The First Five PC Games I Use To Test A New Graphics Card

First, you spend too much on a new graphics card. Then, you fire up your chewiest, toughest PC games and make them beg for mercy. For one brief moment, your exorbitant purchase feels completely reasonable. Last week I bought a new top-of-the-line GTX 1080, a purchase I rationalised by telling myself I should get it now while I could still re-sell my last graphics card (a 980Ti) for enough to somewhat offset the expense. Also I just wanted one. (Mike reviewed it for us here.)

Any time I install a new PC component, particularly a new GPU, I have a short list of games that I check out first. Which games have been giving me trouble? Which will best justify my purchase? How high can I get the little frame-rate counter in the corner of the screen to climb?

1. The Witcher 3

Of course I had to play The Witcher 3 first. Not only is it one of my favourite games, it's one of the best-looking games I've got. It already ran fine in 1440p, but I wanted it to run finer. And it does; oh, it does. I would say that Geralt is like 10 per cent more ruggedly handsome than he was. I'm not quite sure how to benchmark that.

2. Rise of the Tomb Raider

At its best, RotTR is as pretty as anything else I have installed. Also a game that gave my last video card a run for its money. I've beaten it twice (!!) which seems like more hours than I'd expected to spend playing it, so I fired it up just long enough to run around the Geothermal Valley and determine that I do indeed get a good frame-rate. Onward!

3. Hitman

There's always that one game, isn't there? The one game that still doesn't run well, and you assume it's that the game isn't well optimised but you can never be quite sure. I really like the new Hitman, but it has never run very well for me. I've tried everything (seriously, everything) and I cannot keep it above 60fps.

Guess what? I still can't keep it above 60fps on my GTX 1080. (I know it's a CPU hog, but if a 4.4Ghz i7 can't keep up, something's off.) If you're bummed out about your Hitman performance and are worried that your PC is the problem, don't be. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that this game is simply poorly optimised. And if you're lucky enough to have a PC that can run the game perfectly, well, good for you.

4. Crysis 3

Ah, Crysis 3. A game I've never really cared for, but keep around specifically to throw under the wheels of new graphics cards. I don't really need to play for very long, I just want to look at Psycho's beautiful, pockmarked face, then to go choke out some dumb CELL agents. This game is showing its age in some respects, but my 980Ti actually had a little trouble with it at 1440p. It's gratifying to see a new GPU chew it up and spit it out. Maybe my next card will run it in 4k.

5. Elite: Dangerous (VR)

This is a new one for me; in the past I might've put Arkham Knight or Just Cause 3 here. But now that I'm actually actively playing VR games, I want to be sure they're running nice and smooth. Elite: Dangerous is generally really good in VR, but my PC has always had trouble keeping it at 90fps. Until now, I guess. The 1080 is finally able to play this game at the VR frame-rate John Carmack intended, and it looks very fine, indeed.

And there they are, the first five games I used to test out this latest GPU. (If you want full benchmarks and all that, go check out Mike's review.) Everyone has their own first games they play on new hardware — surely some of you still break out the original Crysis for old times' sake? Share yours below.


    Something with lots of Tessellation.

    Something with lots of PhysX.

    Something with lots of Anti-Aliasing.

    Something with bullshit amounts of Textures.

    Then something really really really poorly optimized, for funs.

      Then something really really really poorly optimized, for funs.

      Path of Exile, then.

      Is tessellation really that taxing these days? I remember tuning settings for GTAV and tessellation was one of those that everyone recommended you just max out because it had minimal impact on performance.

        I threw in tessellation because of just how odd it is when it comes to visuals vs FPS.

        Dragon Age Inquisition for example, tessellation makes the ground bulky, the rocks pointier.

        It's like lying down a bunch of deflated balloons and saying, "Okay, this is low, doesn't affect FPS at all". Then you blow a tiny bit of air into each balloon, it takes a hit of 4 FPS, and you claim that it is now on the medium setting.

        For the amount of FPS that it takes away from your GPU, it does crap all.

        So games like Batman Arkham have Poison Ivy's vines becoming bulkier, and Shadow Of Mordor have the MC's fur coat stand out more, I'm yet to see a game that uses tessellation to the FULLEST. Everything, flowers, tree bark, rocks, terrain, animal fur, everything affected by tessellation, which I can imagine would be a chug-worthy effort for a GPU to perform.

        EDIT: There's also the fact that AMD, in it's driver settings, has an option called AMD Optimized under Tessellation Mode, which basically looks at the game's settings for tessellation, and if it's too high for AMD to handle, it goes "fuck that shit" and runs it at whatever it wants.

        Last edited 08/07/16 9:34 am

          Arkham Origins actually had a real cool use for tessellation. The snow on the ground would leave footprints and other marks. Looked really cool after a big fight. It also added depth to the cape.

    Bought a second hand GTX980TI (can't afford this $1000+ rubbish) and first game i fired up was The Division. The biggest disappointment this year but i think it's a pretty sexy game. Second game I fired up was Witcher 3 and now i'm finally playing through it. :)
    Big speed bump from my old GTX780.

      Cool, buying a 1070 in August to replace my GTX670, can't wait to finally play games on high/ultra with 60+fps :D

        I've been so used to playing games fluctuating between 30-45 fps of late that when i slapped in the new card and witnessed 60fps Witcher 3, Division and Dark Souls 3 i nearly cried a single manly tear of joy. I do have to overclock it for Witcher 3 though and settle for 2xAA on hairworks.

        It makes me happy to think that joyous feeling will soon be yours.

    Haha, I think I legit do load up the first Crysis. To be fair, it still looks pretty, and some of those scenes (carrier fight, low-gravity / aliens in the frost) really stand out even today.

    I am waiting on an order for an ASUS Strix gtx1080. I plan on grabbing Total Warhammer (sic), I haven't upgraded in 5 years and my computer has struggled with the latest Total War games (Medieval II runs decent, thankfully). Apart from that, the new DOOM (hyped for Vulcan too). The real test will be Battlefield 1 (super hyped for this, Bad Company was the last one I enjoyed) - DICE games usually run quite well and apparently 1440p will be a breeze. Plus the game looks positively gorgeous.

    I recently dug deep into the "eh fukit" drawer and upgraded my card... Can I say I'm totally unimpressed with E:D in VR? I've logged a lot of hours in 2D, but found the 3d version virtually unplayable thanks to the blurry text. After 20 minutes my brain was just.... dude, wot? Which is a pity. (I do know other people have found a similar thing with vives).

    Can I say though.... Witcher 3? Bellissimo!

    Last edited 08/07/16 1:17 am

    Dude. How could you?

    How could you not run Minesweeper on your new GTX1080?!

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now