Ghost Recon Breakpoint DX11 vs Vulkan Performance

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Ghost Recon Breakpoint is a great game that was released in October of 2019.  The game has received great support and big updates along the way since its release.  In what is a not so common move, the developers released a big patch just recently that added an entirely new API path to the game.  Only supporting DX11 since launch, as of March 24th thanks to the Title Update 2.0.0 patch the game now supports the Vulkan API.  This opens up the game to provide a better performance, a smoother experience, and the flood gates are now open for the developers to squeeze even more modern graphics into the game over time.

Just from an end-user, gamer’s perspective, I personally love this kind of support and update for a game.  Usually, the graphics settings you get when a game launches are all that you will get.  Most games don’t receive large API or graphics changes or additions post-launch.  To see a game receive this gives hope that the game will have a long and interesting life.  Features like this bring new life to a game and extend the life and enjoyment of the game.  We look forward to seeing what more can be done now that the Vulkan API is in place.

In our review today we wanted to get to the bottom of performance and really find out if Ghost Recon Breakpoint is faster running Vulkan versus DX11.  We tested eleven different video cards all in DX11 and DX12 across different resolutions, and game settings.  Also Compared all the graphics settings to each other in DX11 and DX12, we compared the video cards to each other AMD versus NVIDIA style, and we even looked at AMD FidelityFX performance.  We think we have a pretty good handle on how this game behaves, how Vulkan versus DX11 behave and what video cards we recommend for playing.

Vulkan versus DX11 Performance

Let’s get right down to the main question at hand, is Vulkan faster than DX11 in this game?  The short answer is absolutely yes.  Except for one scenario, Vulkan did provide faster performance compared to DX11 on every video card.  The degree of performance is, of course, different, and we’ll talk about that.  Overall, though, Vulkan was a help to performance and not a hindrance.  You should definitely run the game in Vulkan for the fastest and smoothest performance.

Degrees of Performance

Depending on the game graphics settings, the VRAM of your video card, the resolution you will either have large differences in Vulkan over DX11, or smaller differences.  This game loves VRAM capacity, no doubt.  There is a VRAM counter in the graphics settings menu that tells you if you are enabling settings that exceed your VRAM on your video card.  It even lights up red.  When you are in these settings (which do apply and can be enabled anyway) then you will see less of a difference in performance.  This is because the GPU itself cannot flex its full muscle, it is being held back, or bottlenecked.  Vulkan will still provide a better performance, but it just won’t be as much as it could be. 

The way to maximize Vulkan performance over DX11 is to lower the graphics setting to a level that is right below your video card’s maximum VRAM capacity.  Only in this way can you relieve that VRAM bottleneck.  What video cards suffer the most?  The 4GB video cards.  They are simply going to be very restrained in this game unless you run at “Medium” or “Low” settings.

AMD and NVIDIA Performances

We also found that with the AMD video cards, there was less of a difference in Vulkan versus DX11 at the higher game settings versus the lower game settings.  Higher settings like “Ultimate” and “Ultra” had less of a difference in Vulkan versus DX11.  It still had a difference, and Vulkan was definitely faster, just not as fast as it was at lower game settings.  As you lowered the game settings the performance difference Vulkan had over DX11 widened scientifically. 

This is different than the NVIDIA video cards which seemed to be very even on Vulkan versus DX11 performance across all in-game graphics settings.  The only explanation we can come up with is that maybe the AMD video cards are more GPU bottlenecked at the higher settings, and thus Vulkan doesn’t help as much as the lower settings which are more CPU dependent.  Perhaps the NVIDIA video cards are a little more CPU dependent at the higher settings because they are faster in this game, and thus Vulkan helps them out a little more because of that.  It’s an interesting theory.

Speaking of CPU dependency, this is where Vulkan shines the most.  At lower resolutions, or lower game graphics settings, Vulkan provides the highest benefit to performance.  It seems DX11 is very bad for CPU dependent situations.  As the GPU becomes less of a burden, Vulkan makes huge strides in giving your GPU a proper workload despite the CPU budding in.  It’s really neat how well Vulkan works here. 

Video Card Recommendations

This game does love its VRAM.  If you have the ability, an 8GB video card is preferred for the best experience in this game.  With a 6GB video card, you’re going to either be playing at much lower settings at 1440p, or around high settings at 1080p.  A 4GB video card is not going to be as fun as you’ll have to lower to medium just to beat the VRAM bottleneck. 

At 4K we, of course, recommend the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti for the best experience.  At 1440p on the NVIDIA side, a GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER will give you a great experience.  On the AMD side, save some cash and go with the Radeon RX 5700?  But you’ll still get a lot more performance on the RTX 2070 SUPER.  At 1080p the Radeon RX 5600 XT is the way to go.  Even though the RX 5500 XT can have 8GB of VRAM, its performance isn’t that great at higher game settings.  The Radeon RX 5600 XT does a great job in comparison to everything else.

Final Points

Our overall final analysis is this, run this game in Vulkan.  Make sure you have the latest drivers and you should get a performance boost with Vulkan.  If you have a weaker CPU you will most likely see the most benefits.  However, if you have a lower-end GPU that is already GPU dependent, or has limited VRAM, the result might not be as much, but you should still try it out.  If you run the game at lower graphics settings you will definitely see an advantage under Vulkan. 

We cannot stress enough how impressed we are with Vulkan’s performance in this game.  Just moving to this more efficient API has changed performance from 10-30% depending on the situation, and that is amazing for just an API difference.  It’s really like a whole new video card if the gain is 20-30% just by switching APIs.  We also noticed a smoother performance overall under Vulkan.  The gameplay should be better.  AMD FidelityFX is also another option you can just turn on, and leave on, for better graphics image quality at no performance cost according to our testing.


Brent Justice
Former managing editor of GPUs at HardOCP for 18 years, Brent Justice has been reviewing computer components since the late 90s, educated in the art and method of the computer hardware review, he brings experience, knowledge, and hands-on testing with a gamer-oriented and hardware enthusiast perspective. You can follow him on Twitter - @Brent_Justice You can sub to his YouTube channel - Justice Gaming You can check out his computer builds on KIT - @BrentJustice

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