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Introduction & Test Setup
A Great Game, but Not Without Woes
Probably one of the best real-time strategy (RTS) games of this year, Company of Heroes (COH) has certainly upped the ante in many areas of this popular genera that was once upon a time the home base of games like Warhammer and Command and Conquer series among others. Graphics, audio, game play, immersiveness, artificial intelligence, user interface and whatever else, COH has probably made it tougher for the competition to match up to it. Probably longer campaigns or missions would have been among the more wished about aspect of COH as far as game play is concerned, but that's because the audience of the game love it.
Unfortunately, like all games, it wasn't without teething issues and one area relating to hardware compatibility that didn't work out since the game went gold was dual graphics performance. In fact, it was widely reported that performance actually dipped badly with SLI enabled on NVIDIA graphics cards and we observed the same in our lab as well as CrossFire for ATI cards. Patch version 1.2 however had limited success in certain configurations such as disabling post-processing effects where SLI did work. For those who insist not disabling that and require dual graphics performance, it seems that only ForceWare 84.56 driver version had SLI and post-processing working.
Company of Heroes is a very taxing game at high image quality settings and the game itself was compelling enough that many actually upgraded their graphics subsystem to better their experience. Those who had slow graphics cards dumped them for newer and faster versions while the more affluent gamers who demand ultra high gaming resolution on their large LCD displays actually went out to purchase another graphics card to pair up with their existing speedy card. It's the latter group that was hugely disappointed and frustrated that COH wasn't able to deliver the experience they expected. Fortunately after riding this infancy period out, the new Patch version 1.3 promised to fix SLI performance and that's what we are ascertaining today in this article.
To validate Relic's claims on the new patch promising SLI performance and to put an end to all the talk about SLI not working in COH, we've amassed a number of high performance graphics cards for this purpose:-
- NVIDIA GeForce 8880 GTX 768MB (ForceWare 97.02)
- NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB (ForceWare 97.02)
- NVIDIA GeForce 7950 GX2 1GB (ForceWare 93.71)
- NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GTX 512MB (ForceWare 93.71)
- ATI Radeon X1950 XTX 512MB (Catalyst 6.10 / 6.11)
All of the above NVIDIA cards besides the GeForce 7950 GX2 were run in both single card and dual card configurations. The testbed used was an Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 (2.67GHz) processor with 2GB of DDR2-667 memory on an ASUS P5N32-SLI Premium (nForce 590 SLI Intel Edition) motherboard.
We also attempted to run ATI's best offering in CrossFire mode on an Intel D975XBX motherboard 'Bad Axe' motherboard with all other components remaining equal. After several rounds of testing and troubleshooting to our dismay, ATI's CrossFire mode is still not working in COH with the latest patch version 1.3. In fact, we've seen negative performance with CrossFire, just like what we observed with SLI in the game's infancy. This was true to both Catalyst driver packages version 6.10 and 6.11. If you are thinking that we might have screwed up our setup, our other usual game tests worked great with CrossFire. As such, our article and performance figures would mainly concentrate on what NVIDIA has to offer. Here's the in-game settings used in our testing as well as all of our other reviews, which is basically maximum quality settings for all options:-
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