.

The game launches faster in 4GB by 4 seconds compared to 2GB. Having more memory than 4GB will not make the game launch faster, even if removing the pagefile. In loading a level, the differences are insignificant from 2GB to 6GB.

 

Summary

Borderlands 2 is a great game in a way that lower-end systems can run it with high settings at 1280x720 resolution. You can even tweak the game to gain more performance. If you have a high or ultra high-end system, you can crank the resolution up to 1920x1080 at set Physx effects to high to get the most out of what this game can offer visually.

2 Comments
  1. nice . well done !
    I’d never saw something tweake guide !
    Thank U .

  2. Thank you for your effort!

    Leave a reply

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