Tag Archives: TWIMTBP

Best Video Cards, April 2015

After half a year of discussing gaming performance, it's time for some specific video card recommendations. Almost everyone these days has access to a PC, but what if you'd like to turn that PC into a bona fide gaming rig? This is something I've often felt is a critical factor in the gaming consoles vs. gaming PCs debate: you can do much, much more with a PC than with a console. So take any moderate PC -- all you really need is 8GB RAM and a Core i3/Athlon X4 or higher to get started, though a Core i5 or AMD FX would have more legs -- and add in a video card and you now have the equivalent or in many cases a superior gaming system compared to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or Nintendo Wii U. But what sort of performance can you expect from the current generation of video cards, and which GPUs are the best buys right now? (Side note: I'll use the terms "video card" and "GPU" largely interchangeably, though technically the GPU refers more to the chip on the video card than the card itself.)
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Evolve Initial Launch Woes

Evolve came out last week to somewhat mixed reviews -- some have loved it, others have bagged on it, and still others are undecided. A big part of the problem has been 2K Games' decision to have a bunch of Day One DLC -- Downloadable Content -- mostly consisting of skins that they're asking you to buy separately. If this were a Free to Play (F2P) game, we could accept that, but with a $60 price tag it's adding insult to injury. We're not here to talk about the DLC fiasco, though; what we want to quickly discuss is how broken the game is in terms of performance. If the game worked properly, we'd be happy to provide some benchmarks in our usual charts, but the results right now are just all over the place.
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Assassin’s Creed Unity Performance – A Beautiful Pig

The holiday rush for getting games on store shelves always creates some problems. For one, games that are otherwise good can sometimes get lost in the shuffle, but perhaps even worse is that publishers often ship games in a state where they're not really complete. Sometimes the games are just buggy and unstable, other times they're missing features, or maybe performance is worse than it should be -- and in the worst scenarios they can completely fail to run. We encountered a bit of this with Lords of the Fallen, going so far as to retest all of the graphics cards with the updated (patched) version of the game. We could go back and retest most of the games released late last year at least one more time as patches and driver updates continue to come out. However, there's plenty of other items keeping us busy so instead let's just look at one game where we have initial (near launch date) performance as well as current (as of the end of January) performance: Assassin's Creed Unity.
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The Crew Performance – Frame Caps Suck!

Want to know how not to build a good cross-platform title that's worth testing? The Crew from Ubisoft is a good answer. I'm not sure if I should blame Ubisoft or Ivory Tower, but someone in the product management side of the equation needs to have their butt kicked. Why the negativity? Simple: frame rate caps are stupid and lazy, and what's more they can artificially limit the game in question, particularly on the PC platform. It's one thing to try to target 30 or 60 FPS on a console game, as everyone will presumably connect the console to an HDTV, but PCs have a lot of other options... like for example a 2560x1440 G-SYNC display that can refresh at up to 144Hz; run The Crew on that bad boy and you're going to lock in at 60 FPS, just like everyone else. In a word, it's stupid. It also makes a game pretty useless as a benchmark, but since I have a copy of The Crew I wanted to at least play around with some testing....
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Lords of the Fallen – Performance Update

It was inevitable that we'd eventually encounter a game where day of launch bugs affected performance to the point where we'd have to rerun all of our numbers. The first game to earn that dubious distinction is Lords of the Fallen, which we first looked at last week. One week later the first patch has arrived, and with it CrossFire now at least works and performance in many instances has improved. This will be our first "before and after" article, and we'll have charts for both versions of the game.
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Lords of the Fallen – Day of Launch Performance

Lords of the Fallen just launched this past week, and if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then the Dark Souls series should be feeling pretty good about itself right now. The game is developed by Deck13 Interactive and CI Games, and while neither company is necessarily new to creating video games, I have to admit this is the first time I've played a game by either one. Given that all of the reviews I've looked at reference Dark Souls as being a similar game, I mistakenly thought that maybe the game wouldn't be all that taxing. Boy was that ever wrong....
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Shadow of Mordor Performance – Resolution Shenanigans and Benchmark Madness

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (which I'm just going to call Shadow of Mordor from here on) sort of came out of nowhere and has become the sleeper hit of the month. Created by Monolith Productions -- the company behind "classics" like Blood and Shogo: Mobile Armor Division, not to mention more recent titles like F.E.A.R. and F.E.A.R. 2, No One Lives Forever, and Condemned -- I don't know that anyone was really expecting much from yet another Middle-Earth game. It's not that games based on Tolkien are all bad, but there have been so many over the decades and more often than not they've been at best mediocre. Anyway, Shadow of Mordor plays a lot like the Batman: Arkham Asylum/City/Origins games, or the Assassin's Creed games, or probably any number of other stealth/beat-em-up third person games. I've enjoyed quite a few of those titles, and you can definitely add Shadow of Mordor to the list.
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Metro Last Light Redux Performance

Last month we posted our look at performance for Metro Last Light. At the time, we mentioned that 4A Games recently released an update to the original Metro 2033 and the sequel Metro Last Light, a full-priced bundle called Metro Redux (or you can buy Metro 2033 Redux and Metro Last Light Redux for half the cost of the bundle). Since we've already looked at performance for Metro Last Light, we thought it would be interesting to check out Metro Last Light Redux to see what -- if anything -- has changed.

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Batman Arkham Origins Performance

The Batman series has been a great example of how to do a superhero game that truly makes you feel like a superhero. As the name implies, Batman Arkham Origins takes the series back to the beginning, and it explores the origins of many of the characters. This is probably well-trodden ground if you're a fan of the comics and movies, but I actually haven't read any comics in quite some time so I find the story in Batman Arkham Origins is at least reasonably engaging. As with the earlier Batman Arkham games, you start with a somewhat limited set of moves and equipment, unlocking additional items and upgrades as the game progresses. Towards the latter portion of the game, Batman becomes a force to be reckoned with, and you'll have fights of 20 or more villains to help test your skills.
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Metro Last Light Performance

The Metro series of games happens to be one of the most demanding out there in terms of punishing your graphics cards. The original Metro 2033 had a plot similar in some ways to STALKER, though it could be a bit hard to follow. The sequel Metro Last Light continues the story, and at maximum detail settings it can bring just about any modern system to its knees. Reviews for the original game are good (81% on average), and the sequel received similarly positive reviews (82% average). Interestingly, both games have been updated with a "Redux" release, which is a full-priced update, or you can get each Redux as a separate game for half the cost of the bundle. We'll look at testing the Redux versions in the near future, but can your PC handle the demanding graphics of the original Metro Last Light?
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