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Crysis Warhead Hardware Performance Review

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Crysis Warhead Hardware Performance Review​
Developer: Crytek
Platform: PC
Genre(s): First Person Shooter, Action
Released: September 18th 2008
Price: $29.99
Links: Crysis Warhead

For nearly a year, Crytek’s Crysis has retained its position on the podium as not only one of the best games of all time, but for us hardware nuts - one of the best benchmarks of all time. Crysis benchmarks are often sought out in reviews, much like the sacred Futuremark scores; in fact, here at Hardware Canucks, you readers gravitate towards the Crysis pages more than any other benchmark available! It is the unfathomably high system requirements and stunning graphical details that have earned the game its “System Killer” label.

Now Crytek welcomes a new family member, Crysis Warhead. Warhead is the sequel that follows the adventures of the character Psycho, one of Nomad's sidekicks in the original game, moved to fight on the opposite side of the island. While the developers claimed their intentions for Crysis to be a trilogy, Warhead appears to merely be a standalone "expansion-pack". The number of levels has been cut down and the play time required clocks in at a little under six hours. There are very few additions or improvements to the gameplay; a few weapon changes, some additional vehicles and a little nicer scenery. The story line has obviously been altered, but as it runs parallel to the original adventures of Nomad, the course of events is identical. Much like the first, the story is engaging, the graphics plentifully and lovely, and the action even more fast-paced.

When Crysis Warhead was first announced, the issue of optimization for lower-end systems was a critical factor in its creation. Crytek even went so far as to design a "budget" gaming machine that became a focal point for optimization. Along with making the game a little more system friendly, they also worked on improving the graphics quality to keep the CryEngine the king of visual performance. However, questions surrounding a system's ability to tame the beast still remain. Hardware has evolved at a rapid rate in the past year, the best video cards of 2007 are long dead and buried and new challengers have arisen. Will the acclaimed game of the year be relegated to just another shelf title or will Warhead still tantalize even the most elite of systems?



Crysis Warhead HD Trailer
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Setup and Quality Comparison

Setup


Our test made use of hardware from across the map. For the most part we were able to stick with current products rather than testing older antiquated relics. The specific hardware used during testing will be listed on the individual benchmarks, however below you will find a complete list of the hardware used. The benchmarks themselves took us through 4 separate levels ranging from tropical paradise to harsh blizzards and even through a few intense battles. The average framerates of each of the individual tests were compiled into the end numbers reflected in the graphs. 30FPS is considered a passing grade for smooth and seamless playback. We also took the time to play through the game to ensure that the reported frames and differences would be exactly what a gamer would experience.

Hardware:

CPU:
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 2.83GHz 1333FSB
Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 3.0GHz 1333FSB
Intel Core 2 Duo E7300 1066FSB
Intel Pentium Dual Core E5200 800FSB
AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ 2.6GHz
AMD Athlon 64 X2 6400+ 3.2GHz
AMD Phenom X3 8750 2.4GHz
AMD Phenom X4 9750 2.4GHz

Video Card
ATI Radeon HD4870X2 2GB
ATI Radeon HD4870 512MB
ATI Radeon HD4850 512MB
nVidia GeForce GTX280 1GB
nVidia GeForce GTX 260 896MB
nVidia GeForce 9800GTX 512MB
nVidia GeForce 9800GT 512MB
nVidia GeForce 8800GT 512MB

Other:
Asus Maximus Formula X38 LGA775 Motherboard
Asus M3A78-T 790GX AM2+ Motherboard
OCZ Reaper 2x2GB DDR2 1066 PC2-8500 Ram
Corsair TX750 750W Power Supply
Western Digital SE16 320GB Hard Drive
Samsung 224T 24inch 1920X1200 Monitor

OS, Drivers and Software:
Windows Vista Ultimate x64 w/ SP1
nVidia GeForce Forceware 177.79 & 177.92
ATI Catalyst 8.9
Crysis Warhead


Quality Comparison

Warhead includes 4 different levels of image quality settings. Crytek changed from the original naming scheme and instead developed their own descriptions to depict quality settings. A unique feature, but potentially confusing to unknowing gamers. None of our benchmarks included any post processing effects. Only adjustments to the resolution and graphical settings were done using their preset levels.

 
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Crysis System Testing

Crysis System Testing


When Crytek first announced that gamers would be able to play Crysis Warhead at High settings on a $700 PC, many were skeptical. The original game was renowned for its exceptionally high requirements, which in turn alienated many players, limiting them from the full experience of the game. This in turn began an internet phenomenon with gamer's frequently asking those with the latest hardware "but can it play Crysis?" With Warhead, the developers were adamant about giving all gamers the opportunity to play Crysis in its full glory. As such, a low-cost $700 PC was created around which the game was tested and benchmarked. The system's hardware specs are relatively current, incorporating 45nm Intel technology, a mainstream graphics card and all the other necessary bells and whistles.


