Starcraft II Beta Performance Preview
Reviewed by: ccokeman
Reviewed on: July 18, 2010
The thing that got me started down this long slippery slope was a game. A real time strategy game called Command and Conquer. This type of game I found more appealing then the traditional shooter because I had to think instead of just shoot my way out of a situation over and over. The original Starcraft was another game of this genre that was enough to keep my evenings tied up for some time. Judging by the sales numbers of the original, it kept quite a few others engaged as well. Now fast forward and we have Starcraft II Wings of Liberty ready to launch. This game has been eagerly anticipated as the followup to Blizzard's RTS hit Starcraft. You can find all the information you want about this game online but what you can't find is how some of today's hardware performs in this game. That's something that we are here to do by taking a look at the performance delivered by seven of the latest DirectX 11 video cards in this game. Follow on and see how they do so you to can choose the best video card solution for your current or future gaming rig. Lets see how they do.
You can play through the game as one of three distinct species, The Protoss, Zerg and Terrans who are exiles from the planet earth. The gameplay screens look much like any number of real time strategy games but each of course have their own look. Below are screen shots from each of the races as the buildup process is under way. You will have to learn to leverage the strengths of each race to overcome the other.
Finding out what the best card to run this latest installment of Starcraft is what this article is all about. Next up, some results.
The only real way to find out how the latest video cards perform in the latest games is install and then play through a section of the game. This will give a realistic expectation of what kind of performance you can expect. I will be using a custom 11 minute timed sequence using Fraps to measure the frames per second delivered by the hardware while playing this game. The in game settings will be set to Ultra to put the highest load on the video cards in this test. Anti Aliasing is not supported directly in Starcraft II but Nvidia has made the option available for its cards in this game. Testing will be run to see if enabling Anti Aliasing has an impact on visual quality and performance. To enable Anti aliasing, I will adjust this to 4x in each of the respective control panels and run the timed sequence at 1920 x 1200. The testing setup used will be my standard testbed listed below.
- Processor: Intel Core I7 920 200x18 3.6Ghz
- Motherboard: MSI X58 Eclipse SLI
- Memory: Mushkin 996805 Redline PC312800 6-8-6-24 1600MHz
- Video Card(s): GTX 480,GTX 470,GTX 465,GTX 460,HD 5870,HD 5850,HD 5830
- Power Supply: Mushkin 800 watt Modular power supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 1TB SATA
- Optical Drive: NEC DV5700
- OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
- Case: Thermaltake Armor +
The settings used in game are the highest possible settings with v-sync turned off for maximum framerates . While in many games, setting the visual quality this high presents challenges for less powerful hardware, Starcraft II is playable with the highest possible settings. Blizzard wanted to have scalable performance so everyone could play. Not just those with high end rigs.
What the testing shows is that really you can play this game at the highest video quality settings with pretty much any card in the $199+ price-bracket. Any card above this will produce frame rates that are well above what you can get away within an RTS game. Blizzard has made the performance scalable so that even if your system is not the latest flavor of the month, you can still enjoy the game.
When it came time to measure performance, the GF 100-based Nvidia cards deliver higher frame rates across the board, while the GF 104 based GTX 460, although heavily overclocked from the factory, performs well above its price point in comparison to the HD 5850 and HD 5830. Game play is what I would expect from a real time strategy game, but this is more about what the current crop of video cards can deliver performance-wise in this game rather than the intricacies of the game. When anti aliasing is enabled in the control panels of each respective manufacturer, only the Nvidia cards showed a difference in frame rate or visual quality. The HD 5830 did not show a difference in frame rate when Anti aliasing was enabled showing that AA is not enabled for ATI cards at this time. At this point, it looks like only Nvidia has this option available to the gamer. When enabled, the GTX 460 still has the muscle to deliver acceptable frame rates in the resolutions that gamers at this price point play in, namely 1920x1200 and below. If the success of the original Starcraft is any indication, then making the game playable for the largest audience will pay dividends and allow the franchise to soldier on.