Summary: Wondering how F.E.A.R. 2 performs with today's as well as yesterday's latest hardware? We've rounded up 21 different GPUs ranging from the Radeon X1950 Pro 256MB all the way up to the latest GeForce GTX 295, as well as including SLI and CrossFire results. See how the various cards handle Monolith's latest shooter in this article!
Because it's based on an updated version of the Jupiter Extended (Jupiter EX) game engine first used in F.E.A.R. back in 2005, Monolith's F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin doesn't require the latest and greatest DirectX 10 hardware to run well; in fact with its DX9 renderer the game performs quite fluidly on older graphics cards like the GeForce 7800 and Radeon X1800, even with the game settings cranked up to their maximum values. Despite this, we were still eager to see how the game performs with today's latest hardware, as the series has a large following of fans who enjoyed the original shooter.
Playing with F.E.A.R.
F.E.A.R. 2 is built largely off the same fundamental gameplay that made F.E.A.R. so great, with martial arts attacks and slow-mo "bullet-time" like action, just like the original. And of course, you can't miss the game's emphasis on the paranormal, with Alma playing a starring role in the game from start to finish.
Monolith has added several layers of polish to the package with F.E.A.R. 2 though. The game's AI has been improved: commandos dispatched to kill you will work together in teams, with one group pinning you down while others will attempt to flank or overrun your position. It's the aggressiveness of the enemy AI that's so impressive, while they will certainly hold their ground and not move from their position, more often than not they will continually advance towards you. All too often in many of today's shooters enemies are content to sit and watch as you patiently pluck them off one by one. In F.E.A.R. 2 your best defense is a good offense. Now that doesn't mean you should charge in headfirst guns blazing, but with enemies always on the move looking for cover (or creating it by kicking over tables), camping in one spot while sniping at enemies really won't work as effectively as it does in other shooters.
Like your enemies, you can also knock over tables and other objects and use them as cover, but this isn't as effective a tactic as you'd think; by the time your character has completed the motion you could've just as easily been taking out bad guys, as most engagements are typically pretty quick.
Basically if you enjoyed the combat in F.E.A.R., F.E.A.R. 2 will feel pretty familiar, this is a good thing in our opinion as the original was well regarded in this respect.
Besides improving the A.I., Monolith has also added a layer of polish to the Jupiter EX engine. For F.E.A.R. 2, Monolith has added HDR lighting as well as motion blur and depth of field to the game engine. These are much needed effects that most gamers pretty much take for granted nowadays, and help immerse the player into the action: when a grenade goes off near your position Monolith uses these effects with great success to disorient you.
Like its predecessor, F.E.A.R. 2 also continues to include a healthy dose of particle effects for sparks and ricocheting bullets.
As we mentioned earlier, the game runs at very good frame rates even if you don't have the latest hardware. This is due in part because of the age of the game engine; while Jupiter EX was pretty demanding three years ago, today's latest cards are several times faster than the GeForce 6800 and Radeon X800 cards that were popular in F.E.A.R.'s heyday. But also the game's design helps to boost frame rates: since the majority of combat takes place indoors, your graphics card doesn't have to render vast outdoor areas, which can hamper frame rate.
Even when you do step outside in F.E.A.R. 2 the areas are pretty small, nothing like the vast outdoor scenery you'd see in a game like Fallout 3 or Far Cry 2.
To showcase the performance of F.E.A.R. 2 we've gathered nearly two dozen GPUs for this article, with cards ranging from the venerable Radeon X1950 Pro 256MB all the way up to the latest GeForce GTX 295 from NVIDIA. We've got the complete list of cards represented in this article on the next page.