Ad detailing Crysis System Specifications
crysis-pc-ad.jpg


Given that such a bold statement had been made, it would be irresponsible of us to not confirm this. For obvious reason, we were unable to mimic the PC in its entirety, however, the critical components were much of the same.

Hardware Canucks Crysis Warhead PC
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E7300 2.66GHz
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-EG31M-S2 mATX G31 LGA775 Motherboard
Video Card: eVGA GeForce 9800GT 512MB PCI-E
Ram: OCZ Gold 1GBX2 PC6400 DDR2 Ram

We loaded these components, along with the other parts into the shopping cart of our favorite online Canadian retailer and wound up a pinch over the advertised $699. Keep in mind that the advertised price of the Crysis system was in USD and our prices reflect Canadian dollars. Our tiny overage can be attributed to the choice of an Antec Sontata 3 case which includes a quality Antec 500W PSU rather than entrusting our components to a questionable and nameless 500W model. We also included the Windows Vista operating system, as a specific OS was not recommended. For bargain hunters, further savings can be found by using the HWC Price Comparison feature.

After getting the budget gaming system up and running, we had to put it through its paces to see if the assertions were true.

CrysisSystemChart.jpg

We were not disappointed; at a popular 4:3 resolution and high settings, it pulled it off. The system didn't just squeak by, but achieved playable frames across all the levels. Now granted, the system failed to make par when run using higher wide-screen resolution; however, a 1280X1024 is still the most popular gaming resolution according to surveys. With a bit of minor tweaking, a player will still be able to achieve sufficient frames with higher resolutions.


psycho.jpg
 
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Proccesor (CPU) Comparison

Proccesor (CPU) Comparison


Our CPU test pits popular representatives from each major CPU lineup against each other to weed out which one offers top performance. As you will note in the chart below, Warhead is unable to take full advantange of the benefits of quad core processors, which would allow the game to spread different tasks over individual cores.

CPUCharts.jpg

The Intel CPU's have the speediest of the bunch - the E8400 - holding the crown, with the slightly slower, but quad powered Q9550 on its heels. With AMD we see the Phenom's architectural improvements provide the competitive edge over the X2 5000+ but still, a CPU's effective speed seems to be the primary factor for better performance.
 
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Video Card (GPU) Comparison

Video Card (GPU) Comparison


The video card benchmarking is where the real showdown exists. Crysis relies very heavily on 3D processing, leaving the responsibility to the graphics card to make it or break it.

GPUCharts.jpg

Both nVidia and ATi have strong showings, matching up evenly. The GTX260 and HD4870 battle it out for third place, ATi narrowing the gap at the higher settings. One of the parties came under scrutiny some time ago for allegedly creating optimized drivers that gave it an unfair advantage, but that does not appear to be the case - the cards fall into nearly the same positions shown by most other benchmarking tools.




Mouse Over to View Graphical Presets
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Mouse Over to View Graphical Presets
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Ram and OS Comparison

Ram and OS Comparison


Two is the new One, at least when discussing gaming PC's and their Ram. While we can no longer state "ram prices are at an all-time low" (they have been there for some time), the continuing affordability of DDR2 memory has helped make 2GB of RAM the standard, and as such that is where we will start. Crysis Warhead, having the same recommendations as the first, lists 1GB of RAM as necessary in Windows XP and 1.5GB of RAM in Windows Vista. We don't expect to see any adverse performance in our tests, but will there be improvements? The other question inquiring minds want to know is whether or not Vista is the evil monster that gobbles frames as fabled across internet forums. Our tests incorporate both DirectX9 and 10 results which will be expanded on further in the review.

ramoscharts.jpg

Overall, the differences are minor. There are minute improvements going from 2GB to 4GB, but they are negligible at that. Windows XP does perform better than Vista but only by a fraction. Vista also gains the advantage of being able to use DirectX10, which does result in diminished framerates, but supposedly carries visual benefits.


Ram Usage

The following results were achieved by monitoring ram usage during the benchmarks, giving us some intriguing results. In our FPS test (shown above), the differences in framerates between 2GB and 4GB was minimal, but our usage charts show total system usage sitting at 2.35GB's in DX9 mode when using 4GB of ram. With only 2GB of ram, the total system usage drops to 1.9GB. Crysis Warhead still uses the same amount of memory - roughly 1.2GB - however, it is clear Vista holds some of your memory hostage when there is more physical memory available. Unfortunately, while 2GB will suffice, it does not leave a lot of wiggle room for programs to fight over resources. Users may find themselves experiencing slow downs if active processes exceed a very meager 800MB at system idle.

ramusagecharts.jpg

We see DirectX10 finally being put to good use and doing part of what was originally intended; optimizing game performance and better allocating resources. There is a clear and sharp decrease in ram usage in Warhead with DirectX10 enabled, but there are some drawbacks as we will demonstrate later in the review.
 
