At the end of 2004, barely over 6 years since the release of the original Half Life, Valve unleashed the long awaited sequel upon the world. We stayed up late that launch night benchmarking the new game, worried that it would only run well on ATI cards, we were pleasantly surprised that Valve had made a Half Life 2 that ran very well on virtually all hardware with the exception of the GeForce FX.

A year and a half later, Valve brought out Episode One, an attempt at episodic content that was supposed to guarantee quicker game releases, more frequent updates to the story and a better overall experience for gamers. Performance changed a bit with the release of Episode One and its associated version of Valve's Source engine, and the game quickly became a regular part of our CPU and GPU test suites.

Once more, around a year and a half later, Valve finally released Episode Two, the second installment in the Half Life 2 episodic series. Armed with the latest version of the Source engine, we went to town on benchmarking the new game to see where things have changed, if at all.

Our experiences with Half Life 2 and Episode One kept expectations realistic this time around; Valve has historically sacrificed overall image quality in order to maintain playability on even the slowest hardware. What you'll see here today is that every single component we tested, down to the cheapest CPU and GPU, are more than enough to run Half Life 2: Episode Two. Of course having a faster CPU will allow you to extract more performance out of faster GPUs, and faster graphics cards give you the ability to run at higher resolutions, but the minimum requirements for playability are more than reasonable for any modern day system.

For those of you interested, we are offering our demo files for download so you can compare your own systems. The demos are zipped up here:
The Test and CPU Performance


View All Comments

  • tonrav - Monday, December 3, 2007 - link

    ERROR: demo network protocol 11 outdated, engine version if 14.

    Google reveals little of what this means except that Valve possibly rev'd something in EP2 without putting backwards compatibility in the code. Anybody know a way to play these demo's or convert them?
  • NullSubroutine - Thursday, October 18, 2007 - link

    Did you use Super Sampling or Multi-Sampling on ATI cards? Reply
  • Powered by AMD - Tuesday, October 16, 2007 - link

    i downloaded the dem files, but where do i have to put them and what do i have to type in the console to get it working?
    thanks in advance.
  • Zaitsev - Tuesday, October 16, 2007 - link

    Thanks for taking the time to bench some older cards. It's crazy that a x1900xtx = hd 2900xt with antialiasing on. o.0 Reply
  • zero2dash - Monday, October 15, 2007 - link

    FSB O/C that E2160 to 3 gig on air and then benchmark it.

    Who runs the E21x0's at stock? Seriously??

    I know you're trying to equal things across the board, but at least throw in an O/C number in there *somewhere*.

    -Just a thought.- =)

    Radeon 1950 FTW
    Looks like the best card below the 8800GTS line especially at the $150 price point...nice.
  • NARC4457 - Monday, October 15, 2007 - link


    What you'll see here today is that every single component we tested, down to the cheapest CPU and GPU, are more than enough to run Half Life 2: Episode Two.

    I'm just sad that my GPU/CPU are even older than this list. That said, Ep2 is running great at 1280x1040 with most settings at medium and 2xAA.
  • bojaka - Monday, October 15, 2007 - link

    First of I have no idea how much shortcuts they have taken when trying to get Motionblur and good shadows to work since they are both awful!
    The motionblur is just strange and the shadows looks good, but they don't seem to be calcylated correctly from the flashlight. Try standing in front of something with your flashlight turned on so the shadow falls on a wall in front of you and turn from left to right and you should see the shadow move in a very unrealistic manner.
    How ever... It's a beautiful and fun to play game that really shouls have been benchmarked indoors and outdoors with full shadows and the flashlight turned on. Then you should have seen some different framrates! =( So disappointed at the performance (1280x1024 4xAA, 8xAniso end everything on highest on my C2D E6600 (800Mhz FSB), 2GB RAM, 8800GTS 640MB)
    New benchmarks wanted!!! Flashlight on and shadows on!!!
  • DerekWilson - Tuesday, October 16, 2007 - link

    all the graphics options were turned all the way up -- shadows were on. I played with the flash light but didn't see any significant difference in framerate. Reply
  • tonjohn - Tuesday, October 16, 2007 - link


    You need to fix the part of the article that says that the new build of the Source engine only supports two threads. Mike Durand of Valve has confirmed that the latest build of the Source engine defaults to three threads for EP2 and Portal and two threads for TF2.
  • jeffrey - Sunday, October 14, 2007 - link

    The article states that the GPU wasn't the limiting factor and that's fine, however I would still like to know what card/driver was used in the CPU test rig. Reply

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