NVIDIA GPU PhysX Pack Preview

Article Index

Upcoming Games, Benchmarks, and Final Thoughts

Upcoming Games

NVIDIA PhysX definitely appears to be picking up steam and gaining quite a bit of support on the development front. Here is a list of upcoming games that will feature GPU PhysX support.

  • Cryostasis (Dev: Action Forms/Publisher: 1C Games)
  • Nurien (developed and published by Nurien Software)
  • MKZ (Object Software/publisher TBD)
  • Backbreaker (Natural Motion/publisher TBD)
  • Bionic Commando (GRIN/Capcom)
  • Empire: Total War (Creative Assembly/Sega)
  • Aliens: Colonial Marines (Gearbox/Sega)
  • Borderlands (Gearbox/2K Games)


Now, it's time to see what happens when the rubber meets the road. We tested GPU PhysX using Futuremark 3DMark Vantage and Warmonger on the test system outlined below.

HotHardware's Test System
Intel Core 2 Duo Powered

Hardware Used:
Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 (2.13GHz)

Abit Fatal1ty FP-IN9 SLI
(nForce 650i SLI chipset)

MSI R4850 T2D512 512MB

2048MB Corsair DDR2-800 C4
(2 X 1GB)

Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9
(7,200RPM - SATA)

Relevant Software:

Windows Vista Ultimate (32-bit)

NVIDIA Forceware v175.19
NVIDIA Forceware v177.79
ATI Catalyst v8.7
PhysX Driver v8.07.18
NVIDIA nForce v8.43

Benchmarks Used:
3DMark Vantage

Before taking a look at our benchmark results, take a quick look at the "GPU and Driver Configs" table above. We created this table with the hopes of eliminating confusion. As you have already gathered, GPU PhysX requires several prerequisites, including the right hardware and driver versions. Additionally, the game has to support it, and it has to be enabled within the game. So, as you will see below, you can actually test a GPU PhysX configuration with the GPU PhysX disabled to see how it compares to CPU-based PhysX performance.

3DMark Vantage

PhysX only affects one part of the 3DMark Vantage testing, and that is CPU Test 2. The fact that CPU Test 2 is affected, of course, leads to the final score being affected. We are presenting you with the overal scores and the CPU Test scores. We included both CPU Test 1 and CPU Test 2 to show you that, in fact, only CPU Test 2 changes.

As you can see, the GPU PhysX configuration smokes on CPU Test 2. It puts up a score that is around 20 times better than the other two configurations that don't support GPU PhysX.


Built using the Unreal Engine 3, Warmonger attempts to take dynamic destruction of environments to a whole new level. The developers of this game truly want you to think about and play this first-person shooter in a whole new way. They want you to use the environment, including floors, walls and even buildings, as a weapon. Warmonger can be run with hardware (GPU) PhysX enabled or disabled. We benchmarked each configuration with GPU PhysX enabled and disabled.

The scores above echo what we experienced while playing the game. When using GPU PhysX, everything was smooth and very playable. Explosions also seemed to be more violent (i.e. bricks on a wall flew farther and faster). With GPU PhysX disabled, the game was extremely choppy and simply not playable. You can check this game out at warmongergame.com.

Final Thoughts

Although we've been hearing about PhysX for only a couple years, it seems like it's been much longer than that. We think it's great to see what NVIDIA has been able to accomplish with PhysX and its acceleration on the GPU in the short time since the company acquired Ageia. We are all for games becoming more realistic. Imagine more debris or perhaps individual boards in a fence being destroyed one at a time or cloth ripping when you shoot it. You can do more than just imagine, though. With this PhysX Pack (and the right GPU and drivers of course), you can go and check out all of that for yourself.

We bet that at least a couple of you are wondering about multi-GPU support. We learned a couple of days ago that NVIDIA plans to support a few different modes for PhysX and multiple GPUs, but it is important to note that both are in the early stages of development. In SLI mode, both GPUs take on the physics and graphics workload equally. In Multi-GPU mode, on the other hand, the primary GPU (like a GTX 280) is dedicated to 3D graphics while the secondary GPU (like a 9600 GT) performs only PhysX calculations. This mode will be supported on both SLI and non-SLI motherboards.

Stay tuned to HotHardware for more PhysX coverage as the technology develops.

Update - 8/7/08:

We wanted to update the article after getting a few questions about the availability of the PhysX Pack. You will be able to download PhysX Pack #1 on August 12 at nvidia.com. PhysX Pack #1 includes the following content:

  • Full version of Warmonger
  • Full version of Unreal Tournament 3 PhysX Mod Pack (you will need Unreal Tournament 3 to play)
  • Latest patch for Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2
  • Sneak peek at the Nurien upcoming social networking service, based on the Unreal Engine 3 (with built-in benchmark)
  • Sneak peek at the upcoming game Metal Knight Zero (with built-in benchmark)
  • All new NVIDIA “The Great Kulu” tech demo
  • All new NVIDIA “Fluid” tech demo

Related content