Intel Core i7-965 Extreme Edition
EVGA X58 SLI
6GB OCZ Reaper PC3-15000 triple-channel memory
GeForce GTX 295
GeForce GTX 285
GeForce GTX 280
GeForce GTX 260 216-shader
GeForce GTX 260 192-shader
GeForce 9800 GTX+
GeForce 9800 GX2
GeForce 8800 GT 512MB
GeForce 9600 GT 512MB
GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB
GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB
GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB
Radeon HD 4870 X2
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2 2GB
Radeon HD 4870 1GB
Radeon HD 4870 512MB
Radeon HD 4850 512MB
Radeon HD 4830 512MB
Radeon HD 4670 512MB
Radeon X1950 Pro 256MB
Sapphire Radeon HD 3870 1GB
500GB Western Digital Caviar SE16
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit w/Service Pack 1
F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
Since F.E.A.R. 2 doesn't have a built-in demo recording function, we used FRAPS to record frame rates in the discovery section of the game. To ensure consistent results we clear the area first before conducting any FRAPS run throughs.
ATI's Radeon cards reigned supreme in our 4xAA testing with F.E.A.R. 2. The 4870 X2 delivered the best overall performance, outrunning the GTX 295 by 18% at 1600x1200, but the gap narrows to 2% by 2560x1600.
Considering ATI's superior 8xAA scaling performance, it's no surprise to see the Radeon 4x00 series cards continue to hold their leads under 8xAA. As a result, the Radeon 4870 cards actually managed to pull ahead of the GeForce GTX 280 and even the GTX 285 in our benchmarks, while Sapphire's 4850 X2 manages to give the GeForce GTX 295 a run for its money, actually outpacing it at 1600x1200. Meanwhile, the Radeon 4850 512MB drew even with the 216-shader GeForce GTX 260 at 1920x1200 and 2560x1600 (actually running faster at 16x12), while the 4830 had no problems displacing the more expensive GeForce 9800 GTX+.
Thanks to last Friday's release of Catalyst 9.2, ATI managed to get CrossFire up and running with FEAR 2. Prior to that driver release the 4870 X2 card basically ran like a single 4870 board, and 4870/4850 CrossFire setups were practically useless. CrossFire's definitely scaling well now though with up to 2X performance speedups at 2560x1600, just like SLI.
Thanks to the latest ATI driver release, the game certainly runs faster right now with ATI's latest hardware, with ATI outrunning comparable GeForce cards by double-digit margins. As a result, the 4870 is a closer competitor for the GTX 280 and 285, while the Radeon 4850 and 4830 perform more closely to the GeForce GTX 260 and 9800 GTX+ respectively. This came as quite a surprise to us considering how closely the cards have performed against one another in the past, but obviously F.E.A.R. 2 appears to favor ATI's architecture at this point in time.
ATI's Radeon 4870 X2 dominates at the high-end, but one week ago this wasn't the case, as the card didn't scale at all with this game, running like a single Radeon 4870 1GB instead. This highlights a gripe we've had with dual GPU ATI cards like the 4870 X2 -- CrossFire profiles. In the past ATI has been slow to provide updated profiles for CrossFire and as such their X2 cards. ATI is definitely getting better at this, but we'd still like to see games scaling properly on launch day rather than a week or so later.
Even the most die-hard F.E.A.R. fan probably shouldn't make a purchasing decision based on these results though. Again, with all the cards performing so well in F.E.A.R. 2, you really won't be disappointed with any of the upgrade options we presented here; whether it's a Radeon 4670 or it's a Radeon 4870 X2. The engine is just so dated that it's not much of a challenge for any of today's latest hardware. Instead you'd be better served by putting more emphasis on more graphically demanding titles like Far Cry 2 and Crysis, or more prevalent game engines like a title based on Unreal Engine 3.
If F.E.A.R. 2 offered a more robust multiplayer component our opinion on this subject would obviously be different (ala Team Fortress 2/Left 4 Dead and Valve's usage of the outdated Source engine), but as it stands now it looks like replay ability will be rather limited. As such, enjoy the game for what it is, but forking over money based on the performance results of a 3-year-old game engine that barely taxes dual-core CPUs and $150 GPUs wouldn't be a wise decision for anyone making a long-term PC upgrade.
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