So, as a preface to why I'm looking for advice here: at one time I was big into PC gaming. I went out and bought the most expensive mainstream PC available. I got a Dell (forgive me) XPS Gen 3 desktop. I got a set of Klipsch 5.1 pro media speakers, a 20.1 inch Dell 2004FP display--big stuff at the time. Anyway, after I got an Xbox 360, and lost the time to spend on my PC, I needed a Mac (please forgive me) to do design work for school. Recently, I have found Xbox games to be lackluster. They don't have any of the great 1600x1200 graphics, the dynamic 5.1 sound or intense experience of a mouse, a keyboard and upgrade-fun of the PC.
What I am finding now is that PC gaming has become much more processor-intensive--back when I bought the PC, the GPU often lagged behind the CPU. I have been using the Dell XPS as a loud, expensive server. I haven't completely abandoned it. It still has two WD 10k RPM Raptors in RAID 0 and I've added a 1TB RAID 0 array of Seagate drives for storage. I've found a good deal on an ATI (apparently now it's AMD?) 6770 graphics card. I slapped that graphics card in to try some old games. The RAM (DDR2 back when that was new) is maxed out at 4GB and the processor is the P4 Extreme Edition--which was essentially a server chip in a PC package back when Intel was lagging behind AMD.
Recently, I was given a copy of Mafia 2. I played the orginal Mafia on my Dell and was impressed by the story and graphics so I thought this might be a fun game to play. The graphics are amazing at 1600x1200. I pushed all of the settings to max, and used overrides on others to push them. The game ran slow. So I dropped all of the graphics settings to their lowest. Still ran slow. I figured the weak point in my machine is the processor. Game loads in seconds and the cinematic scenes run smooth. When I play a mission, the game is stuttering.
My burning question is this: what hardware should I be looking at to get back into PC gaming? The hard drives are fast (not as fast as SSD, I'm told), the GPU is midlevel but decent, the RAM is junk (DDR3 speeds are faster than some CPU caches), the motherboard is ancient, the display and other peripherals are still good and I have a 600W PSU from another computer. I've been lurking around the Newegg site trying to find some ideas, but every review has a different spin. I want to play new games at least at 30FPS. Eye candy is great, but the processor seems to be the biggest deciding factor with new builds. AMD has cheap and apparently decent CPU's, Intel seems to have beaten AMD to a pulp with processor features, and motherboard manufacturers have oodles of choices now--does Foxconn still make them? I am familiar with building a PC, but its been a while.
I'm just looking for a little advice on the best midrange mobo/CPU platform to buy. And hopefully use some of the hardware I've already got.
Thanks, the recently-again n00b