X2: The Threat, Rolling Demo

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X2: The Threat is a game that is shaping up to be one of the most ambitious space sims to be released in recent years. It mixes elements of exploration, combat, trading, and narrative story telling. Naturally there will be comparisons between X2 and Freelancer, but I think that these two games are different enough to co-exist as independent benchmarks for our reviews at AMDMB.com.

The recently released X2 Rolling Demo gives consumers a glimpse into what the game is going to offer. The demo is not interactive (i.e. you can’t actually play it) but it does render scenes and action with the actual game engine. What is convenient is that the developers, Egosoft, included a benchmark function so we can see how current graphics hardware performs with the game.

ATi & Nvidia Video Card Roundup #2 - Graphics Cards 42

The demo itself is pretty involved. There are multiple scenes depicting environments and situations you would encounter in this game. Bump mapping, specular effects, and projected shadows are used extensively in the demo (and presumably in the final release). DirectX 8 is predominantly used in this game, notably the vertex shaders. This is good news for those of you who are using older DirectX 8 compliant hardware (i.e. Radeon 8500s, GeForce Ti4x00s).

Since this game has not been released yet, I can only guess what the minimum playable frame rate is. I’m going with the assumption that anything above 25 FPS is sufficient for this game.

Demo Setup

Bump mapping Enabled
Projected shadows Enabled
Anti-aliasing Disabled (we use the driver’s anti-aliasing instead)


ATi & Nvidia Video Card Roundup #2 - Graphics Cards 43
*Radeon 9700 is a soft-modded Radeon 9500 running at Radeon 9700 specs.

ATi & Nvidia Video Card Roundup #2 - Graphics Cards 44
*Radeon 9700 is a soft-modded Radeon 9500 running at Radeon 9700 specs.


  • Radeon 9700
    The Radeon 9700 does really well at 1024×768. The only setting it fails to achieve playable frame rates is at 6×0 and 6×8 AAxAF. At 1600×1200 the Radeon 9700 is playable at 0x0 and 0x8 with all the details enabled. Once you get higher, you would need to disable some features to get some decent frame rates. 2xAA and 8xAF should be easily achievable with some tweaking.

  • Radeon 9500
    It appears that the Radeon 9500 is only playable at 1024×768 up to and including 2xAA and 8xAF. I suspect that in order to get better performance at 1024×768 we would have to disable some projected shadows and bump-mapping. At 1600×1200 the Radeon 9500 is unusable for this demo, hopefully there would be more detail adjustments available in the final release so owners of the Radeon 9500 and 9600 can play at hi-res.

  • GeForce FX5900 Ultra
    The FX5900 Ultra does really well at 1024×768 and at 1600×1200. At 1024×768, everything is playable except at 6×0 and 6×8 – the graphics look gorgeous and the ships look amazing. At 1600×1200, the FX5900 Ultra pushes impressive results up to and including 6×8 AAxAF. Assuming 25 FPS is a playable frame rate for this game, the FX5900 Ultra is sufficient.

  • GeForce FX5600 and GeForce FX5200
    The FX5600 and the FX5200 is a bit disappointing: neither card was capable of performing the demo at an acceptable frame rate of 25 FPS or higher. However, the FX5600 has the best chance of playing at 1024×768 if you adjust details. The FX5200 is a poor performer here and will probably be playable at 800×600 only.

  • GeForce 4 Ti4800SE
    The GeForce 4 Ti4800SE does admirably even though it is now 1 generation old. It is playable at 1024×768 with 0x0, 2×0, and possibly at 1600×1200 with 0x0 if you adjust the details. The X2 demo makes a good example of the Ti4800SE’s poor anisotropic filtering performance with almost 50% reduction in frame rates when filtering is turned on. Despite this however, it still out performs the newer FX5200 and FX5600.

General Remarks

It’s obvious here that the Radeon 9700 and the FX5900 Ultra are the only video cards we see here capable of playing this game without compromising on details. The Radeon 9700 (and its replacements the Radeon 9800 and Radeon 9800SE) are poised to become the best value card for playing this game with a current price of $199 to $250 USD. The FX5900 Ultra, however, is the best card for playing this game assuming you can afford it. If you own a FX5600 and wish to play this game, let’s hope that the final release offers more graphical adjustments so that playing at 1024×768 is a possibility.


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