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Looking over the performance results, it’s clear to see that both AMD and NVIDIA’s Windows Vista drivers have come a long way in the past seven months. NVIDIA in particular has made tremendous strides with their latest Vista driver, SLI support is fully functional for all GeForce card owners and it scales well in most cases. Unfortunately, CrossFire compatibility is still an issue for AMD. New games like BioShock and World in Conflict don't support CrossFire at this time, and Lost Planet and Quake Wars have graphical glitches. Let’s go over the results shall we?
F.E.A.R. and Oblivion were easily the best case examples for both AMD and NVIDIA. Performance with both of these games was largely similar regardless of the OS tested, whether we were running a single card or with two GPUs. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. didn’t scale quite as perfectly as F.E.A.R. and Oblivion under Windows Vista with the Radeon HD 2900 XT and GeForce 8800 GTX, but it was pretty close.
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars ran similarly on all the AMD configs we tested with regardless of OS used, although as we noted last week we witnessed numerous graphical glitches when running this game with CrossFire enabled: basically it runs, but it doesn’t always look pretty. NVIDIA’s single card performance was excellent in Quake Wars, but under SLI we did notice a performance hit under Vista for the GeForce 8800 GTX and 7900 GT SLI configs. In the case of the GeForce 8800 GTX SLI, performance was off by 8% for 32-bit Vista compared to WinXP at 1600x1200. That margin shrinks to 4% at 1920x1200.
Company of Heroes took a hit of 4% at 1600x1200 with the GeForce 8800 GTX and 5% with SLI but this figure is reduced down to 2-3% at 1920x1200. Honestly though this is such an imperceptible difference that you’ll likely never feel it in game.
BioShock is the one title that AMD really needs to work on. As we noted in our BioShock performance articles, DX10 performance is significantly slower than DX9, and the game doesn’t scale at the moment with CrossFire. The Radeon HD cards also lack support for AA in BioShock. You have to rename the game’s executable in order to force AA, and as we discussed in our BioShock AA article, this disables all of AMD’s driver optimizations for BioShock. While we didn’t run specific performance comparisons, it seems like NVIDIA’s performance in BioShock has improved tremendously with this latest ForceWare driver. We’d guess performance has improved by over 10%. SLI also scales much better than it did previously. We’re seeing nearly 2X performance scaling with BioShock and ForceWare 163.69, whereas previously that number was a little under 1.5X. With all that being said though, Windows XP did run up to 8% faster than Vista in our testing. Still, we were very encouraged by these results.
If you were debating between the 32-bit and 64-bit flavors of Windows Vista, fortunately it looks like performance is similar with either version. Both AMD and NVIDIA’s drivers for both versions of Vista perform practically identical to one another. And if you were concerned about game compatibility with 64-bit Vista, one of the guidelines Microsoft has required for Games For Windows certification is that games must be compatible with Windows Vista x64. This means if the game has a Games For Windows logo on the box, it’s been tested to run with 64-bit Windows Vista. Upcoming games like Alan Wake, Crysis, Fallout 3, Gears of War PC, and Hellgate: London are all Games For Windows compliant.
Considering all this, we’d recommend our readers opt for the 64-bit version of Vista if you’ve got a 64-bit CPU. It runs just as fast in games with the added advantage that it’s more secure and can address considerably more memory (4GB max in 32-bit Vista versus 128GB in 64-bit Vista Ultimate).
If you were holding off on Windows Vista due to the driver situation, it looks like the situation has largely been resolved for both AMD and NVIDIA. nTune functionality under Vista is still limited, and we’d like to see NVIDIA provide the option to adjust key settings like AA/AF via an icon in the system tray, but other than that, we really can’t complain. NVIDIA took a little longer to get everything resolved, but it appears they’ve delivered the goods just in time, as a slew of new DX10 games will be debuting in the next few months.
We wouldn’t be surprised if a few of these games ran faster under Windows XP at first, as Dwight Diercks reminded us in our last Vista vs XP performance article, NVIDIA’s WinXP drivers have benefited from years of optimizations. Game developers are also far more familiar with DX9 and WinXP and will obviously be testing their upcoming titles with this combination extensively, as DX10 and Vista are nowhere close to reaching the installed base of the WinXP platform.
In our opinion, AMD’s greatest issue isn’t their Vista driver performance, instead it’s optimizing for today’s upcoming (and present) DX10 games. Games like World in Conflict and BioShock have performance issues with Radeon HD 2000 series cards under DX10, and CrossFire support is nonexistent. AMD really needs to kick it into high gear just to get caught up in these newer games, which makes us worry about performance in games like Hellgate: London, Unreal Tournament 3, and Crysis, which haven’t been released yet. Hopefully AMD is already working with these developers on optimizations. As we mentioned in our BioShock Mainstream Performance article, the Radeon HD 2000 delay really hurt AMD. Not just from a financial standpoint, but also developer relations. Game developers just haven’t had access to AMD’s DX10 hardware for very long, and as a result, they haven’t had time to optimize for features in AMD’s architecture. Likewise, AMD’s driver team is still tuning the Radeon HD 2000 series graphics driver. It’s a situation that needs to get resolved ASAP for AMD.
After getting off to a less than ideal start, it looks like the graphics drivers from AMD and NVIDIA are finally shaping up well. A lot of people are probably still going to wait for the first service pack, but if you were holding off on upgrading to Vista due to the driver situation, the problem has mostly been resolved: AMD still has lingering scaling issues with CrossFire, particularly under newer DX10 games.
Now we just can’t wait to check out the latest DX10 games!
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!