Half Life 2: Cinematic Mod 8 benchmarks and visual comparison
Since Fakefactory recently released the Cinematic Mod 8, PCGH now delivers a visual comparison and some benchmarks that reveal how current graphics cards deal with the increased workload.
The Cinematic Mod mainly enhances sound and graphic details. Version 8 offers new character models, high-res textures and physical gimmicks like hair movements. Additionally there are dynamic shadows, motion blur and HDR rendering. CM8 uses the latest version of the Source Engine ("Orange Box Engine”) and doesn't just offer the improvements for Episode 2, but also for Episode 1 and Half Life 2 itself - which you have to have installed, too, in order to receive the Cinematic Mod 8 benefits for them.
We put several current graphics cards to the test - among them the new lineup of AMD and Nvidia with the HD 4850 and HD 4870 as well as GTX 280 and GTX 260. We activated Anisotropic Filtering and Anti Aliasing in the game. The latter one automatically used a smoothing for transparent textures, what explains the high requirements. The new GTX cards are ahead with the single GPU cards, but loose more ground compared to the AMD models, when MSAA is switched from 4x to 8x and thus the HD 4870 can close in on the GTX 260. The Geforce 7900 GTX is the only card to be to slow for 1,680x1,050 with AA and AF.
Even at 1,920x1,200 the low-priced HD 4850 is on the same level as the Geforce 9800 GTX and delivers smooth 60 fps on average. But the minimal fps are on an dangerously low level with both cards and almost hit the 20 fps limit. A card of the X1950 XTX class is recommendable to sorely afflicted gamers only - a Geforce 7900 GTX is going down without a chance. When switching to 1,920x1,200 and 8x MSAA the Radeon HD 4870 and the smaller version are doing well once more. The former strikes at the GTX 260 and delivers the noticeable better minimal fps, too, while the HD 4850 beats the Geforce 9800 GTX (+) and the 8800 Ultra. It even keeps playable even though the minimal fps drop below 20. This is caused by the 512 MiByte video memory and the Radeon's better usage of the VRAM.
If you have all three parts of the Half Life 2 series, you can download the 6.4 GiByte package at Half-Life Portal. Because of the big textures, Fakefactory recommends more than 2 GiByte RAM and a 64 bit operating system. The graphics card should support Shader Model 3 and have more than 256 MiByte video memory. If you want to go to 1,920x1,200, even 512 MiByte wouldn't be in vain.
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