Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 Hardware Performance Guide

Modern Warfare 2 got you bogged down? Find out what you need to upgrade to make it run right.

Even if you've been living under a rock in the desert, chances are you've heard of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The game has sold millions of copies worldwide on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and the PC. Like its predecessor, Call of Duty 4, Modern Warfare 2 runs well and looks spectacular. In fact, the minimum requirements for the game have hardly budged at all, which is not to say that the minimum grants you a remotely enjoyable experience. But those that are a few steps up from the bottom can still have a great experience. In case you're looking to get a better experience, we've gone through all the hardware to see what nets you more frames and eye candy.

We used Fraps and the opening sequence of the Act II mission, Hornet's Nest, to measure frame rates in our tests. Hornet's Nest drops you off in a heavily wooded area somewhere in Rio de Janeiro and has you run up a small path leading to a shanty town full of enemies, rampaging trucks, and the ever-present explosive barrels. The level has a nice mix of the environments you're likely to encounter in the game. We ran each test three times and then averaged the results.

Game Settings

Modern Warfare 2 doesn't have too many settings you need to adjust to get the game to run well. You can leave most of them on, but two in particular will take a chomp out of your computer's performance.

Graphics

We tested Modern Warfare 2 with everything from the now-ancient GeForce 6800 up to AMD's current flagship GPU: the Radeon HD 5970. The game runs well on most video cards, but you're likely to find your biggest gains here if you want to upgrade.

CPU

You could grab an Intel Core i7-960 and be done with it, but you can get away with much less. We went through both quad-core and dual-core CPUs to see how much is enough.

Memory

Modern Warfare 2 needs 1GB of RAM to run, but we already know that that's just the starting point. We checked out what upgrading to 2GB, or even 3GB of RAM, can do for performance.

Systems

We put together a few sample systems to show how the game performed using real-world computers. Our slowest machine and the absolute minimum required to run the game, a 3.2GHz Pentium 4 paired with a GeForce 6800, struggled to churn out a barely playable experience at rock-bottom image-quality settings. Our mid-range system, outfitted with a 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo and a Radeon HD 5770, pumped out a more than playable experience with every setting on and a resolution of 1920x1200. The behemoth system, a Core i7-960 paired with the Radeon HD 5970, literally doubled the performance of our midrange sytem. The behemoth is entirely overkill for Modern Warfare 2.

System Setup:

High-End System: Intel i7-960, Intel DX58S0, 3GB DDR3, 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows 7 32-bit. Graphics Card: Radeon HD 5970, beta ATI Catalyst.

Mid-Range System: Intel Core 2 E8600 , 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows 7 32-bit. Graphics Card: Radeon 5770, ATI Catalyst 9.11.

Minimum Requirements System: Intel Pentium 4 3.2GHz, Asus P4C800, 1GB Corsair XMS Memory (512MB x 2), 160GB Seagate 7200.7 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows XP Professional SP3. Graphics Card: GeForce 6800 128MB, Nvidia ForceWare 191.07.

Settings

Modern Warfare 2 has a handful of advanced video settings, only some of which dramatically affect performance. If you turn off shadows, you'll get the biggest performance gains--followed by a specular map--and soften smoke edges. On the following page, we have pictures of what each of the settings look like tuned on and off.

System Setup: Intel Core 2 X6800, eVGA 680i SLI, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2), 750GB Seagate 7200.10 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows 7 32-bit. Graphics Card: Radeon HD 5770, GeForce 8600 GTS, Nvidia ForceWare 191.07, ATI Catalyst 9.11.

Image Quality Comparison

Depth of Field

On Off

Shadows

On Off

Specular Map

On Off

Soften Smoke Edges

On Off

Texture Quality

Extra High Normal Low

Video Cards

Need higher frame rates? Buy a better video card! But also note that most of our tests were run at 1920x1200 with 4xAA and 8xAF on all but the oldest of our video cards. You seriously don't need much to run this game very, very well and at full quality. We tried to test the Radeon X1900 and X1600 series of GPUs, but the image the GPUs outputted came out garbled. The issue has been documented, but none of the known fixes worked for us.

