Half-Life 2 Benchmarks
Half-Life 2 is a different ball of wax for NVIDIA, though, and ATi has held the performance edge in this game engine since it was released. NVIDIA has been closing the gap gradually, however, with recent driver releases. So here's a look at what SLI does for its performance profile in what can arguably be thought of as ATi's strong suit.
|Thanks to the dedication of millions of gamers and a huge mod-community, the original Half-Life became one of the most successful first person shooters of all time. So when Valve announced Half-Life 2 was close to completion in mid-2003, gamers the world over began chomping at the bit. Unfortunately, thanks to a compromised internal network; the theft of a portion of the game's source code; a couple of missed deadlines; and a tumultuous relationship with the game's distributor, Vivendi Universal, we all had to wait until November 2004 to get our hands on this gem. We benchmarked Half-Life 2 with a long, custom- recorded timedemo in the "coastal" map, that takes us along a cliff and through a few dilapidated shacks, battling the enemy throughout. These tests were run at resolutions of 1,280 x 1,024 and 1,600 x 1,200 without any AA or aniso and with 4X antialiasing and 8X anisotropic filtering enabled concurrently.|
Half-Life 2 is actually not very taxing on modern-day high-end GPUs. As you can see, with most of our scores for all cards dropping in at 100 fps or faster, the game is cranking along quite well with all graphics detail turned up to maximum and in high res with AA and AF. As you can see in our 1,280 x 1,024 scores, ATi does hold a sizable lead over NVIDIA, even with SLI turned on for dual graphics. However, there is a clear indication here that we are mostly CPU-limited as our SLI scores at 1,280 without AA or AF turned on are actually slightly slower than our single GeForce 6800GT and Ultra scores. This is indicative of the extra CPU burden put on the system for load balancing in Alternate Frame Rendering mode because the GPUs are hardly taxed at all. It's only when we turn on AA and AF that SLI shows some slight advantage at 1,280 x 1,024 res.
At 1,600 x 1,200 we see a much more typical linear progression of performance for the NVIDIA cards in SLI and the ASUS A8N-SLI motherboard. Without AA and AF, ATi still wins, but turn it on, and SLI pulls ahead nicely. Regardless either way, it seems as though NVIDIA has some work to do with SLI in Half-Life 2. Or perhaps it's just not going to be a gaming scenario where having two times the available rendering horsepower is ever going to offer exponential performance gains.
We would offer that perhaps there are other circumstances where HL2 can tax the graphics subsystem, when there is heavy action on the screen, in a large-scale fire fight, for example, in the new deathmatch version Valve recently released. In this case, perhaps SLI could offer more bang for the buck, but because we haven't tested a multiplayer demo as of yet, this is pure speculation on our part.