Early Tuesday morning 2k Games released a demo of their much anticipated 3rd person action shooter Mafia II. This demo really was interesting to us because it had a built-in benchmark that we could use to quickly and easily compare different settings and video cards. For many months we have also been hearing good things about this demo from NVIDIA touting the great PhysX graphics that 2K Games implemented in the game. In fact, we even obtained a sneak peak of a Mafia II PhysX game trailer that was put together by NVIDIA.
After seeing the demo, it looked like Mafia II was going to be successful as it looked to have a great story line, Grand Theft Auto style joyriding around, and mass carnage! NVIDIA said that the game takes advantage of PhysX and has the ability to use the GPU to simulate up to 10,000 particles on the screen at a time.
We were excited to try out this benchmark and over the weekend we got early access to the demo and gave it a try as soon as we got back from the GO OC North American Championships. You know its got to be good when it has PhysX on the license plate!
Once we got the demo downloaded though it appeared that this particular level of the demo will not show up in the final game – at least in this format. We weren’t sure if the benchmark performance numbers have anything to do with the retail game, so we asked 2K Games and Acess PR (PR firm) and neither responded with an answer to the question. Not the response you want to get when they answer other questions, but not that one.
Not knowing the significance of this benchmark we fired it up and found that our MSI GeForce GTX 460 1GB Cyclone video card had really poor performance with PhysX enabled. After doing all the testing on several NVIDIA video cards we started to graph the data and none of it looked right. Legit Reviews contacted NVIDIA about this PhysX glitch and was told this:
The glitch had to do with the PhysX software installer not actually turning on GPU acceleration. There is a patch being applied that will fix your issues. This patch will be automatically applied through steam within a couple hours. In the meantime you can do the following workaround: In your Windows Control Panel under Programs and Features, find NVIDIA PhysX System Software and right click. Select “Repair”. Reboot. You should not run into the problem. As for everyone else, their local clients will be updated through steam within the next couple of hours. When they run the game and the update will be initiated, the new software will automatically install and of course if a new user downloads and installs for the first time they will bypass the issue. – NVIDIA PR
The workaround fix they prescribed worked for us and we didn’t need the patch from Steam. On Wednesday the update patch was made available but no description was given about what the update did or fixed.
This ‘bug’, combined with the fact that 2K Games won’t tell us a peep on demo versus retail game performance worried us, so we contacted AMD to see if their driver was up to snuff for this game demo.
As you can see the Mafia II demo launch didn’t go too smoothly and since we don’t have a clue what real world implications the demo has we’ll just run some quick tests on a single video card.
As you can see the MSI GeForce GTX 460 1GB Cyclone video card does well with AA and PhysX turned off (the test settings in the screen shot above). Once AA is enabled the FPS dropped by roughly 35%, but the GTX 460 was still playable at a resolution of 1280×1024. With AA disabled and PhysX enabled the performance dropped down by over 50%. Both of these performance drops were rather significant. Enabling AA with PhysX set to medium didn’t drop performance that bad, but the frame rate was down in the 30’s. This isn’t where you want to be for having silky smooth graphics.
We can only expect performance to go up from here once the drivers have been fully optimized for Mafia II when it comes out on August 24th here in the United States and on August 27th for the rest of the world. For now we are left with a demo that has gotten off to a rough start and we await 2K Games’ answer on if the demo benchmark performance will reflect the level of performance that we can expect in the retail game.