The design brief for Lost Coast was to push the limits of current high-end systems. Most games are designed to be playable on a wide range of systems to ensure the potential market is as wide as possible. Indeed, Half Life 2 remains very playable on some pretty lethargic hardware. This requirement was tossed out the window for Lost Coast, so let's see just how high you will need to go.
Put simply, we tried a wide variety of 3D cards to see what was playable and what wasn't. Valve have not yet set any Minimum / Recommended Specifications for Lost Coast, so for now, we decided to use our standard graphics benchmarking system to eliminate certain bottlenecks. Powered by an AMD FX57 processor on a MSI nForce 4 SLI motherboard, this machine has "only" 1GB of Crucial memory. If you happen to have 2GB of RAM for Battlefield 2
then you'll be laughing. If you only have 512MB, you may struggle.
Many gamers believe Lost Coast is resource hungry because of the HDR. This is not strictly the case. Lost Coast features very high resolution textures, and the infamous Fisherman character has double the number of polygons than a typical Half-Life 2 character does. It all adds up, in line with the design brief. We will see HDR next week Day of Defeat: Source, and that will be a clearer indication of the impact of HDR in a "normal" game, rather than a souped-up technology demo level.
Here is a quick overview of what we found:
Less than Radeon 9600, GeForceFX 5900 - not playable, less than 5FPS
Around Radeon 9800, Radeon X700, GeForce 5950, GeForce 6600 - playable at 800x600 with AA turned off
Radeon X800, GeForce 6800 - playable at 1024x768 or 1280x1024, with AA and AF depending on the exact model of card
GeForce 7800 - playable at 1600x1200 with full AF
Tough requirements? Sure. Worth it? Definitely. Quick note: there is no SLI support at the moment for Lost Coast, partly because we couldn't get the driver to recognise our batch script as the HL2.exe application. Expect this to be fixed soon. As for CrossFire, we'll tell you on Monday when we publish that article.
To get some exact numbers for you, we created a custom timedemo. The demo takes place in the Cathedral, probably the most graphically stressful locations in the level: HDR Refraction; HDR Cube Mapping; Bloom; multiple enemies; you name it, this test has it. We tested across the current top cards from both ATI and NVIDIA, and included NVIDIA's latest too.
The game supports all manner of resolutions, high and low, in 4:3, 16:9 and 16:10 aspect ratios. We settled on 1024x768 2x/8x as a reasonable starting point, in an effort to cover the majority of gamers.
At a cursory glance, then, you can see that NVIDIA edges performance here. We can debate performance-per-dollar when it comes to a card like the X800XL, but the bottom line is that all the cards perform very well and were easily playable at a reasonbly high resolution in-game. So it should, I hear you say, it's running an FX-57. Well, fear not: there are signs that the game requires more GPU grunt than CPU grunt. Deputy Editor Geoff Richards uses a 2.2GHz Northwood Pentium 4, 1.5GB of RAM and a X850 XT PE on a daily basis, and Lost Coast remains playable even with fairly lofty settings like 1280x960 2x/8x.
The best news is that since Lost Coast is a free download for all Half-Life 2 owners, you can play before
making a decision about upgrading. You can't get much fairer than that.
If your performance is such that you're thinking of turning off HDR to claw back a few frames per second, thus really defeating the purpose of Lost Coast, well, what kind of gain could you expect? Let's find out:
We ran the same tests with HDR enabled, and then switched if off to see what kind of performance hit it was causing. At the very top end, you can see that the 7800 GTX achieves around 80 FPS with or without HDR, so the good news is that if you've spent £350 on one, you're understandably covered.
Less good news for GeForce 6800 GT owners: we found a performance hit of nearly 30%. Still, maintaining 45 FPS in the most demanding scenes is hardly cause for panic. If you prefer red beans to green beans, the X850 XT fares better: a drop of 23%, and a still very playable 51 FPS.
As we mentioned earlier, Lost Coast is very intensive in many other areas besides the HDR, taxing both system memory and video memory. We will be testing the impact of HDR in Day of Defeat: Source shortly, which should yield results under less extreme circumstances.
Now that you have an idea of how Lost Coast might perform on your system, you just want to play it, right? NOW! Well, unfortunately, there isn't anything we can do to help there. However, despite keeping the gaming community in suspense for a while now, the information we have is that Lost Coast will definitely be out very soon. Of course, the pessimists will moan about why it wasn't out weeks ago already and certainly question why they should believe this promise any more than the previous ones.
All we can say to them is that we have played it personally, and it really is very nearly complete. No really!
To help pass the time until Lost Coast appears on Steam, we have a special treat for you: an exclusive video showing the power of HDR and some other cool stuff. We produced this in-house and had a lot of fun making it. We hope you enjoy it.
Lost Coast contains some cool stuff that you won't have seen before. Some of this stuff is featured in this video, so if you'd rather wait for the full release, please look away now. On the flipside, if you're gagging to know what Valve have added, and you know you'll enjoy it just as much the second time around in full 1600x1200 glory, then by all means, download away!
Half-Life 2: Lost Coast Teaser by bit-techDuration:
Download Locations:bit-tech.net Server #1