BioShock 2 Hardware Performance Guide

BioShock 2 doesn't require much of a computer to run, but if you've got an aging rig it'll help to know where to start upgrading.

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BioShock 2 looks and feels largely like the original BioShock. The system requirements went up a notch, but the game runs well on a wide array of machines. Most modern machines should be able to run the game without any problems. It's only when we start to dig into our box of computers parts that came out three or four years ago that we encountered problems.

We used FRAPs to measure frame rates while we took a 30 second run through the Adonis Luxury Resorts. The test path took us through the wide-open baths and into more cramped hallways to get a mix of area sizes. We ran each test three times and then averaged the results.

Game Settings

BioShock 2 has similar settings to the original BioShock, except for the two-year difference. As a result, if you have anything made in the past three years, you can leave it all enabled. If not, there are a few things you can tweak.

Graphics

We tested BioShock 2 with the GeForce 8600 GTS on 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

A Pentium 4 may get you in the door, but it's by no means the ideal experience. We tested a large range of CPUs to help you figure out where to stop.

Memory

BioShock 2 needs 2GB of RAM to run, and we checked to make sure it was sufficient.

Systems

Our slowest machine slightly exceeds the minimum requirements for the game: 3.0GHz Pentium 4 paired with a GeForce 7800 GT. Even with an 800MHz advantage, the game struggled to churn out a semiplayable experience at any quality setting. Low frame rates compounded with slow texture loading made the experience quite lackluster. It'd be much easier to just hop onto a console and play the game. The reccomended system--a Core 2 2.1GHz with a GeForce 8800 GT--ran the game without a hitch at maximum quality settings and at fairly high resolutions. Stepping into a modern midrange system, outfitted with a Core i5 and a Radeon HD 5770, BioShock 2 ran perfectly. A faster system will yield higher frame rates, but the returns definitely don't warrant the expense.

System Setup:

Modern Mid-Range System: Intel i5-9750, Intel DX58S0, 3GB DDR3, 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows 7 32-bit. Graphics Card: Radeon HD 5770, ATI Catalyst 10.1.

Recommended System: Intel Core 2 E6420, eVGA 680SLI, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows 7 32-bit. Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT, Forceware 196.21.

Minimum Requirements System: Intel Pentium 4 3.9GHz, eVGA 680SLI, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GB x 2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows 7 32-bit. Graphics Card: GeForce 7800 GT, Nvidia ForceWare 196.21.

Settings

To play BioShock 2 at anything but high quality destroys the game. To be particularly blunt, the medium- and low-quality settings look terrible. If you have to adjust anything at all, we'd start with the resolution. Should that not work, hit the three settings we tested below. You'll reclaim quite a bit of performance, but the game will most certainly start to look ugly.

System Setup: Intel Core 2 E8200, eVGA 680i SLI, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2), 750GB Seagate 7200.10 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows 7 32-bit. Graphics Card: GeForce 8600 GTS, Nvidia ForceWare 196.21.

Image Quality Comparison

Graphic Presets

Gallery image 1Gallery image 2Gallery image 3
High Medium Low

Shadow Maps

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On Off

High Detail Post Processing

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On Off

High Detail Shaders

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On Off

Video Cards

BioShock 2 doesn't need much to perform well, but it sure won't say no to better hardware. All of our tests were done at 1920x1200 with high-quality settings. It's only when we got to the bottom of the bunch that we encountered unplayable frame rates, which was quite easily solvable by dropping the resolution a smidgen. The game supports GPUs down into the GeForce 7 series and Radeon X1xxx series, but at that point, the experience is laughable.

System Setup: Intel Core i7 965 Extreme, Intel DX58S0, 3GB DDR3, 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows 7 32-bit. Graphics Drivers: Nvidia ForceWare 196.21, ATI Catalyst 10.1.

CPU

Intel's newer Core i7 and i5 CPUs perform identically. Reaching back to the Core 2 series of CPUs, performance doesn't budge much until we got to the slowest one in the bunch. The Pentium 4 is clearly the odd man out in this bunch. It's definitely worth upgrading from the much-aged platform. In addition to low frame rates, slow texture loading issues made the game a blurry mess.

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 10.1

Memory

With a minimum of 2GB of RAM, BioShock 2 ran as smoothly as silk. An extra GB of RAM didn't do much for performance.

System Setup: Intel Core i7-960, Intel DX58S0, 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows 7 32-bit. Graphics Card: GeForce 280 GTX, Nvidia Forceware 196.21

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