While it’s still a work in progress, AMD’s CrossFireX technology is already showing signs of its potential. We’re still not seeing any scaling in Lost Planet DX10, nor were we able to get 4-Way CrossFire to run with complete stability in Crysis DX10, but we saw tangible benefits in the other applications we tested with. In Company of Heroes DX10 at 1920x1200 we saw a performance increase of 1.5X when going from the 3870 X2 to 3-Way CrossFire with the 3870 X2 and a Radeon HD 3870 card. 4-Way performance improved by an additional 10% over the 3-Way configuration at 1920x1200, and 17% at 2560x1600 in CoH DX10. This game was the best case scenario that we saw for CrossFireX (we’re still crunching BioShock numbers though).
In F.E.A.R., the 3-Way CrossFireX testbed outran the 3870 X2 by 24% at 1920x1200, while the 4-Way system was 7% faster than 3-Way. In this case adding that fourth card really didn’t buy us that much. 4-Way CrossFire is also overkill if you plan on running Episode Two at anything less than 2560x1600. In this game you’d probably want to crank up the AA to one of AMD’s SuperAA modes if you insist on using CrossFireX.
As AMD’s Catalyst team has more time to work on improving their drivers, expect CrossFireX performance to go up from here.
What really excites us the most about CrossFireX though is its scalability. Not only can you easily scale from two, to three, and finally four GPUs, you can also mix and match graphics cards. With dozens of different potential combinations, this gives end users lots of flexibility when it comes to upgrading. And since CrossFireX is supported by cards ranging in price from roughly $155 all the way up to $400+, the technology is attainable for gamers at multiple price points. In comparison, NVIDIA’s 3-Way SLI is a feature that’s exclusive to high-end $400+ graphics cards. We appreciate the fact that AMD is making the ultra high end within reach of gamers regardless of their budget. By doing so, it certainly creates more work for their driver team, as they have to tweak and test compatibility with a wider range of products.
The other really neat feature that we appreciate about CrossFireX is its platform support. Not only is it supported by all of AMD’s CrossFire chipsets (both past and present), but also Intel’s. Considering the arch rivalry that exists between the two companies, it’s surprising and refreshing to see them working together for the benefit of the end user. We wish NVIDIA’s SLI platform was as open an AMD’s CrossFire platform is.
On the integrated graphics front, AMD’s Hybrid Graphics is a groundbreaking feature. By combining the Radeon 3200 IGP with a $50 Radeon HD 3450 graphics card, we saw a dramatic performance improvement in some cases. At 1024x768 and 1280x1024 we saw a performance increase of ~2X in Lost Planet and Oblivion, while Company of Heroes performance improved by greater than 2X!! We also saw a performance improvement of 30% or more in Crysis, while BioShock’s performance improved by up to 25%.
Now granted these performance improvements didn’t allow us to crank up the AA to max or anything like that, but for a $50 upgrade these are very nice gains. Gamers on a budget will still want to pick up a nice mainstream card in the $120-$200 range, but for the average joe who just wants to see what all the fuss in Crysis is all about, he can get a taste of the game without having to shell out the cash for a decent midrange card. This is a move that can make PC gaming compelling for the people who spend less than $500 on a PC.
In their eyes, it makes no sense to spend $100+ or more on one component when they got their whole PC for less than $500. Of course, as gamers we all know by now that the GPU is the most important component in your PC when it comes to gaming performance, but these consumers don’t have a clue what a GPU is unfortunately. Hopefully system builders and AMD’s board partners will include marketing material that promotes Hybrid Graphics with their 780G products (much like NVIDIA has done with SLI), so that these consumers can get educated on how the technology works.
We’ll be taking a closer look at the 780G platform and how it compares to the competition from Intel in a standalone article. Already though the platform looks killer when it comes to graphics; this has been a sore spot for Intel for quite some time, and with the debut of 780G, the problem is only going to get worse for them…
Elemental: Fallen Enchantress Preview Elemental: Fallen Enchantress is a standalone expansion pack and follow-up to developer Stardock's previous game in the series, subtitled War of Magic. That 4X strategy game was highly-anticipated and slated to compete with games such as Sid Meier's Civilization V for your turn-based strategy play-time, but was released in an incredibly broken and unfinished state that it never fully recovered from. Lead designer Brad Wardell apologized profusely to fans and set out with his team to go back to the drawing board and try again.
Almost two years later, the result of that proverbial mulligan is currently undergoing closed beta testing. In today's article, Will reports his thoughts on how Fallen Enchantress is shaping up, and will tell you whether or not you should be keeping an eye on it as it nears release later this year.
