Half Life 2: Episode One
There's a wonderful new team dynamic at work in Episode One, thanks to the fact that Alyx battles alongside you throughout most of the episode. After playing on your own throughout Half-Life and Half-Life 2, it's refreshing to have a companion by your side, and Valve takes advantage of this by throwing you into situations where you must rely on teamwork to survive. Alyx is a capable assistant (perhaps almost too capable, since it's pretty tough to kill her off, and she seemingly has unlimited ammo), and she's often the difference between victory and defeat in many encounters, as she'll cover your back while you're busy trying to sort out the puzzle. Visually, Episode One introduces a lot of subtle improvements and enhancements in the Source engine, keeping it in line with video-card developments over the past couple of years. The new high-dynamic range lighting technology (seen only if your video card supports it) makes a big difference, as the outdoor scenes look a lot better, while indoor scenes feature impressive shadowing and atmosphere at times. Some of the textures in the game have been increased considerably, notably on Alyx and the other main characters, and the game looks incredibly sharp and with some pretty impressive HDR implementation.
AA, AF, HDR, world reflections and refractions, you name it, if it was possible we enabled it. Four AA samples and 16 levels of anisotropic filtering are also enabled here with every possible IQ setting at high.
Battlefield 2 - EA
The award-winning Battlefield franchise invades the high tech frontlines of modern warfare in the new sequel, Battlefield 2. The game brings the intensity and excitement of Battlefield 1942 into the modern era with enhanced team play and the latest, most technologically advanced vehicles and weapons systems available to man.
I just love what this game can do in terms of gameplay and image quality. We had to use FRAPS to measure the performance and by use of the game command prompt remove a nasty framerate cap. The results do not lie.
Small note: the game by itself does not support these high resolutions, but simply make a little .bat file and insert the following, save this .bat file in the BF2 game directory and startup at the resolution of your choice:
bf2 +menu 1 +szx 2560 +szy 1600 +fullscreen 1
The 8800 series eat this game alive even in the highest resolutions. Again... memory. Look at 2048x1536 versus 2560x1600. Doing 80-90 frames per second on average at 2048x1536 with 4xAA and 16xAF for just over 300 bucks however is wonderful but once it's out of memory (2560x1600) performance drops by a factor of three.
X3: the reunion
The makers of X Beyond the Frontier and X2 Egosoft bring you yet another space combat game X3. When you look at X3 you feel like you're right in the middle of a science - fiction movie. The game has stunning visual effects, which give some amazing views of the world where Julian Brenan (protagonist) belongs. Julian, who is the son of Kyle Brenan from X2, who helps Julian in his extraordinary journey in a galaxy far away from planet earth. X3 scores high on the graphics and visual aspects, which are of real high quality. The impressive space scenes are hard to miss. The ships are much more sleek and smarter then the ones in X2.You will find the visual effects to be spectacular. However, most of this action is restricted to the cockpit of the space ship and this tends to be a little disappointing, as you are involved in all the action only through the drivers seat.
X3: Reunion is mind-bogglingly beautiful. I got quite a bit of enjoyment out of simply looking at my surroundings while flying from one mission to another. Explosion effects and battle scenes also leave little to be desired as even the pickiest of gamers will simply drool over the graphics.
Shader model 3 is supported (and enabled).
X3 is a reasonably good benchmark for us. From a graphics oriented view this really is one of the best looking games ever. The average framerate is based upon four large timedemo's which form the result. Enabled four levels of AA and sixteen levels of Anisotropic filtering here and we are measuring at 1920x1200 and 2560x1600.
With an average of 60 rendered frames per second at 19x12 we are well within the safe zone of comfortable gameplay. At 2560x1600 we see an average of 29 FPS .. where the slower clocked 640MB model still pumps 45 FPS.
So the thesis throughout this entire review is this... the selected resolution versus IQ settings versus framebuffer will have to be the final deciding factor in your choice to opt either a 320MB of larger memory sized model.