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Crysis 2
Our cavalcade of punishing but pretty DirectX 11 games continues with Crysis 2, which we patched with both the DX11 and high-res texture updates.

Notice that we left object image quality at "extreme" rather than "ultra," in order to avoid the insane over-tessellation of flat surfaces that somehow found its way into the DX11 patch. We tested 60 seconds of gameplay in the level pictured above, where we gunned down several bad guys, making our way across a skywalk to another rooftop.

You'll see a couple of unexpected things in these results. First, the GeForce GTX 680 SLI is quite a bit slower than the GTX 690, which is unusual. Second, neither of those solutions performs very well compared to the Radeon HD 7970 CrossFire team. Why?

Well, looks like we found a bug in Nvidia's graphics drivers. Here are the FPS averages for the GTX 680 SLI rig, runs one to five: 62, 44, 43, 44, 44. And here are the averages for the GTX 690: 59, 52, 51, 52, 50. In both cases, the first test run is faster than all of the rest. The GTX 590 suffered from the same problem, but none of the single-card configs did, nor did any of the Radeon setups. Looks like something bad happens when you exit and load a saved game on the Nvidia multi-GPU setups. After you've done that once, performance drops and doesn't come back until you exit the game completely and start it up again. For whatever reason, the GTX 680 SLI setup suffers more from this issue than the GTX 690 does.

I briefly considered re-testing the GTX 690 and company by exiting the game between runs, but I figure this problem is one that anybody who plays Crysis 2 will encounter. Seems like fair game to include it. Multi-GPU solutions tend to be prone to these sorts of issues, anyhow.

While we're at it, these results are affected by a problem with the Radeons, as well. Let's zoom in on the very beginning of the test runs to get a closer look.

One of the first motions of our test run, after loading a saved game, is to turn around 180° or so and face another direction. When we do so on the Radeon cards, we get some long delays, multiple frames that take 60 milliseconds or more. I didn't know whether to blame the game engine or the Radeons, and I was considering doing a quick spin-around move to warm the GPU caches before starting the test run—until I started testing the GeForces, and the slowdowns became vastly less pronounced, almost imperceptible in most cases. You can see a single 70-millisecond frame from the GTX 690 above, but the following frames clock in at under 50 ms. There's a lot more white area under those two Radeon lines, which means more time spent waiting. Again, I figured this problem was fair game to include, in the grand scheme of things.

Notice, also, that you can see the multi-GPU jitter patterns in both the GTX 690 and the 7970 CrossFire plots above. The GTX 690's is less pronounced, but it's still unmistakable.

Even with these two issues affecting the different camps, we still have some clear takeaways from these results. Of course, the Radeons all pay for that slowdown at the beginning of the test run in our 50-ms threshold results. There's no escaping that.

Beyond that, the prior-generation multi-GPU cards look really quite poor, with the two worst latency curves from the 50th percentile on up and, thus, the most time spent beyond each of our three thresholds. You're obviously better off with a single GTX 680 or 7970 than with a GTX 590 or 6990.

Finally, even with the Nvidia driver issue, the GTX 690 comes out of this test looking quite good in terms of the overall latency picture and its ability to avoid slowdowns.