F.E.A.R. System Tests

I purchased the first-person shooter F.E.A.R. for the PC back in the early fall but resisted the temptation to install it on account of knowing that my previous computer wouldn't be able to do it justice. I knew a major hardware upgrade was in the near future, so I left it shelved and waited.

Now, armed with my new Dell XPS 600, the time has come to install it. Just so there's no confusion about what you're about to read, this is my unusual foray into the world of framerate tests and graphics settings. I ran the in-game test cinematic under 7 different configurations and will be using this article to discuss the results. Feel free to skip to the next post if PC gaming isn't your thing, as this will most likely bore you.

First things first, the pertinent computer specs:

  • Pentium D 840 (3.2GHz) w/Dual Core
  • Dual 256MB Geforce 6800 running via SLI
  • 250GB Serial ATA Hard Drive @7200 RPM
  • 16x DVD-ROM

I expected this system to absolutely be able to handle F.E.A.R. with all of its graphical bells and whistles going and at its maximum resolution of 1024x768 (which isn't much) but I was wrong. The following framerate results bear this out. All tests were conducted with the resolution set to 1024x768 and with the latest patch for the game installed.

Test 1: Forceware Drivers 77.74, Maximum Computer & Maximum Video Card Presets

Min - 25 fps
Avg - 34 fps
Max - 99 fps

0% <25 fps
56% 25-40 fps
44% >40 fps

Comment: To find that the average framerate was only 34 fps was kind of disappointing. After seeing this my goal became to find the maximum detail allowed while maintain an average framerate above 50 fps.

Test 2: Forceware Drivers 81.98, Maximum Computer & Maximum Video Card Presets

Min - 16 fps
Avg - 37 fps
Max - 110 fps

11% <25 fps
49% 25-40 fps
40% >40 fps

Comment: This really kind of surprised me. I installed the newest Forceware drivers and ran the second test and although the average came up a small bit, the minimum framerate not only lowered, but became more dominant. This was obviously going to require some fiddling.

Test 3: Forceware Drivers 81.98, Sound, Corpse Detail, Particle Bouncing all lowered to Medium. Video Card Preset remains at Maximum.

Min - 17 fps
Avg - 38 fps
Max - 109 fps

9% <25 fps
43% 25-40 fps
48% >40 fps

Comment: A slight improvement, but leads me to believe that the video cards, not the computer, are the limiting factor.

Test 4: Forceware Drivers 81.98, Computer Preset to Maximum, Full-Screen Anti-Aliasing reduced from 4x to 2x.

Min - 19 fps
Avg - 51 fps
Max - 127 fps

9% <25 fps
29% 25-40 fps
62% >40 fps

Comment: Now were getting somewhere. There's still too many frames coming in below 25 fps, but this is getting closer to acceptable. The goal now is to get at least 70% of frames above 40 fps.

Test 5: Forceware Drivers 81.98, Sound, Corpse Detail, Particle Bouncing all lowered to Medium. Full-Screen Anti-Aliasing reduced from 4x to 2x.

Min - 19fps
Avg - 51 fps
Max - 127 fps

5% <25 fps
33% 25-40 fps
62% >40 fps

Comment: This confirms my earlier thought that the computer specs were plenty capable of running at the Maximum Preset setting and that it was the FSAA that the culprit. Time to find out what the auto-detect settings yield.

Test 6: Forceware Drivers 81.98, Auto-Detect Settings yield Maximum Computer Preset & High Video Card Preset.

Min - 23 fps
Avg - 63 fps
Max - 152 fps

1% <25 fps
23% 25-40 fps
76% >40 fps

Comment: These are obviously satisfactory framerate results, but image quality has taken a dive due to Anisotropic Texture Filtering being reduced from 16x to 4x and Full-Screen Anti-Aliasing turned off. A balance must be found.

Test 7: Forceware Drivers 81.98, Computer Preset to Maximum, Full-Screen Anti-Aliasing lowered from 4x to 2x, Anisotropic Texture Filtering lowered from 16x to 8x.

Min - 20 fps
Avg - 52 fps
Max - 128 fps

7% <25 fps
23% 25-40 fps
70% >40 fps

Comment: These settings allowed the game to run at a satisfactory framerate for offline single-player gaming and still permitted the game's incredible eye candy to show. Nevertheless, it's still a bit disappointing that framerate dips on this order are so prevalent on such an expensive and capable machine. Is F.E.A.R. just ahead of its time, did I not go high-end enough? Or is the game or the latest Forceware driveers just not fully optimized yet?

The other night while at Fry's I purchased Dungeon Siege II to play on the new system as well. I was a big fan of the original Dungeon Siege, despite its simplified levelling system. Anyway, while the game is nowhere near the graphical powerhouse that is F.E.A.R., it runs at a near-solid 60 fps with only momentary dips to 42 fps. I'm scared to see how Elder Scrolls: Oblivion will run.

1 comment:

Criscipline said...

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