System Setup: Intel Core i7-960, Intel DX58S0, 3GB DDR3, 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows 7 32-bit. See charts for video vards. Graphics Drivers: Nvidia ForceWare 191.07, ATI Catalyst 9.11.

CPU

The CPU is only a bottleneck once you start digging into the past. All of our newer Core i7 and Core i5 CPUs performed identically. Once we dropped down to Intel's older Core 2 platform, we didn't see any large performance drops until we got to the 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo, and even then, the performance was more than adequate. We encountered issues while testing with our Phenom test bed and will have those numbers up shortly.

System Setup: Above CPUs + Intel DX58S0, eVGA 680i SLI, 3GB DDR3, 3GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GB x 2, 512MB x 2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows 7 32-bit. Graphics Card: Radeon HD 5770, ATI Catalyst 9.11

Memory

Once we cranked up the visual quality, 1GB of system RAM became quite the limitation. Frame rates became inconsistent and the machine faltered constantly. Modern systems ship with at least three, if not four, gigabytes of RAM, and doing an upgrade on an older machine will likely cost less than the price of the game.

System Setup: Intel Core2 Quad Q6600, eVGA 680i SLI, 3GB Corsair XMS Memory (2GBx2), 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2), 1GB Corsair XMS Memory (512MBx2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows 7 32-bit. Graphics Card: Radeon HD 5770, Catalyst 9.11.

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Discussion

199 comments
SANDMAN201
SANDMAN201

This is going to be hard finding a cheap laptop that can run this game.

coaltango
coaltango

are we gonna have a Call of duty black ops hardware performance guide???

spy2828
spy2828

Quite not so easy too run!

Marchix14
Marchix14

My rig (i was amazed i actually could play it on everything HIGH and resolution MAX Runs at max 80 fps, min 34 fps: CPU: Pentium 4 2.4 GHZ VGA: Club 3D 7600GS 256 MB RAM:1.5 GB XP professional Actually every game i play exceeds my PC's stats. It's the video card thats doing the magic. If it is supported the game will run.

xlelouchxx
xlelouchxx

My rig right here. Runs the game at a good 80fps. GIGABYTE MA770T-UD3P Motherboard Phenom II X2 Callisto @3.2 ghz (which I unlocked to Quad Core 3.6ghz) XFX Radeon 4870 HD 1GB Antec Basiq 550W PSU Plextor DVD Superdrive G.SKILL Ripjaws 1600mhz Ram Windows 7 Home Edition 64 Bit

fabiocs
fabiocs

@lordkreagoth My rig BTW: MOBO: GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD7 CPU: Intel Core i7-975 Extreme Edition @ 4.2 GHZ w/ ZALMAN CNPS9900LED (Best I could do on air, the 4.6 GHZ below must be liquid cooled, will be an i9 in January ) VGA: XFX HD-597A-CNB9 Radeon HD 5970 Black Edition 2GB @ 850MHz CORE/1.2GHz MEM (Conservative OC due to VRM constraints, considering aftermarket cooling) RAM: CORSAIR DOMINATOR-GT 12GB (6 x 2GB) DDR3 2000 HDD: Corsair P128 128GB SATA II MLC SSD X 2 RAID 0 (OS), Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB 7200 RPM X 6 RAID 5+1 (Storage) OPTICAL: Pioneer Blu-ray Burner Model BDR-205BKS PSU: Antec TPQ-1200 1200W CASE: Antec Twelve Hundred DISPLAY: LG W3000H-Bn Black 30" X 3 jajaja LIARRRRRRRRRR

Mercenario_AR
Mercenario_AR

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Gamesmasterx
Gamesmasterx

I don't see the problem people have with joysticks, they are more or less like mice only they flick back to center after movement.

