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Is Your Windows 8 Tablet Fast Enough For PC Gaming?

First-Person Games: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Left 4 Dead, Unreal Tournament 3

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion set the standard for modern sandbox adventure games, and it still looks good today. Despite a reputation for necessitating high-end graphics hardware when it first launched, I'm going to give it a shot on our tablet.

Although 1024x768 is playable, I prefer to err on the side of responsiveness and higher frame rates. As with Star Wars: The Old Republic, 800x600 is a viable resolution on an 8" tablet, and that's what I went with, also selecting the Low detail preset, but bumping texture quality up to Medium and increasing the view distance to its highest level. The Distant Land option was enabled, too.

In this type of game, a mouse and keyboard are preferable, but not imperative when space is an issue. I decided to give the SteelSeries Free a shot, as well as the GestureWorks Gameplay software, allowing me to play the game through touch-based controls.

Oblivion still looks great and runs smoothly at these quality options. The Free worked as well as any gamepad I've ever used, despite its compact size. GestureWorks' Gameplay software is functional as well, though it takes some getting used to. You'll probably want to adjust your sensitivity settings to taste.

Left 4 Dead

Valve's fast-paced zombie shooter Left 4 Dead is one of my favorite multiplayer co-op games. It's also a great manifestation of the Source engine, which is also prevalent through Half-Life 2, Counter Strike: Source, Team Fortress 2, Portal, and many other titles. If Dell's Atom-powered tablet can handle Left 4 Dead, other Source-based games will probably work as well.

We ran the game at its highest detail settings with trilinear texture filtering, but with shader detail set at Low. Resolution was kept at 800x600. But again, that looked great. As for the controls, we couldn't get the Gameplay software running correctly. However, the SteelSeries Free gamepad worked like a charm.

Left 4 Dead runs surprisingly smoothly on the Venue 8 Pro. The gamepad provides excellent response. As with any shooter, however, I prefer a mouse and keyboard setup. I actually played through Left 4 Dead on Dell's tablet in a hotel room over Wi-Fi. It took two hours for me to realize I was having fun without the power cord plugged in.

Unreal Tournament 3

Epic's Unreal Engine 3 has a long and distinguished history of driving some of the most popular PC games, including the Batman: Arkham series, Gears of War, BioShock, Borderlands, and Mass Effect, among others. It's an older title, but I decided to take Unreal Tournament 3 for a spin, too.

I was forced down to 800x600 once again, this time selecting the lowest detail level, a texture resolution of "3", and the middle level of character LoD. Even with a big compromise in graphics fidelity, some of the game's maps still suffered from low performance. I eventually settled on the Torlan map for optimal playability.

The game's well-known camera spin issue occurred when I tried to use the SteelSeries Free, but I switched to GestureWorks' Gameplay on-screen controller and was fine.

So long as you're mindful of the map you're playing Unreal Tournament 3 is playable. Naturally, that's bad news for newer, more demanding titles based on Unreal Engine 3. But I can't say I'm surprised. The HD Graphics engine with four EUs just isn't suited to fast-paced gaming, even backed by Intel's more capable x86 architecture.

  • batman2142
    Same article with SP3 would be a worthy read since it gives a chance to see how their HD4400 vs HD5000 on the variants match up, and if possible a projection on what the newer chipset that wont be making into the current SP3 but might make into the refresh by holiday season?
    Reply
  • AMD Radeon
    Great Review :)

    Finally i see one noticeable advantage of Windows Tablet over Android
    Reply
  • blackmagnum
    Burn your hands on the tablet while gaming, why don't you?
    Reply
  • iPeekYou
    "...turning it into a portable PC gaming console..."

    Does not compute
    Reply
  • K-beam
    Awesome article, Don, I have had the same thoughts recently. I think we would have appreciated some more info especially on:
    - Battery (maybe most important when you speak of portablility) - how long does it last with this model. I was eyeing the Asus Transformer Book T100TA, which they say has a quite respectable battery (but is also more expensive)
    - Does a PS3 controller (free, if you have a PS3) work with it?
    I would ideally have liked to see a mention of the Prince of Persia / Max Payne (1+2) / (Older) Tomb Raider / Splinter cell (1-4) and similar older third-person adventure games. In my opinion those work marvellously with a PS3 gamepad. Ah, I forgot - I wonder whether the touch would work directly with games from the Monkey Island series. Ah, another great genre for playing on a tablet, that was totally missed here - turn-based strategy games like the Heroes of Might and Magic series and Civilization (4). And also the grand-daddy of "modern" open-world FPSs - FarCry 1 :)
    The biggest risk with those games is still compatibility with touch/Win 8.
    An expanded re-visit maybe when the new generation of chips come out from either from Intel or AMD?
    Reply
  • CaptainTom
    I mean isn't the controller choice obvious: PS4. It connects via bluetooth and has a touchpad so you can control the menus with a mouse.
    Reply
  • back_by_demand
    If you bought a Surface Pro 3 it probably wasn't to play games, but nice to know it is one of the best performers out there in the tablet range
    Reply
  • ScrewySqrl
    What I want to know is why has no one pushed an AMD APU into one of these windows tablets for gaming?
    Reply
  • K-beam
    I am also thinking SteamOS as dual boot...
    Reply
  • K-beam
    What's up with these multiple posts!!! Sorry for the splamming, it seems every time the page gets refreshed, the post is re-submitted!
    Reply