Posted by Deliverator on August 28th, 2007
As mentioned previously, I’ve been contemplating some upgrades to my current machine in order to play Bioshock and some of the forthcoming games like Crysis and Half Life 2: Episode 2 in all their eye popping glory. I went ahead and upgraded my Nvidia 6800 GTS to an Nvidia 8800 GTX with 768 MB of ram. This new card is definitely a monster. It takes up two full slots, requires two PCI Express auxilary power connectors and extends well beyond my full size motherboard’s edge. I try to keep the cable routing in my case very clean, but had to do some major revamping to shoehorn the card into place. It is hard to describe how massive this card is without seeing it. I have a very hefty Lian Li V-1000 full tower case and it barely fit! I can’t imagine the physical/logistical difficulties that people run into when trying to run SLI rigs with these massive cards.
After installing the latest “Bioshock capable” Beta drivers from Nvidia, I went ahead and downloaded and purchased Bioshock through Steam. After finishing the rather hefty download, I went to play the game and got a lovely back screen and the hard drive light flashing furiously for the next few minutes. I initially figured it was just taking a long time to load, but eventually got fed up and hit C-A-D, which revealed a lovely crash message. I searched Bioshock’s and Steam’s forums and found several hundred other people complaining of the same problem, but no immediate solutions. I went ahead and ran a number of graphically intensive games and benchmarks just to ensure it wasn’t a card/driver issue with the video card, updated the drivers for every device in my system, etc. Finally, I went to Microsoft’s website and downloaded the latest redistributable copy of Direct-X. Turns out the Bioshock needs some updated Direct-X 10 components and not just the ones that came with Vista. Bioshock’s makers don’t bother to tell you this in the game documentation or ensure that you have the required components by bundling the latest version of DX with the game (as has been done by many other game makers in the past) and Microsoft hasn’t rolled the updates out over Windows Update or make people aware that Direct X has been updated. Way to go guys! Virtually every DX 9 title runs significantly slower on Vista than XP and Direct X 10 titles are few and far between and seem to add little in the way of compelling eye candy over their DX 9 modes/counterparts. Not a great start for DX 10 gaming, imo.
I finally got the game to launch and tested it enough to ensure that it plays well on my computer, but I was dismayed to learn of a few issues while browsing the Bioshock forums. It appears that Bioshock doesn’t currently properly support widescreen monitors. To see the full intended field of view, you need to play on a 4:3 aspect ratio monitor. If you play it on a widescreen monitor, the game clips the top and bottom off what you would see on a 4:3 monitor, so you actually see LESS of your environment by playing on a widescreen monitor…you just see it bigger. These two issues really pissed me off, as pretty much every major title in recent years has had proper widescreen support and any halfway decent QA process should have caught the widespread “black screen” crashes. There are a lot of people that are speculating the Bioshock was rushed to market in order snatch $50 out of gamer’s wallets before Halo 3 hits stores.
I also went ahead and ordered an AMD Opteron 185. The 185 is a dual core 2.6 GHZ with 1 MB of ram per core. From what I have been able to find out, this is the fastest CPU on the market which will work with my current motherboard. Although much faster Intel cpus are available at a similar price, I would have to upgrade my motherboard and play the reinstall dance, which I really have no desire to do in the near future. Between the 8800 GTX and the Opteron, I should be able to squeeze another few years of gaming life out of my box.