Testing Oblivion: Not Quite A Straightforward Matter
As well as beating most PCs to a bloody, whimpering pulp in terms of performance requirements, Oblivion also presents unique problems when producing benchmark results. For starters, the game lacks any kind of integrated benchmarking or timedemo facility. And that means manual run-throughs using a frame rate capturing utility such as FRAPS is the order of the day.
On the upside, using FRAPS ensures that every feature of the game engine is running, including AI, physics, and weather simulations which ensures the test results reflect real-world frame rates. It also makes achieving consistent, repeatable measurements a little tricky. For this reason we've avoided character interactions and combat in our benchmark tests - it's simply too difficult to keep the on-screen action consistent with each pass through the benchmark.
Of course, Oblivion is hardly the only game that lacks a built-in benchmarking tool. But where it does stand out is for the enormous breadth and variation of the visual feast it serves up. Whether it's dark and dingy dungeons, spectacular city scenes, dense forest locations or huge outdoor vistas, Oblivion has it all. Each makes its own subtly different demand on system resources and with that in mind, we knocked up a trio of benchmarks that reflect the three gameplay scenarios in Oblivion.
The Three Shades Of Oblivion
The Great Forest
The first and comfortably most-demanding test takes place in the Great Forest. We've chosen a daytime location that really shows off Oblivion's HDR capabilities and includes dense foliage along with an example of the stunning Elven-like ruins. If a system setup can handle this benchmark, it will slice through anything else the game can serve up with relative ease.
Oblivion packs a variety of underground environments, ranging from dark and dingy dungeons to dilapidated mines and seedy city sewers. But arguably, the most spectacular and atmospheric are the Elven catacombs. Although the relatively narrow confines of these levels makes them among the least stressful on your system, they're an excellent test of pixel-shader and HDR-lighting performance.
Choosing the most impressive scene from the incredible range of locations Oblivion has to offer is practically impossible. But the awesome Imperial City would certainly be on the shortlist. The height and scale of the buildings is only matched by the beauty of the statues and the intricate detailing of the columns. This is a serious test of any system, if slightly less brutal than our Great Forest benchmark.