2012 is almost upon us and it’s about time to take a look at 2011’s PC offers. However, here is something interesting with this Top10. This is not a Top 10 Best PC Games of 2011. Since we’ve been covering the performance of all the latest PC titles, we decided to make a Top 10 with the best and most optimized PC games of 2011. Therefore, this list takes into consideration the ability of a game to take advantage of quad-cores, whether or not is full of bugs, its graphical options and its ability – and whether the specifications are justified – to push the boundaries of each and every DX API. So, take a deep breath and here we go…
10.) Trine 2
Some may be wondering right now; how come Trine 2 is at the tenth place and Skyrim is nowhere to be found? The answer is simple. Frozenbyte’s little gem is an optimized beauty. Trine 2 looks lovely, runs amazing and it’s one of the few PhysX titles that is not plagued with performance issues. Trine 2 is the most beautiful platform game of 2011 and takes full advantage of SLI/Crossfire systems. Given the fact that it’s a PC title, Trine 2 is GPU bound and comes with native support for SSAA. Moreover, Frozenbyte’s title is bug-free, something unexpected for an indie studio. Trine 2 deserves the spotlight and you should definitely give it a go.
9.) Warhammer 40K: Space Marine
Warhammer 40K: Space Marine is powered by Phoenix Engine, an engine that Relic Entertainment borrowed from Vigil Entertainment. This engine is remarkable and quite polished, as it scales well with quad-cores even though it’s optimized for dual-cores and has a great performance/visuals ratio. Warhammer 40K: Space Marine sports hordes of enemies with some of the best – designed – Space Marines we’ve ever seen. Given its amazing performance/visual ratio, the game doesn’t stress modern CPUs, thus most gamers won’t encounter any CPU limitation and will be able to max it out.
At the eighth place we find Codemasters’ Dirt 3 and Operation Flashpoint: Red River. Both Dirt 3 and Operation Flashpoint: Red River are powered by the same version of the EGO engine and that’s precisely why we’ve included them in the same place. After all, both of them perform identically. The EGO engine is a remarkable engine that scales well with quad-cores and takes advantage of them. The difference of a quad-core system with a dual-core is around 10fps, and both of them are running great with SLI systems. It’s really funny, but F1 2011 is not as optimized as the aforementioned titles, which really troubles us. Nevertheless, Dirt 3 and Operation Flashpoint: Red River look great, run awesome and – technically speaking – are polished. Keep it up Codies!
Yes, Modern Warfare 3 is based on a quite old game engine. However, its scripted destructibility is way better than the one of Crysis 2 and Battlefield 3. There is no doubt that there are a lot of low-res textures here and there, however, and contrary to Black Ops, the engine scales well with quad-cores and is better optimized. As a result of that, you won’t encounter any CPU limitations, even when using a dual-core CPU. Given the fact that Black Ops was a heavily CPU bound game (that was using the same engine), we feel the need to give a ‘thumbs up’ to both Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games. Modern Warfare 3 looks better than its previous parts, performs better and its SLI/Crossfire scaling is fantastic!
As we said in our Performance Analysis, we were caught off guard by Flying Wild Hog’s first person shooter. Hard Reset is a great looker, even though it’s a DX9-only title. Flying Wild Hog used high resolution textures and normal/diffuse maps, a clever bump-mapping effect to the holes on the walls, high quality HDR effects and most of the game’s light sources cast dynamic shadows. There is limited destructibility and the Blade Runner ‘feel’ is definitely a plus. Hard Reset takes advantage of quad-cores, as we noticed a 20fps performance hit when we moved from a quad-core to a dual-core system and the SLI scaling is exceptional. However, the game does not provide as many graphical options as the following games and that’s why it is placed at the sixth place. Still, congrats and great work Flying Wild Hog!
