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So, Valve’s long-awaited project has fleshed out into shiny compact discs with the Half-Life 2 logo. With its excellent graphics, complex physics of the game world and thrilling gameplay, the second Half-Life is really a representative of the new generation of computer games.

Talking about performance of the Half-Life 2, we should keep in mind that there are two peak situations that represent the new game from Valve:

  • Performance is limited by central processing units;
  • Performance is limited by visual processing units.

In case you are buying a processor, you most-definitely have to look at the CPU-bound demos. If you are buying a graphics card, you should look for demos that depend on the GPU performance. The truth is that you do need a fast central processing unit and a rapid graphics card to play the Half-Life 2, even though the game will most probably run comfortably on a machine with Intel Pentium 4 2.40GHz processor and a RADEON 9800 XT graphics card with 1GB of RAM.

Half-Life 2 evidently prefers graphics cards with graphics processors of the new generation developed by ATI Technologies. The RADEON X800 XT Platinum Edition, X800 XT and X800 PRO GPUs run this game at the highest speed. On the other hand, graphics cards on the GeForce 6800 Ultra and GT chips from NVIDIA do not look completely hopeless against their competitors. Using such cards you will still have enough performance for a comfortable play. Moreover, the difference between the top-end solutions from ATI and NVIDIA depends heavily on the specific game scene. The gap is wider in scenes with water surfaces, and narrower in others, especially when there’s mass fighting onscreen and the main load falls on the central processor of the system.

Based on different demos we have examined so far we can state that the RADEON X800-series graphics cards and AMD Athlon 64 processors are superior hardware for the Half-Life 2 compared to NVIDIA GeForce 6800-series and Intel Pentium 4 chips, at least in the so-called peak situations, when gamers need the speed of certain components of their PCs most of all. In the mainstream market segment RADEON 9800- and RADEON X700-families deliver pretty much equal speed with NVIDIA’s GeForce 6600- breed of products.

Given that the Half-Life 2 game was released days ago, we believe graphics processors designers will spend quite some time optimizing drivers to run the Half-Life 2 faster, therefore, the final conclusion will probably be out in future, not now.

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