Two weeks ago, we published a performance comparison between NVIDIA’s GTX 260/216 and ATI’s HD 4870 1GB. What we found was that NVIDIA had the upper-hand, both in performance, and efficiency. Today, we’re re-testing ATI’s card with their new 8.12 driver, to see if it can increase performance enough to sway our decision as to which is the better card.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, Unreal Tournament III
When it comes to first-person shooters, post-apocalyptic adventures are a dime a dozen. But when S.T.A.L.K.E.R. was first released in the spring of 2007, it dared to be different. How? By basing the game off of a real-world tragedy, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which occurred way back in 1986 near the city of Prypiat in the Ukraine. Despite the disaster happening so long ago, people are still unable to live in the surrounding area, and will be unable to for at least another 150 years.
In addition to the games real-world ties, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. happened to be one of the grittiest, realistic (aside from the problematic AI) and expansive games we’ve seen on the PC in a while. Having the ability to roam as you like is a huge benefit and really helped make the game feel real. Clear Sky further delivers on what made the original so great, but at the same time, adds support for DX10.
It might be difficult to judge from the screenshot, but Clear Sky (like the original) is one of the most demanding games on the PC today, especially if you wish to play using DX10. To help push all of our GPUs to their breaking-point, we stick to that mode while using the “High” quality setting.
Although I believe Clear Sky to be one of the most unoptimized games available (it’s a problem if it runs like frozen tar at virtually any resolution with DX10 mode), ATI’s badge belongs on the box. NVIDIA took the reign on most of the tests here, but ATI deserves this one.
Unreal Tournament III
As odd as it may seem, every single game we currently use for our graphic card benchmarking is a sequel or an entry in a series of games, including this one. The original Unreal Tournament launched in late 1999, and since then, it has become a stature with GPU benchmarking. Similar to Call of Duty, the UT series of games is one that manages to deliver spectacular graphics, but doesn’t require a bleeding-edge machine to see them.
UTIII offers a variety of modes and levels, and has some of the most interesting and lush environments ever seen in a video game. If I could choose where I wanted to die, it would most likely be in the Gateway level, which you can see in the screenshot below. This level is one of the most interesting in the game as it’s essentially three levels in one, linked together with portals – and it’s hard to beat the feeling of scoring a portal frag.
The game might be one of the best-looking currently on the PC, but it doesn’t offer robust in-game settings like some others in our suite. Because of this, we are forced to enable anti-aliasing in the control panel of the current graphics card. Both ATI’s and NVIDIA’s drivers allow us to choose 4xAA, so that’s what we stick with throughout all of our testing.
Here, we saw a similar effect as we did with Fallout 3. ATI’s card didn’t come out on top early on, but at 2560×1600, the winner is clear. Also like Fallout 3, these results struck me odd as well, simply because I wasn’t expecting it, but the game was retested on both configurations, and the results stuck.