After originally posting this article, one reader posted in the news comments concerning the maxfps setting. It turns out that our original numbers were taken with the setting capped at 85, the default value for Call of Duty. With the "com_maxfps" console command we increased this value to 1,000, a frame rate that is much higher than what any of these cards are capable of. This impacted all results at low resolutions as well as the 9800 XT, while the lower-end cards and the RADEON 9500 weren't affected as much. The article now reflects these adjustments.
Infinity Ward's WWII shooter, Call of Duty is earning praise from gamers and the media alike for its unique combination of action, game play, and flat-out immersion. You'll play the role of three soldiers: Private Martin of the legendary 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Sergeant Evans of Britain's special forces, and Alexi of the Russian infantry. In practically every shooter that's been released to date it's you against the world, but in Call of Duty you always feel as if you're a part of a team trying to accomplish an objective. The game's motto "No One Fights Alone" definitely isn't an exaggeration.
The game relives actual combat missions from the Second World War, as well as a few missions with exotic twists. For example, you'll take part in a daring prisoner rescue behind enemy lines in one mission, or shoot at Germans chasing you from a moving car in another, straight out of an action sequence you'd see in Indiana Jones. One of the most gripping missions however is Stalingrad, you'll watch as fellow soldiers are shot for trying to escape the mayhem, then storm the beach as the Germans fire at you from bunkered positions. It's an experience that's even more gripping than the D-Day invasion mission in Medal of Honor, and really illustrates the sacrifice that millions of Russian infantrymen made for their country.
Like so many other WW2 shooters, Call of Duty is based on a modified version of id Software's Quake 3 engine. Infinity Ward has taken the engine to a whole new level however, with scenes featuring higher polygon counts, a new lighting/shadow system, revamped animation/hit detection, and first generation pixel and vertex shaders.
The AI has also been enhanced, with an emphasis on squad combat. You'll work with friendly soldiers to take down enemy positions, for instance they can take the enemy head-on while you get in a flanking position, while other missions may have your group holding a bridge/building. We'll have a complete review online shortly, but the game has already earned a loyal following online. In fact, as of this article's writing, it has already surpassed Medal of Honor as the fifth most popular game played online.
Every once in awhile we like to take a new game and run benches with it before it makes way into a hardware review. Due to the popularity of Call of Duty, we felt that it would be a perfect candidate.
Benchmarking with Call of Duty is similar to Quake 3; in fact many of the same console commands are present in both games (timedemo 1 is used to invoke CoD's benchmarking mode). We simply joined an online server and recorded demos. For this article the demo we're using comes from the map mp_powcamp. Unfortunately, we haven't found a way to disable sound in Call of Duty, so all the sound effects are running while the benchmark is running. Normally, we like to leave sound disabled, as it's a variable that can affect your frame rate.
We already had our ATI system setup from the CATALYST 3.9 report, so benchmarks with those cards come first, later this week we'll publish benchmark results with NVIDIA cards. We used 11 cards total, dating from the RADEON 8500 and 9000 PRO, all the way up to the RADEON 9800 XT. We did run with bilinear filtering on the DX8 cards in order for the benches to run a little bit faster. Other than that change, all other detail levels were cranked up to their maximums, while the sound settings were tuned down to their minimums. Let's get on to the benchmarks!