While the release of faster, more powerful new computer hardware is always nice, ultimately it’s the software (read: games) that drives new hardware sales. We saw this firsthand two summers ago when both Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 were released, and again last fall with the release of F.E.A.R. Earlier this year, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was another popular title that drove large flocks of gamers to upgrade their PCs.
Because of this, whenever a new, highly anticipated game comes out, we like to take a closer look at its performance, testing it out with a wide range of hardware so that you, the reader, can better gauge what kind of performance you could expect from a new hardware upgrade. “Is more memory really useful?” “How does x
component compare to y
?” These are the types of questions we hope to answer in these articles.
Without a doubt, the hot title that’s going to be released later this year is EA/DICE’s Battlefield 2142. With Unreal Tournament 2007 set to debut in 2007, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars pushed back into 2007, and Call of Duty 3 exclusive to the console market, Battlefield 2142 is really the only AAA first-person shooter that’s left for debut this fall (F.E.A.R. Extraction Point, an expansion pack for F.E.A.R. will no doubt also be a popular release, but its focus is single-player gameplay).
Battlefield 2142 builds on the highly successful Battlefield series, setting place over 100 years in the future. A new ice age has begun, and the planet is low on resources. As a result, all-out war has broken out, with two superpowers vying for control of those limited resources. Like previous titles in the Battlefield series, you can control vehicles and aircraft, while grunts and special forces units have access to a wide variety of handheld weaponry.
Rather than start from scratch with a brand new game engine, for Battlefield 2142 DICE has taken the now proven game engine from Battlefield 2 and implemented tweaks and enhancements to go with the game’s new futuristic look and feel. DICE has integrated new animations and shaders that don’t take as long to load, as well as integrating new atmospheric effects (such as the snow that falls in the beta demo’s Verdun map) giving the game a more immersive feel than its predecessor. DICE has also cranked up the game’s textures – higher resolution textures are everywhere once the eye candy is cranked up.
The end result is that Battlefield 2142 should play fairly well with existing hardware, and while frame rates are lower when the game’s “high” quality settings are used, you’re definitely getting better visuals as a result.
The multiplayer beta is limited to one level, Verdun, which is a map that features the game’s new Titan mode, where opposing teams try to take control of the other teams Titan, which is basically a massive flying gunship, all while also defending their own Titan.
While testing with the beta we consistently noticed flashing textures with GeForce 6 series hardware as well as Radeon X1800/X1900 in the same area. Fortunately it was limited to a small area and the textures would only flash from a distance, once you got closer the problem went away, other than that we didn’t encounter any showstoppers, although we did have to force SLI as well as CrossFire support via the driver control panel, performance didn’t scale appropriately until we did this. For ATI owners this is accomplished by adjusting the Catalyst A.I. slider from “standard” to “advanced”, which forces ATI’s AFR rendering mode for D3D apps, while NVIDIA’s alternative frame rendering 1 mode gave the best performance for SLI usage. We tested performance by using the same method we use for Battlefield 2 and Oblivion, with FRAPS.
We simply hopped on an empty server, selected a spawn point that was close to the area we conducted our benchmarking, and proceeded to use FRAPS to record frame rate. We kept our results as repeatable as possible by walking down the same group of tank tracks, and stuck to an area of the Verdun map that’s a little more demanding than other areas.