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DirectX Review

DirectX Review


DirectX10 has slowly begun to make headway in the gaming realm, as gamers are finally noticing improvements by using the new API. The apprehension over Vista has been the major cause of the slow adoption along with game developers lagging behind on the uptake. The original Crysis was heralded for its DirectX10 support, and the gamers who used it were treated to improved visuals and immersion. However, Crysis Warhead has arguably taken a step back in terms of quality, offering almost no visual improvements when using the supposedly advanced technology. Is this apparent lack of change a limitation of the game's engine, negligence on behalf of the developers, or does DirectX10 just not offer the quality boost that we once thought?

Our charts show a rather large hit when running the game in DX10 mode. As seen in the ram benchmarks, the overall system performance benefits by using less resources. One would expect that with the decreased FPS there would be an increase in visual quality…right?


DirectXCharts.jpg

The apparent lack of change between the two versions had us double and triple checking results and screenshots to make sure that DirectX10 was in fact enabled. A loss of frames and very little visual gain really isn't much encouragement to adopt the new standard.


Mouse Over Image to Display Differences
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Mouse Over Image to Display Differences
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Old and New

Old and New

Crytek has had a year to tinker and muddle around with the CryEngine, and as stated earlier, optimization has been a key focus. It is speculated that Crysis sales suffered as a result of its high settings and thus shut out a portion of its potential player base. Many gamers were upset that they were unable to experience the full features of the game, so with a year to improve hardware and the game itself, many eagerly anticipated what Warhead would offer.

Our results take our bench system, and run Crysis through a set of three different maps at the specified quality settings. As Warhead uses a different naming scheme for its quality settings please refer below for the matchup:
Gamer = High (Described as Medium)
Enthusiast = Very High (Described as High)

old_new_dx9.jpg

If the first thought in your head was "Huh?" you are not alone. Warhead practically blew past the original at Medium settings, but suffered terribly when turned to High. With Crysis one would be meandering along smoothly while Warhead would appear rather sluggish. Looking at the graphical differences in the screenshots below, it is clear that the enthusiast settings add far greater detail than seen previously, hence the extra strain. One can only surmise that while Gamer settings treat players to an abundance of graphical eye candy, there is still a bit left for those daring to push the envelope and get the full epic view... at least with DirectX9.

old_new_dx10.jpg

The DirectX10 numbers show a bit of a different story. Here we see a reflection of what was originally expected. Warhead posts a marked improvement over Crysis, taking a small hit in performance, but overall maintaining an even drop. The original dips a bit on Medium, but falls through the floor with the graphics at High. Looking at our comparison screenshots of the original, there is a clear increase in graphical detail, whereas - as pointed out in our DirectX section - Warhead has leveled the field between DX9 and 10.


Mouse Over Image to Display Differences
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/fixt/Games/CWH/imageloader.php?id=5"></script>

Mouse Over Image to Display Differences
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Conclusion

Conclusion

And thus ends our hardware performance review for Crysis Warhead, the latest saga in what many hope is the beginning of an incredible lineup. Crytek has made world headlines with the games, receiving prestigious awards and becoming a standard in hardware enthusiasts and benchmarker's arsenals. The original criticisms on performance have been addressed and Warhead yet again shows that it has what it takes to rule the roost.

With their commitment to ensuring that gamers of all "system levels" can enjoy Warhead, EA and Crytek took it a step further and setup the perfect Crysis System. This innovative idea is not only a great selling feature, but gives gamers a standardized configuration against which to pit their system and base potential purchases. They stayed true to the performance claims and did not pad the numbers. A serious commitment to satisfaction was promised and delivered. Our benchmarks reveal areas which have received improvement, and some that that could still use a bit of fine tuning. DirectX9 has magically been brought back from the dead to compete with the visual quality of DirectX10 - unfortunate, given the strong push for gamers to adopt the new API. The game still struggles to take full advantage of multi-core processors, but we see that in the realm of video cards, manufacturers are dueling it out on an even battlefield, much unlike the rumours of "cheating" with the original.

Overall, Warhead appeases all. It plays great on a variety of hardware and has extra tidbits for the hardcore enthusiast in all of us. While the game is not all graphics; it includes engaging gameplay and a well-rounded storyline as a part of the package, one can't help but be mesmerized by the stunning world.



 
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