It's been a long time coming, but we finally have Epic's first Unreal Engine 3 based game out on the PC. While the final version of Unreal Tournament 3 is still a little farther out, last week's beta release kept us occupied over the past several days as we benchmarked the engine behind Rainbow Six: Vegas, Gears of War and Bioshock.

Used in some very beautiful games, Epic's Unreal Engine 3 has been bringing us some truly next-generation game titles and is significantly more demanding on the CPU and GPU than Valve's Source engine. While far from the impossible-to-run that Oblivion was upon its release, UE3 is still more stressful on modern day hardware than most of what we've seen thus far.

The Demo Beta

Although Unreal Tournament 3 is due out before the end of the year, what Epic released is a beta of the UT3 Demo and thus it's not as polished as a final demo. The demo beta has the ability to record demos but it can't play them back, so conventional benchmarking is out. Thankfully Epic left in three scripted flybys that basically take a camera and fly around the levels in a set path, devoid of all characters.

Real world UT3 performance will be more strenuous than what these flybys show but it's the best we can muster for now. The final version of UT3 should have full demo playback functionality, with which we'll be able to provide better performance analysis. The demo beta also only ships with medium quality textures, so the final game can be even more stressful/beautiful if you so desire.

The flybys can run for an arbitrary period of time, we standardized on 90 seconds for each flyby in order to get repeatable results while still keeping the tests manageable to run. There are three flyby benchmarks that come bundled with the demo beta: DM-ShangriLa, DM-HeatRay and vCTF-Suspense.

As their names imply, the ShangriLa and HeatRay flybys are of the Shangri La and Heat Ray deathmatch levels, while the vCTF-Suspense is a flyby of the sole vehicle CTF level that comes with the demo.

Our GPU tests were run at the highest quality settings and with the -compatscale=5 switch enabled, which puts all detail settings at their highest values.

Our CPU tests were run at the default settings without the compatscale switch as we're looking to measure CPU performance and not GPU performance.

The Test

Test Setup

Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850 (3.33GHz 4MB 1333FSB)
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700 (2.66GHz 4MB 1066FSB)
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 (2.40GHz 4MB 1066FSB)
Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 (2.66GHz 4MB 1333FSB)
Intel Core 2 Duo E6550 (2.33GHz 4MB 1333FSB)
Intel Core 2 Duo E4500 (2.2GHz 2MB 800FSB)
Intel Core 2 Duo E4400 (2.0GHz 2MB 800FSB)
Intel Pentium Dual-Core E2160 (1.8GHz 1MB 800FSB)
Intel Pentium Dual-Core E2140 (1.6GHz 1MB 800FSB)
AMD Athlon 64 X2 6400+ (3.2GHz 2x1MB)
AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+ (3.0GHz 2x1MB)
AMD Athlon 64 X2 5600+ (2.8GHZ 2x1MB)
AMD Athlon X2 5000+ (2.6GHz 2x512K)
AMD Athlon X2 4200+ (2.2GHz 2x512K)
AMD Athlon X2 4000+ (2.1GHz 2x512K)

Motherboard Intel: Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R
AMD: ASUS M2N32-SLI Deluxe
Video Cards AMD Radeon HD 2900 XT
AMD Radeon X1950 XTX
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 Ultra
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB
NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GTX
Video Drivers AMD: Catalyst 7.10
NVIDIA: 163.75
Hard Drive Seagate 7200.9 300GB 8MB 7200RPM
RAM 2x1GB Corsair XMS2 PC2-6400 4-4-4-12
Operating System Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit
UT3 Teaches us about CPU Architecture
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  • Super Nade - Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - link

    A very interesting article. I was wondering if you could pit Intel and AMD chips having the same L2 cache against each other? You can clock up the lower specced Intel part if need be. Since the game is L2 bound, this experiment would provide a more balanced outlook in a GPU bound or a clock-for-clock situation.


  • johnsonx - Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - link

    If this is a beta demo (the multiplayer server browser does scream BETA! doesn't it?), does anyone know if there will be an updated 'final' demo? Further, will there be any Onslaught maps in said demo?
  • gramboh - Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - link

    Does AA work in the demo? I've downloaded it but due to Orange Box I haven't even bothered installing it.

    I'm mainly interested to know if the 8800GTS/GTX blow away the 2900XT or not once AA is enabled at 1920x1200 so that I feel better about my purchase of a 8800GTS 640 :)
  • NullSubroutine - Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - link

    I dont think the purpose of reviews is to make you feel better about what you already bought. But hey, to each his own.
  • jamori - Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - link

    I appreciated the inclusion of some of the previous-gen cards here. Some of the recent graphics card reviews completely left them out, which essentially leaves me guessing as to how much improvement I might see by upgrading my graphics card.

    30 fps at 1920x1200 on my 7900GTX isn't great, but it's still at the lower threshold of playable, which is nice to know.
  • p30n - Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - link

    What does this show us? At least for UT3 quad (vs dual) is rather a waste. If it shows so small and increase when its not gpu limited (ie low res 1024 tests) one wonders what will happen at higher res where the gpu is actually pressured.

    And even more so when your already crossing 100fps does it even matter?

    Now if quad helped us go from say 20 fps to 30fps I would say hell yeah its actually making a difference, but as is 155 fps to 186 fps...omg now I have to get a quad!

    Of course there were no tests at high res to compare core effect too.
  • RamarC - Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - link

    You have to remember that these were flybys with no activity. UT3 is making little of use of the extra cores now, but I'll bet that a quad core will flex its muscle once you add players, vehicles, explosions, and all the mayhem that goes along with a good UT match.
  • jebo - Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - link

    I thought the CPU tests were interesting, but largely useless! It reminds me of the UT2K3 flyby vs botmatch days. Why didn't Derek and Anand use Fraps to run a few botmatches. Sure the results aren't 100% repeatable, but if you run a couple botmatches on each setup and average the fps you'd get a fairly accurate result.

  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - link

    I actually played with this, the frame rates weren't actually much different at all. You also have to keep in mind that in real world usage there won't be any bots, just other human opponents.

    Take care,
  • DerekWilson - Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - link

    just to underline this, running through a level with fraps yielded very similar framerates to the flyby tests.

    but the problem here is that even our run throughs were not very taxing. We can't add 9 thousands bots to a game and test anything, as they will cause problems with the run through adding variability and removing the possibility of repeatability.

    we don't have a doezen people we can start up a multiplayer game with and choreograph a scene that we can run every time we need another number.

    the real solution to the issue is the demo record and playback functionality. until we get that, flyby testing is the best we can offer and just isn't any better than a fraps run.

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