Racing games have always had a soft spot in my heart. The first Need For Speed was the first racing game I ever played. Motorcycle racing games are interesting in that the controls and physics of the game are totally different. A car turns completely different than a motorcycle. A slide in a car is not likely to cause the car to be totaled. That same slide in a motorcycle can be deadly.
For purposes of this test of game play, I turned everything up to high. What do I mean by high? 1280x1024 max settings 6x AA and 16x anisotropic filtering. On my P4 2.8 GHz 512MB and AIW RADEON 9800 Pro, Moto GP 2 ran at a constant frame rate of 37-40 fps. This is an imminently playable frame rate for the game and even the most jaded player can appreciate the 9800's power when playing the game.
For racing games, antialiasing is extremely important. Jaggies all over the screen while playing a race game can be a immense distraction. Further, in this situation upping the resolution doesn't alleviate the problem. Thankfully the AIW RADEON 9800 Pro is up to the task of providing relief from the jaggies and also smoothes the distractions effectively.
System requirements for Moto GP 2 are: Minimum Pentium 450 MHz, 128 MB RAM, Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, DirectX 9.0, DirectX-compatible video card, DirectX-compatible sound card, 10X CD-ROM drive, and 615 MB hard-disk space. This game supports pixel and vertex shaders, anisotropic filtering and several other modern features.
C+C Generals is the latest game in EA Games' Command And Conquer series. For a detailed look at the game in all of it's glory please click this link . In a nutshell, C+C Generals takes the C+C universe into a "real-world situation". Instead of fictional sides (i.e. GDI, NOD, Allies and Soviets from C+C or C+C Red Alert), the sides in this game are the U.S., China, and a terrorist faction called the GLA (Global Liberation Army).
C&C Generals uses a new 3d engine that utilizes many advanced 3d features where the video card supports pixel shaders, Generals smoothes the transition between the shores and the water when a dam breaks. Other features include realistic shadowing, particle effects, and fog. Generals is a RTS (Real Time Strategy) game, and therefore isn't likely to need or want real up-close graphics.
Playing Generals on the AIW 9800 Pro is a rather interesting experience. During game play, the maximum resolution I play 1280x960 is totally playable. When enabled, FSAA and AF are also fully usable. Its hard to distinguish when antialiasing is used and when it's not, due to the scale of the objects in the game. The interesting part of playing Generals on the 9800 is when AA and AF is enabled (6x and 16x AF), the screen goes black during the intermission scene.
System requirements for Generals are: Windows XP/ME/2000/ME (Windows 95/NT are not supported), 800 MHz Intel Pentium III or AMD Athlon, 128 MB, 8x CD/DVD-ROM, 1.8 GB free hard disk space, 32 MB AGP video card using the NVIDIA GEFORCE 2 , ATI RADEON 7500 or more, DirectX 8.1 compatible PCI 16-bit sound card, keyboard, mouse. Recommended system requirements: 1.8 GHz or faster Intel Pentium IV or AMD Athlon, 256 MB or more, NVIDIA Geforce3 or better Direct3d capable video card.
Tomb Raider Angel Of Darkness
The Tomb Raider series was first made popular on the Playstation and PC in 1996 with the release of Tomb Raider. Other games in the series include Tomb Raider II, III, The Last Revelation, Chronicles and this game Angel of Darkness. Lara Croft is a internationally famous video game character that has seen movies, books, several comic book series and action figures.
In Angel Of Darkness, you take the role of Lara Croft to try and solve a murder mystery. Accused of a crime she didn't commit, Lara must go though the game trying to solve the mystery. The opening sequence, where the story is introduced is awesome.
The game is one of the first ones to use DirectX 9 features. Pixel and Vertex Shaders are used throughout the game. In the setup, you can choose whether to run the game with Pixel Shader 2.0 or 1.1 or 1.4 depending on the graphics card capabilities your machine has. During the game Lara's hair moves realistically, swinging as she moves. Reflections are nicely done with realistic looking reflections in water and the fish tank.
Playing AOD on the AIW 9800 Pro is an excellent experience. If you set the antialiasing to 4x and anisotropic filtering to 16x most of the game is playable at 1280x1024. There's a couple of areas that slowdown the system with those settings, but otherwise it's an enjoyable and fun experience playing Tomb Raider Angel Of Darkness.
System requirements for TR: AOD are: Windows 98 or higher supported (Windows 95/NT are NOT supported), 500 MHz Pentium II/III (or equivalent), 100% Direct9 16MB 3d accelerated video card w/hardware T+L, 100% Direct9 compliant soundcard, 200MB hard disk space (additional space for swap saves), DirectX 9 (included), mouse and keyboard. Recommended system requirements are: Windows 2000 or XP, Pentium4 1.5 GHz (or equivalent), 100% DirectX 9 64 MB 3d accelerated video card with hardware T+L, 100% 3D accelerated sound card with EAX2 or DDL2 support, 100% DirectX 9 compliant mouse and keyboard.. As you can see, the system requirements aren't steep, but with this game you'll get a much better experience (higher resolutions, more detailed settings) if you use a top of the line PC.