Yeo112
Yeo112

hey wat happens if the computer does not meet the requirements.... cause..i got a problem during the takedown mission when fighting ur way through the favela..the game starts to get laggy and the graphics start to suck like objects becoming black...and midway if i continue the whole game shuts down.soo. i cant finish my campaign... My com specs: CPU Type QuadCore AMD Phenom X4 Black Edition 9850, 2500 MHz (12.5 x 200) Motherboard Name MSI K9A2 CF (MS-7388 ) (2 PCI, 1 PCI-E x1, 2 PCI-E x16, 4 DDR2 DIMM, Audio, Gigabit LAN) Video Adapter ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series (1024 MB) PLZ HELP!!!

lordkragoth
lordkragoth

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

lordkragoth
lordkragoth

My rig BTW: MOBO: GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD7 CPU: Intel Core i7-975 Extreme Edition @ 4.2 GHZ w/ ZALMAN CNPS9900LED (Best I could do on air, the 4.6 GHZ below must be liquid cooled, will be an i9 in January ;) ) VGA: XFX HD-597A-CNB9 Radeon HD 5970 Black Edition 2GB @ 850MHz CORE/1.2GHz MEM (Conservative OC due to VRM constraints, considering aftermarket cooling) RAM: CORSAIR DOMINATOR-GT 12GB (6 x 2GB) DDR3 2000 HDD: Corsair P128 128GB SATA II MLC SSD X 2 RAID 0 (OS), Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB 7200 RPM X 6 RAID 5+1 (Storage) OPTICAL: Pioneer Blu-ray Burner Model BDR-205BKS PSU: Antec TPQ-1200 1200W CASE: Antec Twelve Hundred DISPLAY: LG W3000H-Bn Black 30" X 3

lordkragoth
lordkragoth

Runs adequately @ 7680 x 1600 on 3 x 30" Displays using Eyefinity on my Radeon HD5970. It is truly an experience that cannot be reproduced on any console.

joevit
joevit

Runs good on my AMD64 2x 4600+ 2 gigs of ram that i payed 14 bucks for each, an nvidia 9500 gt with 512 mb and a 80 gig hard drive. I need to upgrade.

KingOfTheNubeis
KingOfTheNubeis

Got given it as a early present,single players ok but muliplayer blows.I used to play peer to peer 10 years ago on the PC. Now I remember why it sucked so much,lol I NEED TO PLAY ON DEDICATED SEVERS. I have a Ps3 but you can't beat PC multiplayer games with DSS(Dedicated Stand alone Severs) So I'm back to playing MW1.

remysola
remysola

Although I'm a strong PC gamer I agree with thunderx18 if the next XBOX supports Keyboard + Mouse + Easy use with any resolution monitor I'll leave the PC for games. Other solution is streaming games like Gaikai, OTOY or OnLive that "promises" play any game on any old PC or Mac. Developers making games with high requirements,Nvidia, AMD and Intel have been destroy the PC for games

LT_Snake
LT_Snake

Im realy happy that iw has optimized the game. It runs on my 9600gt max settings 60fps+ easily

SamuriChamploo
SamuriChamploo

It would be wonderful if we had a demo or heck even a benchmark of this game....

battle_chaser9
battle_chaser9

to thunderx18, agreed on your comment that consoles are great on saving money. I feel you there I use to be a huge PC enthusiast but a few years back the whole PC thing got way out of hand. Graphic Cards were coming out every 3 months and they were asking 400+ for some. It goes to show you how greedy these manufacturers are at that time and now most graphic cards are not near that price range anymore. PC companies have been overcharging us for sometime now.

battle_chaser9
battle_chaser9

I run MW2 on a ASUS G72GX with Core 2 Duo 2.53 gh 6gb ram with a geforce 260m at the highest laptop resolution (1600x900) everything on extra with AA on the highest settings. Laptop runs it very smoothly.

