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Seven Games for Testing Graphics

Gaming Graphics Charts For 2009: Updated!
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On the next two pages, you’ll find detailed descriptions of individual benchmarks and the test configurations for various graphics chips, vendors, and information about compatibility with SLI or CrossFire set-ups.

Fallout 3

This game presents a mix of role-playing and FPS action; an improved version of the Oblivion graphics engine enables its visuals. Fallout 3 uses Shader Model 3.0 to support high dynamic range (HDR) rendering. If you want to activate texture blending and anti-aliasing simultaneously, you need a state-of-the art graphics card because older GeForce 7-series cards can only do one or the other at any given time. The graphics engine renders the game environment quite fluidly, and detailed interior scenes that would have once hammered mainstream cards are no longer a stretch for modern graphics chipsets.

Those who want to stress their graphics cards to the max can install improved texture packages from modder sites, but these also boost graphics quality immensely. To ensure the best possible compatibility, though, we used the standard version of Fallout 3 for all of our chart testing. The 3D engine supports both SLI and CrossFire quite well. For our High-End tests, we set graphics quality to Very High, which also guarantees maximum visual quality. The highest test setting for anti-aliasing is 8x. We used a sequence at the Tenpenny Tower for our FRAPS test scene; this displays the game world with plenty of visibility and lots of objects/ruins in the landscape.

Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2 is a 3D shooter in the grand tradition of Crysis. Its Dunia 3D engine displays very nice DirectX 10 effects, particularly when rendering fire, shadows, water, background vegetation, and streaming sunlight through dust, fog, and so forth. We set graphics settings at Very High for the High-End tests, because maxing out at Ultra bogs even the best of graphics cards down too much, which is why we elected not to use that setting.

We ran the built-in benchmark sequence Ranch Small for testing, which shows people, a sweeping plain, burning grass, and various huts. SLI works well, but CrossFire runs even better, which makes more graphics RAM pretty important for higher anti-aliasing at 1920x1200. Our highest test setting for AA was 8x.

F.E.A.R. 2

This game is a horror-themed 3D shooter (FPS). Once Warner took over this label, the game was polished up with professional Hollywood shock effects of all kinds. The interiors and short sequences run very smoothly, and produce very high frame rates. SLI and CrossFire both work superbly; the performance boost from adding a second card is very notable. Overall graphics quality is great, and dream or vision scenes benefit from beautiful shader effects. We used the Maximum setting for our High-End tests, where the elevator scene in the Mission Ruin serves as the basis for FRAPS measurements.

Left 4 Dead

In its 3D shooter game world, protagonists bite, claw, and blast their way through hordes of zombies. The game runs on an enhanced version of the Source Engine from Half Life 2. Owing to very good support for multi-core processors and a modest appetite for 3D effects, gamers are virtually guaranteed completely fluid frame rates.

For High-End tests, graphics quality was set to Very High, guaranteeing the best possible quality. The highest test setting for anti-aliasing was 8x. SLI and CrossFire are both well-supported here. Whereas CrossFire delivered higher frame rates in Half Life 2, though, it falls off slightly for this game. We used a recorded timedemo to measure our frame rates, in which the survivors conduct a running street battle with countless zombies.

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