The Elder Scrolls Online Details Leak - Should Fans Be Excited? The Elder Scrolls Online, long rumored to be in development, was officially announced yesterday. Still in development at Zenimax Online Studios, this MMO aims to combine traditional genre mechanics with the spirit and sensibilities, not to mention setting and lore, of the immensely popular series of single-player RPGs. Though the game is set for a full unveiling in the next issue of Game Informer magazine, what appears to be the entire cover story article has been leaked to the interwebs already. In today's article, you'll find summary and analysis of all the alleged details, as well as feast your eyes on the very first screenshots and concept art from the game. Of course, the burning question now is, should you be excited?
ANNO 2070 Review
The year is 2070. The majority of life on Earth was devastated when global sea levels surged after the melting of the polar ice caps. Swaths of previously habitable land are now deep underwater, and sovereign nations are a relic of the past. But there is still hope...
This city-building RTS/simulation game from Ubisoft tasks you with re-colonizing what little land areas are left on the planet following a global warming apocalypse. Does it have what it takes to be worthy of your time and money, or should it be cast out to sea with the rest of civilization? Find out in today's review!
Hear that? It's the sound of the largest computer chip manufacturer in the world churning out new processors to power your gaming rig. This week, Intel is launching their next generation of Core CPUs, code-named Ivy Bridge. Like last year's Sandy Bridge chips, they're low-power, quad-core powerhouses that also feature integrated graphics processors. Want to find out more? Maybe check out a whole bunch of performance benchmarks on both the CPU and graphics sides of things? Well you can, in today's review!
Intel Z77 Chipset & DZ77GA-70K Motherboard Overview
Looking forward to those new Ivy Bridge CPUs? In anticipation of their release later this month, Intel has already unveiled the new Series 7 chipsets designed especially to take advantage of what will be the 3rd-generation of Core processors. In today's article, we take a look at the architecture of the enthusiast variant, the Z77, and how it's used in the Intel Desktop Extreme DZ77GA-70K motherboard. Even if you're not particularly interested in the motherboard itself, you'll probably want to see some of the new features that come along with it, so read on!
Mass Effect 3 PC Review
This latest release from EA/BioWare is the final entry in their trilogy of sci-fi action RPGs, putting you in a dire situation: rally the troops to save Earth at all costs. There was a lot of hype surrounding the final act of what has been a vast and highly-customizable story-telling experience, and the reception among many hardcore fans has been less than stellar. Even people that haven't played the game have probably heard about all the nerd rage going on over Mass Effect 3's ending...
If you want to cut through all the crap and find out whether or not the rest of ME3 is worth playing, come check out Will's spoiler-free take on the first blockbuster game release of 2012.
Batman: Arkham City PC Review Batman: Arkham City is the sequel to 2009’s smash-hit action game Batman: Arkham Asylum. As the name suggests, you will be reprising your role as the Caped Crusader and going against an even larger 'prison' filled with Gotham's criminals and villains. A textbook example on how to do a proper sequel, Arkham City takes what worked in the original, excised or improved upon what didn’t, and elevated everything to an even greater scope. The PC version suffered from a few months of delay, but in that time, Rocksteady worked closely to NVIDIA to implement some familiar technologies from the last game, such as PhysX and 3D Vision, along with new DirectX 11 optimizations. But how well was the whole package executed? Read on to find out!
Saints Row: The Third PC Review Saints Row is one of most unique series of games to build upon the open-world action template forged by Grand Theft Auto, and has met with plenty of critical and commercial success since it began on consoles back in 2006. This latest iteration, titled Saints Row: The Third promises the most outlandish fun and freedom of customization of them all, and in a much more PC-friendly package than its predecessor. Does it live up to those expectations and, more importantly, is it worth the price of admission? Find out in Will's latest review!
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim PC Review The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is Bethesda Softworks’ latest offering in their series of epic fantasy RPGs, as well as one of the most highly-anticipated PC titles of 2011. As the Dovahkiin, or Dragonborn, prepare to take the fight to the mythical beasts that have returned to the realm after centuries of slumber, all the while exploring a huge and highly-detailed open world.
The PC version of the game promises enhanced graphical fidelity, standard RPG trimmings such as hotkeys and quick-save, as well as unbridled mod support, something we’ll all be thankful for once they release that SDK. Skyrim has already sold millions of copies and set records for play-time on Steam... Find out why in today's review, which happens to be one of the biggest and most in-depth articles on the subject out there!
L.A. Noire Complete Edition PC Review L.A. Noire, as the name clearly states, is a video game built on the tropes of one of the greatest periods of American cinema: film noir. Developed by the now defunct Australian developer Team Bondi and published by Rockstar Games, this title has been out on consoles for a full six months before finally making its way to the PC. This “Complete Edition” of the game features improved graphics, keyboard/mouse controls, and every bit of previously-released DLC for free. But was it truly worth the wait? Read on and find out!