As the Special Projects Editor I produce Maximum PC's newsstand-only publications, which come out five times a year and their content varies from issue to issue. This means I don't carry a portfolio of in-depth tech beats for the monthly mag, as nearly 100% of my energies are focused on these specials.
Unfortunately, this also means I don't often get quality "hands-on" time with the latest-and-greatest tech toys that hit the lab for torture-testing. And this is why I was so psyched back in March of last year when I'd obtained, on loan, a kickass ( to me, at least) PC that would definitely be able to make my most-anticipated game of recent memory--Oblivion--it's bitch. AMD FX-55, 2GB or RAM, and two spankin' new 7800GTX videocards in SLI. Sweeeeet!
Of course, I fired up Oblivion and quickly found the SLI boost to be minimal at best, and framerates teetered on the brink of slideshow levels in much of the outdoor and city areas. But I'm a hard-headed gamer and refused to back down on quality, and thus I forged through the game at 1920x1200 and most of the bells and whistles on (I did fiddle with the vegetation quality parameters to make things a bit smoother). I swapped out the 7800GTXs for a single 7950 GX2. Frankly, there were few games I was seeing a huge benefit from SLI, and the heat and noise tradeoffs were not worth the hassle. Things got a little bit better, but major bog-downs were far from uncommon. Then, I replaced my FX-55 with an X2 4800 dual-core proc. Again, I saw minimal improvement.
Now, a smidge more than a year later the first official add-on--Shivering Isles--for my favorite game of 2006 is here--finally! And, just in time, so is a videocard upgrade from my rig: I swapped out the 7950 for an 8800 GTS (EVGA E-Geforce 8800 GTS, 640MB, 500MHz) . Oblivion's aged abit, assuredly. However, I am hard-pressed to think of another game, or newer game, that does as much as Oblivion and looks as good. I expected my PC to handle the Shivering Isles content better than the original, but I wasn't really prepared for just how much better.
My lowly 8800 GTS--I say lowly because most of the Max PC staff is rolling with GTXs--gives Oblivion a royal beat-down. I'm running at 1920x1200 with everything maxed out, including 16x ansio AND 8x AA (the 7950 was not capable of this AA tag-team). The game is running like absolute buttah--35-60 FPS, with occasional dips down to the 20's when there's a LOT going on (big brawls involving lots of NPCs and baddies, for example, which slowed things to the single digits a year ago).
It only took 13 months and two rather major upgrades--though the boon from the new proc is minimal--but the game is now finally running as the developers probably hoped we'd get to see it.
Now, as for the Shivering Isles content itself--that will have to wait, as I've not yet explored EVERY nook and cranny...