Command & Conquer 3 Hardware Performance Guide

Find out what components you need to play Command & Conquer 3 at its very best.

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Kane's back, and his bald head's never looked better. Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars graphically shames its predecessors in a variety of ways. EA Los Angeles made tremendous use of shaders that make the atmosphere pulse with life and give the world an organic feel. Fields of Tiberium irradiate the ground with a sickly green glow, and the sky takes on strange hues that ebb with the constant flashes of battle. What makes it even better? Exceedingly modest system requirements. Command & Conquer 3 looks fantastic on a sub-$1000 rig.

We tested Command & Conquer 3 on an eight-player skirmish map called the Rocktagon. Using a 30-second FRAPs run, we replayed the invasion and destruction of an enemy base using an array of Nod forces. Our final results are the average of three runs.

Don't be surprised if you see some very low results, as Command & Conquer 3 has a frame rate cap of 30 frames per second. From what we can tell, the game seems to base the simulation speed off of how many frames are rendered. Ideally, you'd want to maintain a constant frame rate of 30, but we found that the game is more than playable at a decent pace in the low 20s. Once you dip into the low teens, though, the game becomes unbearably slow, and effectively turns into an RTS without the real-time aspect.

Game Settings
You don’t need much of a computer to run Command & Conquer 3 well, but you’re still going to have dial down a few settings if your computer isn’t on the bleeding edge.

Graphics
Command & Conquer 3 looks great and doesn’t require the latest and greatest in terms of GPU power. We tested out 16 cards to help you narrow down your search.

CPU
Command & Conquer 3 doesn't ask for much in terms of processing power if you've got an Intel Core 2. But if you're putting along on a low clock speed Athlon 64 or Pentium 4 you might want to move up to something a little quicker.

Memory
The game requires 512MB of RAM, but we recommend you get a bit more. To find the sweet spot, we tested the game out with 512MB, 1GB, 2GB, and even 4GB of system memory.

Game Settings

To work within the 30 frame per second frame rate cap, we resorted to some creative benchmarking to figure out what settings affected performance the most. For comparison purposes, we tested Command & Conquer 3 with an intermediate graphical setting; and then varied one setting at a time to determine the relative performance hit.

A few key settings drain frame rates, chief among them shader detail. Shader detail changes the way the game looks on a full-screen basis. If you go too low, the game loses much of its life. Shadows, as usual, tax video cards heavily; expect the hit for the setting to rise with the number of units on the screen. Terrain detail gives the ground its gritty look--set it too low and everything turns to mud; set it too high and the game slows to a crawl.

System Setup: System Setup: Intel Core 2 X6800, Intel 975XBX2, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GB x 2), 160GB Seagate 7200.7 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows XP Professional SP2. Graphics Cards: GeForce 6800 GS, Forceware 93.71.

Image Comparison

Very High Quality vs. High Quality

High Quality vs. Medium Quality

Medium Quality vs. Low Quality

Low Quality vs. Very Low Quality

Image Comparison (cont'd)

Very High Quality Shadows vs. High Quality Shadows

High Quality Shadows vs. Medium Quality Shadows

Medium Quality Shadows vs. Low Quality Shadows

Low Quality Shadows vs. Shadows Disabled

High Quality Textures vs. Medium Quality Textures

Medium Quality Textures vs. Low Quality Textures

Even More Image Comparisons

Very High Shader Detail vs. High Shader Detail

High Shader Detail vs. Medium Shader Detail

Medium Shader Detail vs. Low Shader Detail

Very High Terrain Detail vs. High Terrain Detail

High Terrain Detail vs. Medium Terrain Detail

Medium Terrain Detail vs. Low Terrain Detail

Graphics

For once, you can definitely spend too much on a video card. Upgrading to the top of the GPU food chain seems pointless because Command & Conquer 3 has an exceedingly low frame rate cap, and most GPUs render the game with ease. The game is still playable with bottom feeder cards like the Radeon X300 SE or the GeForce 6200 TC, but you’ll lose all the graphical wonder in the process.

We couldn’t get the GeForce 8800 series cards to fall from the 30 frame per second cap even with all the settings at their very maximum. Most other GPUs slipped only when we tested them at extreme resolutions with all the settings maxed out, which makes them very playable if you’re willing to drop the resolution or tone down the antialiasing.

System Setup: Intel Core 2 X6800, Intel 975XBX2, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GB x 2), 160GB Seagate 7200.7 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows XP Professional SP2. Graphics Cards: GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB, GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB, GeForce 7900 GTX 512MB, GeForce 7900 GT 256MB, GeForce 7600 GT 256MB, GeForce 6800 GS 128MB, GeForce 6600GT 128MB, GeForce 6200 TC 128MB, Radeon X1950 XTX 512MB, Radeon X1900 XTX 512MB, Radeon X1900 XT 256MB, Radeon X1950 Pro 256MB, Radeon X1650 XT 256MB, Radeon X1300 XT 256MB, Radeon X800 256MB, Radeon X300 SE 128MB. Graphics Drivers: Nvidia ForceWare 97.92, Nvidia ForceWare 93.71, ATI Catalyst 7.2.

CPU

All of our Intel Core 2 CPUs handle Command & Conquer 3 with ease. When we jump down to the slower dual- and single-core Athlon 64s, performance takes a slight hit, while the Pentium 4 3.2GHz trails the pack significantly. Overall, the game seems relatively insensitive to processors, as we could play very easily on all of our machines. Feel free to make the CPU the last place you look to for an upgrade.

System Setup: Intel Core 2 X6800, Intel Core 2 Duo 6300, Intel 975XBX2, Intel Pentium 4 3.2GHz, Intel 955XE, AMD Athlon 64 FX-60, AMD Athlon 64 FX-57, ASUS A8R32-MVP Deluxe, Athlon 64 X2 5000+, Asus M2n32 SLI Deluxe, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GB x 2), 160GB Seagate 7200.7 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows XP Professional SP2. Graphics Card: GeForce 8800 GTX, Nvidia ForceWare 97.72.

Memory

With 512MB of system RAM, our tip-top system became utterly unplayable until we reduced the graphical load. You'll have to turn down quite a few settings to get the game to run well. Jumping up to 1GB of RAM solves all the problems, anything more is wasted due to the frame rate cap.

System Setup: Intel Core 2 X6800, Intel 975XBX2, 4GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GB x 4), 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GB x 2), Corsair XMS Memory 1GB, Corsair XMS Memory 512MB, 160GB Seagate 7200.7 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows XP Professional SP2. Graphics Card: GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB, Nvidia ForceWare 97.92.

Memory

With 512MB of RAM, you’ll have to turn down quite a few settings to get the game to run well. Jumping up to 1GB of RAM solves all the problems though, anything more results in overkill.

System Setup: Intel Core 2 X6800, Intel 975XBX2, 4GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GB x 4), 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GB x 2), Corsair XMS Memory 1GB, Corsair XMS Memory 512MB, 160GB Seagate 7200.7 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows XP Professional SP2. Graphics Card: GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB, Nvidia ForceWare 97.92.

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