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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
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by Rob Williams on November 20, 2009 in Gaming

Following-up to a hit like Modern Warfare must have been tough, but Infinity Ward has done a great job of delivering what we hoped to see, while tossing in many other surprises as well. Let’s take a look at the game from all angles, the fine and the rough, and finish things off with a look at performance across numerous graphics cards.

Performance Benchmarks

Because this is a game review, I’m not going to go into extreme detail here about how we handle our testing, but for those who are new to the site, or want a refresher, I recommend checking out our testing methodology article which sums up pretty much every aspect of how we benchmark graphics cards. Like the rest of our games, the results seen below were acquired by real-world testing, not with a timedemo. We use FRAPS 2.9.8 to monitor our average frames-per-second.

The machine we used for testing is seen in the table below. Both ATI and NVIDIA released new graphics drivers within the past week, so we’ve opted to use them throughout all of our testing here.

Component
Model
Processor
Intel Core i7-975 Extreme Edition – Quad-Core, 3.33GHz, 1.33v
Motherboard
Gigabyte GA-EX58-EXTREME – X58-based, F7 BIOS (05/11/09)
Memory
Corsair DOMINATOR – 3x2GB DDR3-1333 7-7-7-24-1T, 1.60v
ATI Graphics Catalyst Driver 9.11

Radeon HD 5870 1GB

Radeon HD 5850 1GB
Radeon HD 5770 1GB
Radeon HD 5750 1GB
NVIDIA Graphics GeForce Driver 195.55
GeForce GTX 285 1GB
GeForce GTX 275 896MB
GeForce GTX 260 896MB
GeForce GTS 250 1GB
Audio
On-Board Audio
Storage
Power Supply
Chassis
Display
Cooling
Et cetera

The mission we use for testing is the tenth in the game, “The Gulag”. We assume the role of Gary “Roach” Sanderson and with the help of the other members of the Task Force 141, we storm an old prison, or “gulag”, in search of Makarov. This prison was once a castle, complete with torture chamber, and since then, it’s been used as a prison to hold some of the worst criminals out there, or as the game says, to house criminals that the “government didn’t want, but couldn’t kill”.

As the mission begins, our player, along with the rest of our team, are making way to the gulag on helicopters. Our game is saved as soon as the level title shows up on the screen, as there’s not much happening graphically before then, which would inflate our scores. As our run begins, we go up to the prison, and take down some enemies in guard towers, ultimately going to one side to land inside the compound, as seen in the below image. We then make our way along the normal path of the level until just past the section where four guards are shooting at us from atop a roof. The entire run takes about two-and-a-half minutes.

The fact that Modern Warfare 2 is a console port is fairly obvious after looking at these graphs, because even the lowest-end cards in our line-up can handle the game at high resolutions without having to disable the 4x anti-aliasing. As long as you own an ATI Radeon HD 5750/NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250 or higher, there’s no worry all the way up to 1920×1080. Even the HD 5750, which proved to be the “slowest” of our fleet, delivered over 60 FPS!

Things change up a bit at 2560×1600, but not by much. Out of the eight graphics cards we tested, we had to disable anti-aliasing for just three. Although I found World at War to run fine with ~40 FPS, or even a bit less, Modern Warfare 2 is a little different. Some might not mind 40 FPS, but at that point the frames become slightly sticky, and the gameplay isn’t entirely smooth. The problem was fixed in its entirety with a simple disabling of AA, bringing things up past 50 FPS for each of the three cards.

Graphics Card
Best Playable
Min FPS
Avg. FPS
ATI Radeon HD 5870 1GB
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
46
79.838
ATI Radeon HD 5850 1GB
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
37
68.563
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285 1GB
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
41
66.527
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 275 896MB
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
37
61.937
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 896MB
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
33
53.314
ATI Radeon HD 5770 1GB
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA
36
60.337
NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250 1GB
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA
30
53.253
ATI Radeon HD 5750 1GB
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA
28
50.727

Modern Warfare 2 might be a great-looking game, with minor caveats, but it doesn’t push the PC quite as hard as some other titles do. Part of this could be the newer, and more optimized IW4 game engine, and it could also be the fact that it’s little more than a console port. Either way, as long as you have current-gen or mid-range last-gen card, you should have no problem handling the game up to 1920×1080 with 4xAA, and chances are, you might even be able to push 2560×1600.

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