Max Payne Three Graphics and CPU Efficiency Examined, DirectX 11 Showcased

If you've been a gamer for at least a decade, you'll recognize Max Payne as the PC third-person shooter of the early 2000s. Max Payne's character, who is characterized by his film noir style and the use of the bullet time effect (The Matrix), exceeded all expectations in 2008 with several console connections, a sequel and a feature film adaptation.

Soon after, Max Payne 3 was announced and has been in the works at Rockstar Studios ever since. The original game was developed by Finnish developer Remedy Entertainment and published by the now defunct 3D Realms. Max Payne 3 promises exciting gameplay and stunning graphics that mark the return of bullet time in action sequences while maintaining the shoot-dodge mechanics from previous titles.

On the tech side, Rockstar used to talk about his ability to combine physics and animation. For example, when Max dives to surprise his enemies, he does so according to his surroundings. This is done using the advanced dynamic Euphoria animation engine. However, the game itself is based on the RAGE game engine. In a way, the game uses two engines on top of each other.

The RAGE engine has been updated for Max Payne 3 with support for DirectX 11 and stereoscopic 3D rendering on the PC. The added support for DX11 effects was one of the reasons we expected this title and why we bring you this performance article.

It has been suggested that Max Payne 3 will make the most of today's high-end PCs, with DirectX 11 tessellation compatibility and "advanced graphics options" for PC gamers. With that in mind, let's take a look at the test setup and then look at the results. Be sure to check out our visual tour that compares DX9 through DX11 graphics.

Test methodology

If you've lost the count, we'll test 25 DirectX 11 graphics card configurations from AMD and Nvidia in all price ranges. The latest official drivers were used for each card. We installed an Intel Core i7-3960X in our test bench to remove CPU bottlenecks that could affect the high-end GPU values.

We used Fraps to measure frame rates during 90 seconds of gameplay footage from Max Payne 3's fifth single player level: Alive If Not Exactly Well. The test begins at the beginning of the mission where you will take a motorboat ride on a river before going ashore and starting the mission. The first 90 seconds of footage are always the same as in an in-game cut scene. We chose this scene because it is very challenging.

Test system specifications

  • AMD Radeon HD 7970 (3072 MB)
  • Gigabyte Radeon HD 7950 (3072 MB)
  • AMD Radeon HD 7870 (2048 MB)
  • AMD Radeon HD 7850 (2048 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7770 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7750 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6970 (2048 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6950 (2048 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6870 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6850 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6790 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6770 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6750 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6670 (1024 MB)
  • AMD Radeon HD 5870 (2048 MB)
  • AMD Radeon HD 5830 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 5670 (1024 MB)
  • Gainward GeForce GTX 680 (2048 MB)
  • Gainward GeForce GTX 670 (2048 MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 580 (1536 MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 570 (1280 MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 560 Ti (1024 MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 560 (1024 MB)
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 480 (1536 MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 460 (1024 MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 550 Ti (1024 MB)
  • Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition (3.30 GHz)
  • x4 4 GB G.Skill DDR3-1600 (CAS 8-8-8-20)
  • Gigabyte G1 Assassin2 (Intel X79)
  • OCZ ZX series 1250w
  • Crucial m4 512 GB (SATA 6 Gbit / s)
  • Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 64-bit
  • Nvidia Forceware 301.42
  • AMD catalyst 12.4

We tested Max Payne 3 at three popular desktop display resolutions: 1680 x 1050, 1920 x 1200, and 2560 x 1600 using normal and very high quality settings. Both modes were tested in DirectX 11 mode with vsync and MSAA disabled while ambient occlusion was set to SSAO. The very high settings used 984 MB of video memory at 1920 x 1200, while the normal settings used 331 MB at the same resolution.

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