Other Games: RomeTW, Madden 2005 and EverQuest 2

If you have read any of our other video card previews and reviews, you’ll have seen a change we have made in our test suite recently.  We added games to our benchmark tests that include Rome: Total War, Madden 2005 and City of Hereos.  With the release of EverQuest 2 just a couple of weeks ago, we were in transition to using that game as well. 

However, I quickly ran across a problem using these games: there was no performance gain in using SLI on them.  None at all.  In fact, in most cases, performance decreased.  In Rome: Total War, there were no gains.  In Madden 2005, there was something around a 1% performance hit (within a margin of error, no doubt) and with EverQuest 2, there was a small performance hit as well. 

Upon investigating this with NVIDIA, I learned that both Madden 2005 and Rome: Total War had profiles in the 66.93 driver that I was using, but that SLI had been disabled in the driver for these titles.  Let me stress again that SLI was not functioning at all during my playing of these games even though I had it enabled in the driver.  NVIDIA claims that those two games are very CPU limited (and Madden has a 60 FPS lock on it) that actually made the SLI configurations slower to render the game than a single GPU.  So, in order to avoid this performance hit, NVIDIA disables SLI when it detects this game is being played. 

For EverQuest 2, there was no profile so I simply enabled the global SLI setting in the driver to force SLI to run on the game.  The driver chose to use the SFR mode, and I could see it working on my monitor with the load balance indicator.  The problem that I saw was that the green cross bar that indicates where the load is split, would consistently waver back and forth for a bit but would inevitably end up at either the top inch of the screen or the bottom inch of the screen.  As you might be able to guess, that doesn’t do a whole lot of good. 

Here are my benchmarks running EQ2 at 1600×1200 with 4xAA and 8xAF on:

NVIDIA's SLI Technology - The Gaming Leader? - Graphics Cards  1

NVIDIA's SLI Technology - The Gaming Leader? - Graphics Cards  2

With average frame rates like that on the single GPU testing, I was eager to see what SLI could do for performance in this game.  If any title seemed to scream for SLI, this was it.  But as you can see, this wasn’t the case. 

I bring this point up not to be overly critical of NVIDIA or their SLI technology.  I know that it is still in its early stages and that both NVIDIA and the game developers have a lot of work ahead of them to really make scaling game code work well in all areas.  But I was concerned by all the SLI reviews I had read that didn’t show this side of SLI; that it didn’t give these 50%+ improvements in all games.  It seems that everyone was testing the ‘big three’ games, HL2, Doom 3 and Far Cry, but didn’t really look at everything else.

NVIDIA is planning on publishing a list of the games that support SLI on their gaming site, www.nzone.com and you can be sure when they do we’ll be pointing you towards it.

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