Articles: Graphics

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Instantaneous Performance and Image Quality

The tests we’ve done so far suggest that Call of Duty: Black Ops doesn’t have high system requirements. As I have mentioned earlier, this isn’t surprising at all: the game features a slightly outdated engine. While the engine remains the same, new GPUs are becoming much faster, so you can achieve a playable frame rate in Call of Duty even if you use inexpensive entry-level products like the Radeon HD 5770.

Now we want to check out how different game settings may affect the frame rate and image quality. We will take a few screenshots using two popular cards: an AMD Radeon HD 6870 and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 1GB. Being affordable, they deliver high performance in most of today’s games.

The test sequence includes an indoors and outdoors scene, a run across town in Cuba with an intense firefight. Thus, it covers most situations the gamer may find himself in. Like in the main tests, we measure the frame rate with Fraps 3.2.5. We also use this utility to capture screenshots for image quality comparisons.

And here are the results we’ve got:

Since the game has such a modest appetite towards hardware we decided to make an extra effort and test it with FSAA 8x in order to satisfy our most demanding readers. While the benefits of using such high anti-aliasing settings are questionable, knowing that you can do it without losing comfortable frame rate is heart-warming. The game engine bears significantly different loads depending on the scenery. We are glad to report that even with 8 sample FSAA setting both Radeon HD 6870 and GeForce GTX 460 1GB can maintain a good pace well above 60 fps. 

 The default standard for the industry FSAA 4x mode brings higher performance at roughly the same amount of eye-candy quality. Since CoD: BO has a built-in antialiasing support, the difference in picture quality between 8x and 4x modes is quite noticeable in some areas, such as wires and weaponry edges.

Overall, nothing has changed between Radeon HD 6870 and GeForce GTX 460 1GB graphics cards. Participants have no problems delivering comfortable frame rates with these quality settings.


Lose a FSAA setting and get some performance in return. All in all, this is a good approach, but what about the picture quality you are getting as a result? Of course, full-screen antialiasing is a must-have feature in contemporary games, and as we have seen previously, modern $200 graphics cards have no problems maintaining a good picture. 


More performance - more tradeoffs. Textures are of great quality but the drop is barely noticeable. This mode may still be treated as an alternative for someone with a lower performing gaming system. Roughly you are getting 80% of Black Ops with almost twice the performance, which is quite a bargain.

AMD Radeon HD 6870 graphics card is benefiting more from the lower quality settings and the difference between it and GeForce GTX 460 1GB becomes noticeable.


The game still looks decent enough with normal quality settings. The tradeoffs that you have to make are more evident. Say farewell to shadows. Textures look noticeably worse, but still have some level of detail. Overall, this is not as repulsive as you might have expected, especially compared to some other games earlier this year.

Welcome to the world of Doom 2 with extra strong blur. It may not look like it, but overall picture quality with the lowest graphics settings is appalling. Even if you are a proud owner of a Netbook, the best thing for you would be to save a few bucks and get yourself an entry level notebook or desktop PC capable of handling slightly heavier settings. You do want to play Call of Duty: Black Ops and not a 'shoot that pixel' themed game, don't you?!

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