Progress Report: Windows Vista Game Compatibility

With Vista around the corner, we decided to see how our older games worked with Microsoft's upcoming operating system.

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Microsoft's new operating system radically departs from Windows XP. The company scrapped numerous legacy systems and upgraded others with improvements in networking, security, the desktop, and the component that matters most to us - DirectX, the technology that lets games talk to the system hardware.

Windows Vista makes a clean break from DirectX 9 and earlier versions by including two versions of DirectX. Vista will come with DirectX 10 and DirectX 9.0L. Older games will function by using DirectX 9.0L, and should, in theory, work fine. Microsoft has stated that games made for Windows XP will function, but games from the days of Windows 98 and DOS probably don't have much of a chance.

Standard Beta Disclaimer

Vista is still in Beta 2, and at least seven months from retail launch, but we had to see how our XP and older, classic games worked on Vista. We tested games from GameRanking's top-ten lists from the years 2000 to 2005, and we also tossed in a few notable games that were released prior to 2000 as well as a handful of games released this year.

We started testing with the GeForce 7900 GTX but quickly switched over to the Radeon X1900 XT after all the crashing games revealed that Nvidia's Vista drivers weren't quite mature enough for live testing. Note that this isn't indicative of Nvidia's final Vista performance levels. The OS is still over a half year away from launch, which gives Nvidia plenty of time to polish up its drivers.

Overall, only twelve games failed out of the thirty-five we tested. Most games worked fine after we patched all of them up to date. A few games automatically disabled the 3D desktop in order to function, but most didn't require us to fiddle around with any Vista settings to work. We encountered severe issues in a few games that made them difficult to play, but the nature of the bugs and the fact that the games could run leads us to believe that the problems have more to do with the immature state of video card drivers for Vista.

No Caption ProvidedAge of Mythology
Plays great!
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No Caption ProvidedBaldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn
We could boot up and play the game. However cursor ghosting issues, massive frame rate slowdowns, and extensive rendering problems ruined the playing experience.
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No Caption ProvidedBattlefield 2
The single player version works fine, but when we tried to get our online fix, PunkBuster kept kicking us out of servers. We're also not sure if the mic works or not.
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No Caption ProvidedBlack & White
Plays great!
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No Caption ProvidedCivilization IV
Stuck in "Ancient" age. We kept encountering a disk not found error while trying to launch the game. Patching and troubleshooting didn't help.
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No Caption ProvidedCommand & Conquer Red Alert 2
Plays great!
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No Caption ProvidedCounter-Strike: Source
Plays great!
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No Caption ProvidedDeus Ex
Plays great!
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No Caption Provided Diablo II
Plays great!
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No Caption Provided Fallout 2
Plays great!
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No Caption Provided F.E.A.R.
Plays great!
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No Caption Provided Grand Theft Auto III
Plays great!
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No Caption Provided Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Plays great!
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No Caption Provided Guild Wars
Plays great!
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No Caption Provided Half-Life 2: Episode One
Plays great!
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No Caption Provided Half-Life 2: Lost Coast
Plays great!
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No Caption Provided Half-Life 2
Almost! We could get past the splash screen to the loading screen, but then the game crashes back to the desktop. It shouldn't be impossible to fix since Lost Coast worked perfectly.
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No Caption Provided Homeworld: Cataclysm
Plays great!
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No Caption Provided Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
We could launch the game, but it only loads up the taskbar and a black screen which stays there permanently until you open the task manager and kill the task.
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No Caption Provided Max Payne
The game loads up, shows the introductory video, but then crashes back to the desktop.
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No Caption Provided Neverwinter Nights
We experienced a few minor graphical glitches, but the game was still more than playable.
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No Caption Provided No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.'s Way
Plays great!
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No Caption ProvidedThe Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Plays great!
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No Caption ProvidedPrey
Prey fails to load, and displays the following error in the id software loader: "The current video card/driver combination does not support the necessary features."
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No Caption ProvidedPrince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Plays great!
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No Caption ProvidedReturn to Castle Wolfenstein
The game fails to load, and displays the following error in the id software loader: "The current video card/driver combination does not support the necessary features."
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No Caption ProvidedRise of Nations
The game loads up, shows the introductory video, but then crashes back to the desktop.
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No Caption ProvidedRollerCoaster Tycoon
Plays great!
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No Caption ProvidedRome: Total War
Flat out broken, the game never loads up at all. Vista displays a window that says that "Rome: Total War has stopped working."
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No Caption ProvidedSacrifice
Plays great!
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No Caption ProvidedSimCity 4
The game loads long enough to display the EA logo video. Then it crashes right back to the desktop.
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No Caption ProvidedThe Sims
Plays great!
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No Caption ProvidedThe Sims 2
Plays great!
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No Caption ProvidedWarcraft III: Reign of Chaos
Plays great!
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No Caption ProvidedWorld of Warcraft
Plays great!
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