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Stara 22.11.2006, 1:23   #6
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Prognosis: Good, But Still Needs Work
Overall, we're pretty happy with the state of gaming on Vista. This isn't a release candidate yet – we're still at beta 2. This is where most things should work, with only a few minor problems to work out between Microsoft, the games makers, and the hardware driver writers. On the whole, that's exactly where it's at.
There appear to be two big problems, from our admittedly limited testing. The first is StarForce copy protection. Its reliance on a hidden Ring 0 driver causes a compatibility problem with Vista that prevents games using StarForce from loading – at least, that's the best explanation we can come up with for the errors we found. It's very disappointing that there hasn't been a fix for this so far. The driver requirements of Vista have been known for quite a long time, and both Microsoft and games publishers should have been pressuring StarForce for a proper Vista driver since at least last summer.
This may be a moot point in the future. Both Ubisoft and CDV, the two largest users of StarForce protection, have announced they're dropping the controversial content protection scheme.
The second big problem is performance. Though many games ran quite well, in many cases "feeling" the same as they do under Windows XP, there is currently a performance drop associated with running games under Vista. It varies from game to game, but it seems as though turning on anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering cause the biggest performance problems. You definitely want some high-end hardware to play demanding games like F.E.A.R. under Vista. Fortunately, today's high-end gear will be mid-range stuff by the time Vista ships, and there are still quite a few months for the video card drivers to improve.
We suspect that most of these issues are driver related. Both Nvidia and ATI have acknowledged that their Vista drivers aren't performance optimized yet. So if you are using Vista Beta 2, and are running games on it, keep an eye out for new video and audio driver releases.
RAM is another sore spot. Vista uses a lot, and you really do want a machine with 1GB to make things run well. Everything – games and normal windows operations – ran a whole lot smoother when we bumped things up to 2GB. For Vista, it seems as though 1GB is the equivalent of running XP with 512MB, and 2GB is like running XP with 1GB.
It's a bit disappointing that only three of the dozen games we tested showed up in the Games Explorer: The Sims 2, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. I'm sure if we tested hundreds of titles we would find more there, but the ratio doesn't look good. The games we tested aren't exactly off the beaten path, after all. You can certainly drag whatever shortcut you want into the Game Explorer, but it won't automatically download box art and ESRB ratings info. Given that we saw our first demo of the Games Explorer back at Meltdown last summer, we would expect far better support by now.
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