The Games of Christmas '08: GPU Performance Part 1

by Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig     |     December 8, 2008

Many of us have a love / hate relationship with this time of year. It the time companies start making their holiday-season push to the heaving masses of holiday shoppers which means new products aplenty and some pretty kick-ass prices to boot. On the other hand, many of us grumble quietly whenever someone mentions Christmas since with candy canes and gifts comes snowstorms, aching backs from shoveling, Christmas shopping and temperatures low enough that your nose feels like it will fall off. Yes, we Canadians have it tough sometimes but crappy weather outside gives us the perfect opportunity to play with our shiny new toys without feeling the guilt associated with missing out on a balmy summer day.

To satisfy the needs of us PC gamers, the pre-holiday releases started with a bang and continues going strong with games like Far Cry 2, Fallout 3, Dead Space, Need For Speed Undercover and numerous others. While many of these new games are sequels or prequels, there are a quite a few new faces in this seasonís lineup which bring new gameplay mechanics and the faces of characters we will all soon come to know and love.

These days it seems like console gaming is taking center stage with many PC games being simple and sometimes ineffective clones of their console brethren. Many will argue that the popularity of console games is mostly due to their simple hardware requirements; all you need is the console to play the game and you donít need to upgrade for an optimal gameplay experience. For example, when you buy Fallout 3 for the Playstation 3, you know it will perform reasonably well while if you buy it for the PC, you have to pay close attention to the recommended hardware requirements. If you donít meet the requirements, it is time for an upgrade and even then you may not be able to play the game at the highest settings. Yes, it sounds like we are making a pitch against PC gaming but that isnít the case at all since everyone knows that the PC interface brings games to a level the consoles will never be able to achieve. This is why there are plenty of us out there who are more than willing to sink whatever money necessary into our gaming rigs.

I am sure you have heard the old adage saying that if it plays well on a console, it will probably do so on a mid-range PC. However, that may not always be the case since we have seen developers constantly add graphical tweaks to the PC version of a game which may not be present in the console version. Add to that some sloppy coding and you have the recipe for disaster. This sometimes means pretty steep hardware requirements while other times even lower-end PCs have been known to play a well-optimized game.

Requirements and achievable performance may sound confusing but this is where we here at Hardware Canucks step in to help guide you in the right direction with this article. Here we will be focusing on GPU performance in a number of popular (and at least one not-so-popular) newly-released games. These are games which will probably be high on the shopping list of your favorite uncle who always buys you the cool stuff your parents donít want you to have. Just remember; this is the first part of a pair of articles. The first one will focus on the higher-end GPUs along with an overclocked quad-core system. Meanwhile, Part II will bring out the more price-conscious graphics cards which will be paired up with a bit more pedestrian system which you can put together for far under $1000.

All in all, these articles should be just what the doctor ordered for your holiday hardware upgrades so letís get this show on the road.

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