TheJamin
TheJamin

@ andrew_ribbons to be honest, adding the GTX295 isn't really going to add much. you really can't compare current gen to last gen. though the 295 is currently nvidias flagship, it's not the chip to compare to the 5970 or 5870. once the GT300 comes out then you can compare the flagship models. the 295 should only be compared to the 4 series ATI cards. otherwise it's no different from comparing a flagship i7 to a flagship Q9 series. the 295 was designed to wipe the floor with the 4 series, not the 5 series. thats the job for the GT300 - if it's up to the task!

TheJamin
TheJamin

@ shankygreat you're totally right. 5770 is like 110 quid and it's the latest dx11 gen from ATI. plus you have the option of adding another one (if your motherboard supports it) Have you seen 5770 crossfire benchies? they are outstanding for 220 quid!

Erik729
Erik729

@Ownage guy: Some games on PS3 support mouse and keyboard. One example I have is UT3.

champmanfan
champmanfan

My game with everything on (x2 AA) @1680x1050 plus bottom texture settings on High manages on average 120 using Fraps, but this depends on the levels which goes from 70fps to 300fps! This is a console port which explains the big dips as MW1 was much smoother and I put everything on max to average 240fps. Where you get numerous enemies on-screen, the fps hovers around 70fps and can feel laggy to pull off quick shots in tight spots. Visuals are great as always but I would like to know for sure what GPU + RAM you need to run Extra Settings. For High I would say its 512MB-1GB, then Extra is 1GB+ for smooth play when they become more commonplace at more affordable prices. - CPU: Intel QX6700@3.2Ghz - Mobo: Gigabyte X48 DS5 - GPU: Gigabyte 4870 HD 512MB DDR5 (CrossFire) @780MHz/1010Mhz - RAM: 8GB Corsair DDR2 800Mhz 4-4-4-15

vladseth
vladseth

I have an Amd Athlon 64 5000+ ( 2.6ghz x2) 2 gb ddr2 , nvidia gforce 9600 gt (512 ddr3 , 256 b) and I run Cod 6 on 1650x1050 with all the details on high but without antialiasing, without problems.

mad2100
mad2100

My rig) and I'm proud of this my build))) - Asus Rampage II Extreme Motherboard, - Intel Core i7 975 3.33GHz (Nehalem) Extreme Edition @ 4.6GHz, - Kingston HyperX XMP 6GB (3x2GB) DDR3 2000MHz + Fan, - X2 Crossfire XFX ATI Radeon HD 4890 XTX XXX Edition 1024MB GDDR5 @954Mhz/1100MHz

DDas09
DDas09

my video card is a nvidia geoforce 8500 gt and i got a amd phenom quad core processor 9500

andrew_ribbons
andrew_ribbons

@SarjuS, fair comment, i can appreciate that. Might i add it's nice to see Gamespot staff participating in forums too! This would be the first time one of you guys has commented on something i've said in about...6 years of activity? :P

shankygreat
shankygreat

@all console fanboys, even sub 100$ video cards(9600,9800,4670s) have better graphics then any console anyday, so any game available on all consoles is always preferable on PC rather then ps3 or 360s. Consoles just score over pc due to their exclusive games.

shankygreat
shankygreat

@ isaac_LNX you can play them on 8600GT atleast but better go with 9500 or 9600 or 9800GT. all of them are below 100$ right now. obviously 9500 is cheapest at 65-70$ right now. 9800 being 95-105$. @hakan768 the only reason can be ur video card.

hakan768
hakan768

My system E8200 Cpu - 4770 gpu -4 gb ram and very slow game ..... why slow :(

TN101
TN101

Because they're only using 3gb of ram...you don't need a 64 bit OS until you go over 3 or 4gigs. 32 bit Op. systems can only address a little over 3 gigs, given thats all their system has, they have no need for a 64-bit OS(running a 64-bit OS with only 3 gigs can hurt your performance as well). BUT that being said, 6 gigs and a 64 bit OS is optimal for an i7 (socket 1366) rig.

mhh91
mhh91

Why would they use a 32-bit OS with an i7?

