The Game/Test setup

There was a lot of hype about FEAR before it was released, which is common for ground-breaking games of this sort. Too much hype can be a bad thing as we've seen before with other games, and while it may have some similarities to the movies, we aren't quite willing to put FEAR on the same level as The Ring and The Matrix, in spite of the dramatic slow motion deaths and the scary looking little girl.

In this case, though, FEAR more or less lives up to the hype, and what we have here is possibly the most beautiful looking, first-person shooter that we've ever seen. The dark and moody atmosphere and lighting are nice, reminiscent of Doom 3 except that you can actually see most of the time. During heated action sequences, the combination of lighting effects from things like muzzle flashes and sparks from bullet ricochets, as well as dust that falls from wall shots creating hazy clouds create a beautiful scene of chaos. This is further enhanced by the much-copied (but still fun) bullet-time/reflex mode, which slows everything down so that the chaos of sparks, dust and bodies flying through the air resemble some bizarre ballet that will occasionally make you pause to marvel at its beauty. Other graphical elements worth mentioning are the fire effects, which are impressive, compared to most other games, as are the water effects (reflections, ripples and caustics).

To be fair, a few things could have looked better in the game. While the levels are pretty, they can be repetitive, as can the enemies, which are mostly hordes of a few different variations of clone soldiers, and the effectiveness of the games parallax mapped environment damage is not up to snuff. These are just a few complaints, however, and graphically, the good stuff more than outweighs the bad. Further more, because the enemy AI is so smart and action so intense, you'll be so caught up in gameplay that the small graphical problems won't matter much.

Not only is this the best looking game out right now, but it also happens to be the most graphically demanding, as we will see in our performance tests. It's so demanding in fact that it could be a good reason for people to upgrade their graphics card. FEAR only supports resolutions of up to 1600x1200, but only the highest end cards can handle this resolution well, especially with soft shadows and/or AA enabled. In fact, this may be the first game that puts the 7800 GTX to its full use, as our tests showed at 1600x1200 with soft shadows and AA enabled FEAR was barely playable.

We wanted to get an idea about how FEAR performs across a wide range of graphics cards, so we tested a good sample of high end and mid-range cards. These are the kind of cards that we could see paired with our high end test system.

NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX
NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GT
NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT
NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GT
ATI Radeon X1800 XT (not yet available)
ATI Radeon X1800 XL
ATI Radeon X1600 XT (not yet available)
ATI Radeon X1300 Pro
ATI Radeon X800 GT

We also tested all resolutions possible up to 1600x1200, the highest that FEAR will run, with and without 4xAA and 8xAF enabled. FEAR gives the option to turn on a feature called soft shadows, which we will talk about later, and because of some issues that we saw with this, we ran benchmarks with and without this enabled. All other options were turned up to their maximum quality level. For those of you with older mid-range and lower end cards, maximal detail is not really an option at any resolution.

This is our test system:

NVIDIA nForce 4 motherboard
AMD Athlon 64 FX-55 2.6 GHz Processor
1 GB OCZ 2:2:2:6 DDR400 RAM
Seagate 7200.7 120 GB Hard Drive
OCZ 600 W PowerStream Power Supply

We also made sure to test with sound disabled. This test isn't as strict a test of graphics performance as some of our other benchmarks. For one, we used the built-in test feature. While this gives us a consistent "run" through a scene, physics variability and slight differences in what the characters in the scene do are apparent. This is similar to the Far Cry test if Crytek had added physics cues to the camera path of their benchmark.

While we would like to see more consistent action in order to compare cards better, the built-in tool is a much better option than using fraps while running through a level. As mentioned, we tested three different game settings. Driver settings were all default except for VSYNC, which was explicitly disabled.

Before we get to the numbers, let's take a deeper look at some of the graphics and performance issues that we noted previously.

