Ahh, the Quake 3 engine. It's something FPS fans first drooled over back in the days of the original TNT. Just being able to run the public demo tests at 1024x768 resolution at medium detail was an accomplishment. Even five years later, we can still see this id Software original engine being put to good use in a variety of games from the Jedi Knight franchise to the popular (and free) Enemy Territory tested here. Third-party developers have built some unique games based on this technology that still look good today.
RTCW: Enemy Territory
For this test I used the Railgun timedemo courtesy of the German hardware site 3DCenter. You can visit their site to download the same demo as well as the instructions on how to run it. I took a pretty simple approach to benchmarking this and other games. As stated on the previous page, any video card from this generation will be limited by your CPU, especially at lower resolutions.
1152x864 and lower need not apply here - I only tested resolutions of 1280x1024 (or 1280x960 in the case of Painkiller) and 1600x1200. 4x full scene anti-aliasing (AA) and 8x anisotropic filtering (AF) were used wherever possible except for Halo and Far Cry (more info later). As a side note on anisotropic filtering, NVIDIA gives users the option to enable and disable its trilinear filtering optimizations for OpenGL and Direct 3D games as well as its anisotropic filtering optimizations in Direct 3D only. In my testing, I left the trilinear optimizations on and turned off the anisotropic ones.
Instead of trying to explain the various filtering and anti-aliasing methods, nV News' own ChrisRay has provided a detailed analysis of the GeForce 6800's capabilities. Take a few minutes to browse through his NV40 anisotropic filtering and NV40 anti-aliasing investigations via our forums. There's a lot of great information and screenshots for you to compare.
The scores you see listed represent the average frame rate in the games. After the charts I will provide additional observations/analysis because numbers don't always tell the whole story.
For Enemy Territory specifically, all in-game options were set to their maximums. Sound was disabled to reduce stress on the CPU.
Enemy Territory Results
OpenGL always has been a strong point of NVIDIA's chipsets. NVIDIA's driver team stays on top of current releases and developments with this open-source API. Naturally, the 6800 GT OC is no exception. Without full scene anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering you can see a perfect example of a CPU limitation, with this BFG card performing the same at both tested resolutions. Add image-enhancing features like anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering, and you see numbers drop accordingly. The hit is 7 percent at 1280 and a more troublesome 27 percent at 1600x1200. While the latter figure looks large, the numbers show that Enemy Territory is still completely playable at 1600x1200 with 4x AA and 8x AF. The BFG 6800 GT OC comes out of the gate with a flying start. There's no reason why you couldn't play online at the maximum settings.
SERIOUS SAM: THE SECOND ENCOUNTER
The Serious Sam franchise is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated in all of PC gaming. Croteam made a huge splash with the original Seriou Sam. The game featured tight coding that could run on a wide range of hardware, massive outdoor environments and fast-paced action reminiscent of Doom II and Quake. The subsequent Second Encounter upped the ante with additional graphical enhancements, new weapons and new enemies.
Serious Sam: The Second Encounter
Again I tested only 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 resolutions. FSAA was applied through the driver control panel. However, for anisotropic filtering, I enabled this via the in-game control panel. I set filtering to trilinear and left the optimizations on via the drivers. The game also has an option for an extreme quality add-on so I used that and benchmarked using the included "Valley of the Jaguar" demo.
Serious Sam Results
And again without AA or AF you can see how the CPU becomes the limiting factor in this game. At 1280x1024, the performance hit with 4x AA and 8x AF is a miniscule 5 percent. That gap jumps to 33 percent at 1600x1200, but with the 6800 GT checking in well above 60 frames per second, you should not feel guilty about running the game at full settings.
AMP II ENGINE
Having edited ragejg's review of the BFG GeForce FX 5900XT OC, I wanted to use the AMP II Engine demo in my evaluation of the 6800. AMP II is a somewhat obscure engine that boasts some pretty impressive capabilities which you can read about in the 5900XT OC review as well as at the developer's Web site. You can see from the FX review that the card was really punished in this test.
It would be very interesting to see what this engine could do with some tweaking by an ambitious game developer. Since there's no benchmark built into this demo, I used Fraps. I enabled Fraps' benchmarking capability and ran to the end of the test level and back to gain my measurements. I ran several times to gain a better idea of average frame rate.
AMP II Engine Results
The averages look solid here, but these numbers don't quite tell the whole story. According to Fraps, my minimum frame rate with AA and anisotropic was 20 at 1280x1024 and a meager 13 at 1600x1200. Neither resolution felt playable at those settings. The results of the 6800 GT, however, are vastly superior to those of the FX 5900XT OC. The latter card only managed 9 fps at 1600x1200 with 4x AA and 8x AF. When you look at it that way, the GT looks a whole lot better. Plus, this merely is a tech demo and probably would not be indicative of performance if a developer really got their hands dirty with the engine. Sure, this tech demo isn't a "real world" game, but it has some of the features you can expect once Doom 3 hits store shelves in a couple weeks. I have my pre-order in and I'll be first in line when the game becomes available.