OwnageGuy
OwnageGuy

if there was keyboard and mouse for consoles, i would switch to consoles forever. but sadly mouse and keyboard would pwn the people using controllers. and thats a fact. mouse is way better than that analog stick for aiming.

NoHotAshes
NoHotAshes

This port runs best on XBOX360, there ya go! done

Gammet25
Gammet25

The world used to be a better place when Call of Duty 4 had a good solid multiplayer unlike this one

thunderx18
thunderx18

The only thing that sucks about Consoles is its not as easy as playing on a PC. Mouse, Keyboard... thats all consoles need and they'll cruise. But in the end I'll just use my Xbox 360 for gaming, and my PC for PC exclusive games. I use to update my PC every year. Obviously that's not very practical, so now that I got an Xbox 360 - and with that, now my new machine has a use-by date of 5 years. Consoles is an effective, money saving approach since you don't need to update the things to handle newer games. So. My wish is that the next gen Xbox (I think microsoft blabbed 2012?) has a mouse and keyboard. If that happens, buh-bye PC gaming. But that's me - each to their own

vordonez12
vordonez12

i think both console and pc gaming is amazing but for shooters I go with consoles because I don't want to spend money to upgrade and just because more people have it. I love strategy games on PCs tho.

First_Person
First_Person

I miss seeing these hardware guides on Gamespot :(

Kulcan
Kulcan

> > Mainboard : Asus M3A78-CM > Chipset : AMD 780 > Processor : AMD Phenom II X4 965 @ 3800MHz > Physical Memory : 4096 MB (2 x 2048 DDR2-SDRAM ) > Video Card : ATI Radeon HD 4850 Series Runs good.. =P

CreatureRising
CreatureRising

I love the guy sitting against the truck eating a chocolate bar, just look at the truck and you will see him, no joke! The screenshot above shows the truck and the guy, he at the door, :)

FBIoh3
FBIoh3

well, first you need a server, oh wait.........

rivo3622
rivo3622

i am running a 8800GTS,intel quad core 2.8ghz and i run the game at 1440x900 which you will see has minor difference between 1920x1200 and 1440x900 which will allow you for ultimate awesome high FPSage haha. 1440x900 also allows me to max out settings and suffer little to none FPS loss compared to 1920x1200 haha

Jhraxlin
Jhraxlin

This is why I'm getting a PS3 for this game and not a PC XD

Jhraxlin
Jhraxlin

This is why I'm getting a PS3 for this game and not a PC XD

mr_winklebottom
mr_winklebottom

to xtreme, I agree pc gaming is much better but where r u getting ur info about the killzone2 to crysis comment, ive never heard anyone say that killzone two has better graphics, and if anyone ever does then they quite frankly should not be allowed to game

xtremeflem2day
xtremeflem2day

I'm a console gamer, and I have a PC that runs cod4 on 800x600 with high detail textures, and only about 28-40 fps on average. And I shall say it once, and will not say it again(for now): As long as you got a good PC, PC gaming owns console gaming. MW2 is just drop shot and nube tube anyway, so its not that great. Most games on 360 can be played on PC, and so many of the ps3 fanboys just cant admit that crysis has better graphics than killzone 2. Console gaming isn't too bad, its pretty good, but PC is definitely above all.

SarjuS
SarjuS

@andrew_ribbons If I had the GTX 295, it'd be in there. Regardless, it's not really a mystery where it would place. We all know the game runs more than well enough on a single GTX 280, tossing in a GTX 295 wouldn't teach us all that much more. The video card list is meant to give readers a rough idea of how far up the ladder they need to upgrade to get certain playable experiences - on Modern Warfare 2, it's pretty obvious you don't need much run it at high quality and super high resolutions.

DFen
DFen

I may be a console gamer but everyone should know pc graphics will always look better especially since all games are made using a pc anyway but then again if ur pc is not up to part he/she may loose out that lol