Index The Failure of Soft Shadows and Parallax Mapping
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  • giles00 - Tuesday, October 25, 2005 - link

    I thought the bit-tech review was more relevant - they actually sat down and played the game, proving that the inbuilt graphics test doesn't bare any representation on real game play.

    http://www.bit-tech.net/gaming/2005/10/24/fear/1.h...">http://www.bit-tech.net/gaming/2005/10/24/fear/1.h...

    here's a good quote:

    quote:

    To give an idea of how intense our manual run through is in comparison to the built in "stress" test, the average and minimum frame rates for the NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX at 1280x960 2xAA 8xAF were 41 fps and 11 fps respectively. In contrast, the stress test reported a 55 FPS average and 35 fps minimum frame rate with only 17% of the frames below 40 frames per second. We think it is fair to say that the stress test isn't really much of a "stress" test after all.
    Reply
  • lindy01 - Sunday, October 23, 2005 - link

    Having to upgrade your hardware to the latest and greatest to get good looking games is crazy. In the last two years its spun out of control.

    My 9700pro lasted the longest, then I bought a 6800GT for $359.....my next purchase is a xbox360 for $399....I am sure if they make a version of Fear for it it will look great on my 50inch HD Sony TV. Ahhh and it probably wont ship full of bugs.

    Dam if it were not for PC games my system would be a 1ghz P3 with 512megs of ram!
    Reply
  • Regs - Monday, October 24, 2005 - link

    I'm a little reluctant too this year to upgrade. The worse thing about it is when they make a good optimized graphics engine , like HL2's & Far Cry's, they dont seem to last very long. I expected at least a few other developers to make good quality games with them but that never happened. So the end result is that you're upgrading your PC for 2 or 3 titles a year. ID's OpenGL based engine was the only real "big" seller with Riddick and Quake 4 thankfully. Plus if you include the problem that if the games turned out not to be in your liking you're stuck with 1000 dollars worth of useless hardware. Reply
  • CronicallyInsane - Sunday, October 23, 2005 - link

    I got the game, installed the new patch, and have been running @ 1024x768 just fine with the majority of the goodies on. Given, no soft shadows, and on 4x rather than 8x or 16x, but it looks beautiful to me.

    2.4Gig Northwood @ 3 gig
    1 gig pc3200
    Raptor 36G
    6600gt agp @ 550/1.1

    Try it before you bash it, ya know?

    d
    Reply
  • carl0ski - Sunday, October 23, 2005 - link

    I am starting to think technology sites are forgeting they are to be reviewing the game.

    Not VIDEO cards.


    quote:

    NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX
    NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GT
    NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT
    NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GT
    ATI Radeon X1800 XT (not yet available)
    ATI Radeon X1800 XL
    ATI Radeon X1600 XT (not yet available)
    ATI Radeon X1300 Pro
    ATI Radeon X800 GT



    So What the hell is this (not yet available) doing in an article helping us decide to buy a game?


    we want to buy the game knowing whether it will run on what people own.

    Geforce TI's
    ATI 9800XT
    ATI Radeon X1300 Pro
    ATI Radeon X800 GT
    NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX
    NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GT
    NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT
    NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GT
    etc

    AS that is what the mainstream/people own already

    We want to know if it'll run on our own computers!!


    simple as that.

    How many of the 1,000,000's of copies a game is sold on do people run on $400 current generation Cards?
    probably only a small percentage

    most people i know who bought BF2 use cards ranging 6 months - 2 year old cards.
    Reply
  • yacoub - Sunday, October 23, 2005 - link

    Any chance this will actually happen?
    http://forums.anandtech.com/messageview.aspx?catid...">http://forums.anandtech.com/messageview...amp;thre...
    Reply
  • Regs - Saturday, October 22, 2005 - link

    You make reference to how the soft shadows are implemented to Riddick compared to FEARs yet I searched the site and there is no benchmarks or IQ comparisons of Riddick. If you asked me that's a major problem considering you have no evidence published to back up your own statement. Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Saturday, October 22, 2005 - link

    This should be a game review... not a GPU review. Review the game, play the game how you'd actually play it... with sound enabled. THEN show us the FPS measurements. Reply
  • yacoub - Saturday, October 22, 2005 - link

    A large number of Anandtech readers do not comprehend anything other than "GPU review" so you will likely not see a true game review anytime soon on a realistic rig. It's always only ever a GPU test with an FX-55. =/ Reply
  • yacoub - Saturday, October 22, 2005 - link

    You include the 6600GT and 6800GT but not the X800XL and X800XT, the two comparable cards. Stop with the 1800-series nonsense and post the BUYABLE ATI cards as well please! Would be nice for those of us considering upgrading to an X800XL or 6800GT to see how they stand up in FEAR. :( Reply

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