Just Cause 2 Gameplay Performance and Image Quality

Just Cause 2 is here for your acrobatic action hero fix, bringing with it plenty of mind-bending stunts, frantic gun-play, and airborne high-speed chases. We'll examine this new game's performance with four of today's most sought-after video cards and let you know which one is the best match for your upgrade needs. Fermi vs. 5800!

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Highest Playable Settings

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For this article, we played all the way through Just Cause 2 to determine the way to evaluation performance. In the end, we selected a route through the jungles of Panau. We start at the "Awan Cendawan" nuclear power facility and head to the oil pipelines near the "Kampun Kosa Besar" village. The path goes first northeast, then south, and then due west. The mostly paved route takes between five and six minutes to complete and features plenty of chases, stunts, and gunfights. We used FRAPS to record framerates, and the results are shown below.


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From a graphics options perspective, the NVIDIA video cards automatically have a leg up, thanks to the Bokeh filter and GPU Water Simulation options. Gamers using AMD's ATI Radeon HD 5000 series video cards will not see these options in the graphics menu, so they will not have a chance to try them out.

Unfortunately, both of those options also come with a measurable performance hit. We believe the image quality increase to be worth the performance cost, so we chose to lower the resolution to 1920x1200 on both the GeForce GTX 480 and GTX 470 video cards so that we could keep them on. At 2560x1600, the game was just not playable even on the GTX 480, even with AA disabled. Using the GTX 480 at 1920x1200, we found 8X AA to give us a satisfactory level of performance and image quality, while we were unable to use AA with the GTX 470 without suffering undesirable performance problems.

With the Radeon HD 5870, the gameplay was excellent and performance was truly great. At 2560x1600, we were able to turn on 4X AA, thanks in part to the absence of performance penalties associated with GPU Water Simulation and the Bokeh filter. Since these options were not available, we experienced improved framerates on AMD hardware, but also diminished image quality in some scenes.

The Radeon HD 5850 performed admirably as well, allowing us to use 4X AA at 1920x1200, with all available graphics options at their highest levels. Looking solely at the framerate data in the table above, it may appear as though the HD 5850 is actually outperforming the GeForce GTX 480 in this game, but that is not the case. Remember that the GTX 480 is using two graphics options that are not available to the Radeon HD 5850, so the above is not an objective performance comparison.

In Just Cause 2, GPU Water Simulation and Bokeh filtering make a compelling argument for NVIDIA video cards. While there is no reason that both of these graphical features could not have been developed with compatibility for AMD GPUs, that is simply not how it happened with this game. This is a "TWIMTBP" title, and the developers chose CUDA rather than OpenCL or DirectCompute, which is of course a shame and a marketing sham that screws the end user.

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Here, we can see that both video cards turned in a very playable experience in Just Cause 2, with very high graphics settings. At 260x1600 with 4X AA enabled, the Radeon HD 5870 gave us slightly higher framerates than the GeForce GTX 480 with 8X AA enabled. However, since GPU Water Simulation and Bokeh filtering were available and enabled on the GTX 480, a definite conclusion about the relative performance between these two video cards in this game cannot be made from the above data.

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Here, we can see the Radeon HD 5850 giving appreciably higher framerates than the GeForce GTX 470, even though the Radeon is using 8X AA, while the GeForce has no AA turned on. Again, this is because the GTX 470 is doing work that is not available to the Radeon HD 5850. Look on the next page for some apples-to-apples performance comparisons with GPU Water Simulation and Bokeh filtering disabled.