Morrowind and BloodMoon Expansion Pack
Morrowind was released in 2002. It was a DirectX 8.1 supporting Role Playing Game (RPG) that was released first on the Xbox game console. The game takes place in the Elder Scrolls series of RPGs that included Daggerfall and RedGuard. You take the role of a adventurer that tries to stop the Dark Lord from gaining power. The island is in a word vast. To traverse the island from one end to the other would take several hours of straight walking.
The popularity of this game has led to two expansion packs, Tribunal and Bloodmoon. Tribunal takes the player into a "side story" of immense proportions. Available throughout the game, the expansion can take place at the beginning or the end. BloodMoon is an expansion devoted to a northern area. New snowy areas and creatures including playable werewolves make this expansion a great addition to the game. Stay tuned for my full-fledged Morrowind review shortly.
Over the years that I've played computer and console games there have been "Wow" moments. The first time I played Return To Castle Wolfenstein 3d was a "Wow!" moment in computer graphics. When I saw the water and scenery in the Nature demo of 3DMark 2001 I went "Wow!". Morrowind brought realistic water to computer Role Playing Games (RPGs). The first time you fire up Morrowind and see the water it's another "Wow" moment.
The water in Morrowind is done with Pixel Shaders. Realistic water is a goal that game developers have tried to achieve through many ways over the years. One way was to take a texture map and have it move. Examples of this technique include the water in Nintendo 64's Mario 64. A more advanced method is the use of environmental mapped bump mapping. This method makes the water shiny, reflective and more realistic. The use of programmable pixel shaders allows water to be very beautiful.
Morrowind's water looks amazing. It can be crystal clear on a sunny day with a view of the fish and other objects underwater, or it could be muddy when it's cloudy and raining. When it rains in Morrowind, the raindrops will make little ripples in the water of the rivers or the ocean. Night time brings totally new effects on the water.
Morrowind and its expansions are virtually completely playable on the AIW 9800 Pro. After installing the game, and its expansions I turned the settings to maximum and set the resolution to 1280x960. It was extremely smooth throughout the 4 hours that I played the game for purposes of this review. Frame rate barely dropped below 20 fps throughout the game which is playable.
System requirements for Morrowind BloodMoon are: Windows ME/98, 128MB RAM, Windows XP/2000 256MB RAM, 800 MHz or faster Intel Pentium III or AMD Athlon, 8x CD?DVD-ROM, 1 GB free hard disk space, Windows swapfile, DirectX 8.1 (included), 32MB Direct3d Compatible Video card and DirectX 8.1 compatible driver, DirectX 8.1 Compatible Sound Card, keyboard, mouse. These are not very high requirements by today's standards.
Splinter Cell was released late last year by UBI Soft. A tactical stealth game, where shooting everything in sight will not get you anywhere in the game, Splinter Cell is an excellent game. The first game in this vein I played was Metal Gear Solid. The game play isn't identical, but similar. There are situations where a gun is necessary, but in most of the situations in this game stealth is preferred.
The graphics in this game are amazing. The first time I played the game on a Xbox at my local EB (single player demo), I was amazed at the look of the "Night-Vision" mode. In a pitch dark room the character flips over his night vision goggles and everything turns black and white. The Caspian level on which the benchmark used in this review was used uses pixel shaders for the water.
Playing this game on the AIW 9800 Pro is an experience. The graphics look simply amazing, with no graphical anomalies. On a GEFORCE FX 5600, on the other hand, there are quirks in the water, almost like the video card isn't using the pixel shaders to it's full extent. There are "holes" in the water. On the AIW 9800 Pro these "holes" aren't present.
System requirements for Splinter Cell are 800 MHz Pentium III or AMD Athlon, 256 Mbytes RAM, DirectX 8.1b, 32 Mbytes video card, DirectX 8.1 compatible sound card, 8x speed CD/DVD-ROM drive, 1.5 GB Hard Drive Space. Recommended configuration: 1000 MHz Pentium III or AMD Athlon or better, 256 Mbytes or better, DirectX 9, 64 Mbytes video caard, DirectX 9 compatible sound card with surround system, 8x speed CD/DVD-ROM, 2.1 GB Hard Drive Space. In this case I would suggest using a 128MB videocard like the AIW 9800 Pro and a fast CPU. After all, I buy a video card to play the games at the high settings, not lowest resolution and settings, which a 32 MB or 64 MB card would require.