The typical feature of all scenes with the word “canals” is the presence of large water surfaces. Water surface is one of the toughest tests for a graphics card in Half-Life 2. Nevertheless, it in no way means that the CPU is doing nothing in this case.
As we see, the fps rate does depend a lot on the CPU in the “light” graphics card mode. The performance difference between the top CPUs and the mainstream CPUs is over 50%. In general, we can state that Athlon 64 processors from AMD proved to be the fastest here. In fact, the performance of the top Intel Pentium 4 models is as high as that of AMD Athlon 64 3200+.
However, this result was obtained in slightly artificial conditions. Let’s see what the situation is going to look like when we switch to a heavier graphics test mode.
With enabled FSAA and anisotropic filtering the CPU performance doesn’t really affect the results. It is probably the graphics card that appears the bottleneck in this case. However, this is not at all surprising: Half-Life 2 uses a special shader for water surfaces, which loads the graphics processor really heavily.
Nevertheless, I have to note that the advantage of Athlon 64 processors, which we have already pointed out to you in the previous case didn’t prove to be true here. LGA775 systems using Pentium 4 processors run almost neck and neck with their AMD rivals. Again, this is all pretty logical: PCI Express graphics card used in the LGA775 platform worked faster than a similar AGP 8x solution. So, the graphics bus bandwidth seems to be also having some influence on the Half-Life 2 performance. Unfortunately, there are no mass platforms yet for AMD Athlon 64 processor, which would use PCI Express x16 bus, therefore, we dare state mostly theoretically that it makes much more sense to have a graphics card supporting PCI Express x16 bus if you are going to play Half-Life 2 in graphics-heavy modes. Anyway, the performance gain provided by this bus is not that dramatically big and makes only 2-3%.