So far it is very hard to make any conclusions about the Counter Strike: Source game. Those who liked the original title will probably love this one, but at this point we cannot assume if the game will get new fans. So far its graphics part has been pretty primitive, even though physics and sound are impressive.
The game performs pretty fine on all high-end and performance mainstream graphics cards available today. The only exception is the GeForce FX-series that provides unpleasant image quality with NVIDIA’s latest drivers in pure mode. We do not know whether NVIDIA is going to correct this, but we hope that the company will: such dreadful optimizations of texturing are unacceptable in our days. In contrast, once FSAA is activated, the optimizations either get deactivated or are switched to much less aggressive level, which is why image quality gets astonishing improvement.
Now, a few words about performance:
- The absolute leader of today’s Counter Strike: Source benchmark session is the ATI RADEON X800 XT: it provides astonishing image quality and performance with or without full-scene antialiasing and anisotropic filtering quality even in the highest resolutions. The board also scored highest results in the video stress test aimed to mimic Half-Life 2 game load.
- Slightly less powerful graphics cards are the GeForce 6800 Ultra and GeForce 6800 GT: thanks to 16 pixel pipelines these two NVIDIA’s products are truly sharp-tooth performers in the Counter Strike: Source game. Furthermore, they achieved great results in the video stress test.
- The RADEON X800 PRO is a nice performer: it gives ability to play pretty comfortably even with eye-candy features activated, but when it comes to comparison to the visual processing units with 16 pixel pipes, the RADEON X800 PRO falls behind tangibly in both Counter Strike: Source and hardware stress test.
- The two performance-mainstream parts, GeForce 6800 and the RADEON 9800 XT, deliver pretty much equal speed in game the former leads in low resolution, the latter wins in high resolution. In the most-popular 1280x1024 these two products produce equal results in Counter Strike: Source. However, keeping in mind higher number of pixel pipelines, the GeForce 6800 manages to outperform the rival in Half-Life 2 video stress test. ATI’s RADEON 9800 PRO (with 256MB of memory) is clearly behind the GeForce 6800 in most of the cases, though, the gap between the 9800 XT and 9800 PRO is not too serious.
- RADEON 9600 PRO, RADEON 9600 XT and RADEON 9500 PRO are able to deliver sufficient speed without eye-candy features enabled, more importantly, the RADEON 9500 PRO manages to slightly outperform even the RADEON 9600 XT. Unfortunately, with FSAA and anisotropic filtering enabled, previous-generation mainstream offerings seem to be pretty slow in Counter Strike: Source.
- NVIDIA’s GeForce FX graphics processors render the game in DirectX 8.1 (models 5950 Ultra, 5900 Ultra, 5900, 5900 XT) or in DirectX 8.0 (models 5700 Ultra, 5700 and 5600 Ultra) modes, which is why certain objects are being drawn in a bit different way compared to DirectX 9.0 mode. Furthermore, currently NVIDIA’s drivers force aggressive texture filtering optimizations in “pure mode”, which results in low-quality image. Nevertheless, in “eye-candy” mode everything about the quality is strictly positive. So, in case you do not care about small details, you may probably find performance delivered by the GeForce FX-series pretty decent, especially keeping in mind that it typically outperforms competing series from ATI Technologies.
We advice you to keep in mind that current version of Counter Strike: Source game is beta. With commercial version of the title performance numbers may change, current results reflect some general things about the speed only.