PCs Can Be Finicky Beasts
Of course, this is a PC game, so the overall performance and quality assessment isn't that simple. Gears of War ships with support for both Windows XP and Windows Vista, wit 216a h an option to turn on DirectX 10 rendering when running under Vista. First, what improvements or enhancements are made possible with by the DirectX 10 rendering path? Well, none, at least as far as my eyes can tell. A scene rendered using the DirectX 9 API under Window XP has no apparent differences from the same scene rendered using either DX9 Ex or DX 10 under Windows Vista. The only immediate enhancement available using DX 10 is antialiasing, and it comes at a steep cost in performance. Furthermore, under Vista, the DirectX 10 rendering path is actually slower than the DirectX 9 Ex one.
The best performance, with no apparent degradation in visual quality, comes under good ol' Windows XP, which had higher minimum and average frame rate numbers on the test systems. And while antialiasing improves the graphical experience in a noticeable way, it put the hurt on a 3.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad system with 2GB of RAM an overclocked NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX. Even if you followed my lead and sold an organ to purchase such over-the-top hardware, turning on antialiasing will cause hitching and sudden frame rate drops. After all of my benchmark testing, I concluded that Windows XP was the way to go with Gears of War (for the curious, NVIDIA's ForceWare beta 169.04 drivers were used for these tests).
No graphics engine is without its quirks, and Gears of War has a couple. First, the in-game vertical synchronization option didn't work. Under both Windows XP and Vista (with DirectX10 on and off), the only way to achieve synchronization with the monitor's refresh rate is to force it through the graphics card drivers. Normally, vertical sync isn't much of an issue, but with Gears of War the tearing was pronounced when the frame rate strayed too far from my monitor's 60Hz refresh rate.
Second, the game engine seems to be linked to a 60 fps cap, of some kind; no matter how low I cranked the graphics settings and resolution on a fast PC, the frame rate never rose above 63 FPS, and the FRAPS counter spent most of its time at a steady 60 FPS. The game exhibited this behavior across operating systems and with both DirectX9 and DirectX 10 rendering paths, so I can only assume that the graphics engine is tied to an update cycle of 60Hz. Note that this internal frame rate is increased from the Xbox 360 version of the game, which ran at 30 FPS (though the console version's physics and game code worked in 60Hz intervals).
Ready For Another Heaping Helping
This was my fourth time through Gears of War, and yet I enjoyed every minute of it. Even with additional content, the PC release is the same linear romp through an action-movie script, complete with obvious and convoluted plot devices and hokey dialogue. So what makes the game so inherently enjoyable and worthy of such high praise? First, it's accessible: anyone can pick up and play in a matter of minutes, and even shooter neophytes won't feel like stooges on Casual difficulty. Second, and most important, are the high production values. From audio to character models to cut scenes to gameplay, the entire game feels like one coherent piece of entertainment. It delivers on the suspension of disbelief and sucks you in to the story from start to finish, and you walk away wanting more of the experience. Gears of War isn't trying to raise social questions like Bioshock or wow us with innovate gameplay like Portal. It is, however, a highly polished shooter that delivers in the area that matters most to gamers: it's just plain fun.
Summary of YouGamers Hardware Testing
The publisher of this game state the following specifications for their minimum and recommended requirements:
To learn more about how YouGamers performs its hardware testing, click here. Through our extensive gameplay and hardware testing across the full spectrum of PC configurations, YouGamers suggests that one should use the following guidelines for an appropriate minimum and recommended setup:
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