How to Improve MW3 Image Quality

After Tuesday’s marquee release of Modern Warfare 3, the honeymoon ended quickly. GameFront’s two reviewers (Xbox, PC) weren’t impressed, and disappointed gamers have been taking to Metacritic in droves to complain about the game, which they feel is only a marginal improvement on Modern Warfare 2. The General Manager of Sledgehammer Games even hopped on Twitter to ask people to stop giving the game low user reviews. That went about as badly as you’d expect.

Chief among the complaints is the fact that the game’s graphics look identical to previous incarnations of the title, stacking up poorly against the visual grandeur of Battlefield 3. The graphics look the same for a good reason: they are the same. Modern Warfare 3 uses the same engine as its predecessors, and only a few incidental inclusions like Screen Space Ambient Occlusion represent any kind of innovation.

To optimize MW3′s graphical performance, therefore, you should try the tricks that worked for Black Ops and MW2. Turning down anti-aliasing and shadow quality are likely to have the biggest impact on frame-rate. For some good screenshots that show MW3 graphics at different settings, check out the German site

There is one crucial tweak unique to MW3: Image Quality. Generally, “Extra” is the highest setting for all the Call of Duty graphics sliders. If you’ve got a powerful machine, and you want to get the game looking its best, turn everything to Extra. Except Image quality! For some reason, with this setting on Extra, the MW3 PC version decides to go all console. It causes the game to output at a craptastic resolution –1024×600 — then scales the frames up to fit the resolution your monitor is running at. Console games do this to keep the framerate stable, but there’s no reason to do it a PC! Instead, set your Image Quality to “Native,” which will cause to game to output graphics that match your monitor’s resolution. It’s the difference between blurry visuals like this:

And sharp graphics like this. Hi, Captain Price!

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24 Comments on How to Improve MW3 Image Quality

Jimmy S.

On November 11, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Thanks for the tips, Ben!


On November 11, 2011 at 5:47 pm

thank mate …it works !:D


On November 11, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Nice! I was wondering why the hell it was washed out. FIX THIS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


On November 12, 2011 at 2:35 am

How do you set it to native? In the config file? Replace r_imageQuality “4″ with r_imageQuality “Native”?

And set everyting to extra, except image quality. In the game menu?

Please explain..


On November 12, 2011 at 3:15 am

Never mind ;)


On November 14, 2011 at 6:09 am

I do not have the option for ‘Image Quality’ option in my advanced graphics. Does anybody else have this problem?


On November 14, 2011 at 1:43 pm

yeah i have downloaded the ka-os version of mw3 and i don’t have image quality option in the game
i have to run game in administrator mode cus when i dont then i got message
‘Modern Warfare 3 couldn’t write a file. The hard drive is probably full’
please help


On November 17, 2011 at 8:06 am

Dear JJ,
i got a same problem with u, there is no “image Quality”
in option, please help us, thanks


On November 18, 2011 at 1:41 am

See options while playing the game, it works really, set image quality to Manual to choose individually


On November 18, 2011 at 8:16 am

There is no image quality during the game or in the welcome screen.
also, i could not find any config file with the ‘image quality; option.

Can anyone please help?


On November 23, 2011 at 2:16 am

If you dont have Image Setting in video options, like me, You need to edit config.cfg in gameroot\players2\ folder, find seta r_imageQuality “1″ and change the value to 0


On December 9, 2011 at 5:43 pm

Nice post, I played the whole campaign and I could swear MW2 graphics was looking better…, thanks again, the quality here raised like crazy.


On January 19, 2012 at 4:50 am

i have hd6990 my image quality: extra but about texture qualiaty when i put in auto all sub[ texture, normal map, specular map resolution] run in high, even i put it in manual all sub back to high. how to make them run in extra?


On February 15, 2012 at 11:54 am

TENTHGALAXY.COM is right. I don’t have the image quality setting in game. Changing the “config.cfg file in gameroot\players2\ folder, find seta r_imageQuality “1″ and change the value to 0″ worked great. Made world of diff. I was getting scared there. The image quality was on ultra. weird.


On February 24, 2012 at 8:42 am

thanx bro…..worked like magic….


On February 25, 2012 at 10:59 am

how about ps3


On February 26, 2012 at 2:25 am

I can’t find ‘seta r_imageQuality’ anywhere,how do i change the config.cfg file?

Kenneth Foo

On February 28, 2012 at 10:30 pm

That seta r_imageQuality set to 0 thing was great. Modern Warfare 3 is now AWESOME!!! :D THANKS!


On March 11, 2012 at 1:41 pm

i can’t find the ‘seta r_imageQuality ‘ either…and how can i change the config.cfg file as i do not have the ‘image quality’ option please help..the graphics are TERRIBLE!

Mr.lonely player

On March 19, 2012 at 8:14 am

THose who don’t find “seta r_image quality” sud go to the folder where the game is installed, then go to player2 folder, there you will config file. Open it using NOTEPAD.

ALL DONE, leave a post if u hv any other difficulty regarding this.


On March 25, 2012 at 3:16 am

MW3 feels so…lazy. The textures are weird, the game is poorly optimized. I love the game, but IW was just lazy this time.

Look at WaW and Black Ops, they were optimized superbly and I can run BO at 90 fps with my bad system, and MW3 (whose visuals look MUCH worse than BO) run at 40-60. It would make sense if the textures were crisper or something but WHY would a huge company like IW make such lazy mistakes. They should learn from Treyarch.


On April 2, 2012 at 5:41 am

Why i get massive unreasonable lag when set to Native instead of Extra?
Although there is no such difference…however, FPS gets lowered GREATLY!

Help me! please ;(

Not Sure

On September 30, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Holy mother of God!

What a difference!

Logan Millens of InfinityX

On February 5, 2014 at 12:01 am

Thanks for this graphics tweak! I was looking into other FPS games and compares their graphics to my game.