Game Tests: Homeworld 2, Jedi Academy, Morrowind
Homeworld 2 is a gorgeous OpenGL based game with some awesome particle and lighting effects. At times, there are literally hundreds of objects on the screen with action happening everywhere. There are a lot of details when zoomed in like emblem badges on individual units, burn marks on hulls, and raging deck fires. The test I have chosen to run is from the 3rd mission where the player is tasked to rescue a shipyard and rebuild the fleet. The precise sequence benchmarked is when I have a fleet of 5 interceptor wings (25 units), 3 bomber wings (9 units), and 5 gun ships/corvettes intercepting the Vagyr (about 22 units) at the shipyard.
|Screen Resolution||1024×768 and 1600×1200|
Unlike all the previous games tested, here we see the NVIDIA FX5700 Ultra pulling ahead of the Asus Radeon 9600XT albeit by a small margin. At 1024×768, both cards performed very well without much problems, and neither card was able to play 1600×1200 properly.
There are two issues with the Radeon 9600XT that makes the FX5700 Ultra more appealing in this game. First is the abnormal drop in performance at 1600×1200 with 4xAA and 8xAF. According to ATI, choppy performance on Radeon cards has been fixed for Homeworld 2 with the 3.9 Catalyst drivers, but it appears there are still some outstanding issues. Second is how the Radeon products often cause Homeworld 2 to crash while loading. These crashes occur about 60% of the time when loading the game and is the reason why I’ve reduced the number of tests I perform in this game simply because it takes too long to try to get a running instance of the game.
Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
Jedi Academy is Raven’s next installment of their successful Star Wars license and like previous “Jedi” games from Raven, this game uses the Quake 3 engine and is OpenGL based. This particular test takes place on Tatooine near the beginning of the game. There is a large canyon with a few enemies shooting from the ridges and a few on the ground with pikes.
|Screen Resolution||1024×768 and 1600×1200|
|Texture Quality||32 bit|
At 1024×768, we see the FX5700 Ultra beat the Asus Radeon 9600XT handedly by margins of 10 FPS and higher. The FX5700 Ultra maintains playable rates throughout testing and I never noticed any slow-downs that got in the way of light saber reckoning. The Radeon 9600XT on the other hand was a poor performer and only able to play the game at 0xAA.
The Asus Radeon 9600XT continues it’s slide here and fails to give any playable settings at all. The FX5700 Ultra continues beating the Radeon 9600XT by 10FPS or more and managed playable settings at 0xAA. It’s clear now that the FX5700 Ultra is the clear choice not only in this game in particular, but may also be the wiser choice for OpenGL games in general as we’ve seen the FX5700 Ultra beat the Radeon in Homeworld 2.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
The 3rd installment to the Elder Scrolls franchise is proving to be very successful. Once again, I am using Balmora as the “benchmark” town because of its large number of NPCs and buildings (great for back-face culling testing), and a large pixel-shaded river running through it.
The Asus Radeon 9600XT performs very well in Morrowind and there are only two frames difference in frame rates from 0x0 to 4×8 which is really amazing. Just to confirm that these numbers are correct, I redid these tests three times and each time with the same result. The FX5700 Ultra also performs fairly well with frame rates exceeding 40 FPS, but suddenly drops to a paltry 9FPS. As much as I’d like to say that this is a bug with this game, this kind of behaviour we’ve also seen previously in Age of Mythology and in Freelancer. Strangely enough, the FX5950 Ultra we used in the Asus Radeon 9800XT review did not exhibit the same behaviour.
Here we see almost a mirror image of the results from 1024×768. Some of you may find it odd that neither card dropped in performance significantly between resolutions, but this is typical of Morrowind (some people even suggest that frame rates go up at higher resolutions!). Like at 1024×768, I performed this test twice to make sure the numbers are accurate and I recorded similar results each time. The Asus Radeon 9600XT performs very well and played very smoothly without any noticeable slow-downs. The FX5700 Ultra also performed well but had some brief stutters when turning more than 45 degrees to the left or right. At 4xAA, the FX5700 Ultra drops in performance drastically like we’ve seen previously at 1024×768 and in other games.