5.) Battlefield 3
The big daddy is back and Battlefield 3 features some of the best visuals we’ve ever seen. Although Frostbite 2.0 was meant to push the destructibility boundaries to new levels, BF3’s maps were a bit disappointing. But then Back to Karkand came out to ‘correct’ things. To put it simple; this is how the game’s maps should be in the first place. As with the previous two titles, Battlefield 3 takes advantage of quad-cores. The game would be higher on the list if it supported DX9. Because let us tell you something; if a game runs on X360, it should run on DX9 hardware. There is no excuse in not supporting it. DICE simply decided to go the easy way and that’s a fact. After all, it’s easier to focus on one API. And that’s why it doesn’t deserve a higher place. Moreover, these visuals could be easily achieved in DX9, therefore there is no excuse for abandoning it. A game should sport visuals similar to the Samaritan tech demo in order to be considered a truly DX11-only title. In other words, it should be a truly next-generation game. And Battlefield 3, although looking great, is not. This whole DX10-11 requirement thing was just a marketing trick and nothing more.
4.) Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Deus Ex is back with a punch. EIDOS Montreal decided to outsource the development of the PC version to Nixxes Software and they did wisely. Nixxes did an amazing work, as Deus Ex: Human Revolution is one of the most polished PC titles of 2011. Proper DX9 and DX11 support, native 3D Vision support, in-game FOV options, great SLI scaling, and an engine that takes advantage of quad-cores. Seriously, this is what the PC version of every multi-platform game should be like. PC gamers were worried when EIDOS announced that they had outsourced the development of the PC version to Nixxes. Fast forward a couple of months and here we are today, declaring it one of the most optimized PC games of 2011. Bravo EIDOS!
3.) The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
The highly anticipated sequel of The Witcher has finally been released and CD Projekt RED did an exceptional work. The Witcher 2 is one of the best looking games, even though it only supports DX9. CD Projekt RED used parallax occlusion mapping to the game’s surfaces, high quality textures and created some amazing levels for it. There is no denying that The Witcher 2 looks great, and it comes with lots of graphical options to tweak. Moreover, CD Projekt RED removed its DRM and released its 2.0 version for free. The Witcher 2 is a highly optimized game and although it’s GPU bound, it takes advantage of quad-cores at some CPU heavy scenes.
Croteam is back with the third part of the Serious Sam series. Not only does Serious Sam 3: BFE look great, but it comes with a lot of graphical options to tweak. The game features FOV options, one hell of advanced settings, SSAA native support, AA for shadows and LOD sliders. Hell, it even comes with color options. Croteam proved what options a PC-focused game should feature and get this, the game has already received four-five patches. Serious Sam 3: BFE is a GPU bound title, something you’d normally expect from a PC-only game. What’s more interesting is that it doesn’t encounter any problem when displaying hundreds of enemies on-screen, at the same time. And let’s not forget that Croteam’s Parallax Occlusion Mapping technique is compatible with Anisotropic Filtering. There are also times where Serious Sam 3 looks better than Battlefield 3, provided you calibrate the colors. This is how you develop a DX9 title our dear developers. So start taking notes from Croteam, will ya?
1.) Crysis 2
When it was released, a lot of PC gamers were disappointed with it. You see, Crytek decided to hold back the PC version and as a result of that, it didn’t push the graphical boundaries like its predecessor. However, we already knew that CryEngine 3 had a lot of potential. Problem was that it wasn’t taken advantage of. Fast forward a couple of months and here is Crysis 2 modded with a DX11 official patch that incorporates most of DX11’s features. As with the first title, Crysis 2 is modded-friendly, therefore we got some amazing texture packs that raised its image fidelity to new levels. Crysis 2 modded looks amazing, sports the best visuals we’ve seen and now that the Modding Tools are available to everyone, we can expect even better things.
We should also note that CryEngine 3 is one of the most optimized engines out there. Take for example Skyrim, a game that is also open to the modding community. There are occasions where Skyrim can look amazing and better than Crysis 2, but its engine is a mess. The Creation engine is as unoptimized as it can get, especially after the findings of some modders like Arisu. And that’s exactly why both Skyrim and Batman: Arkham City are not in this list. They look great but they are not optimized at all. And that’s precisely what differentiates them from all the aforementioned titles.
Enjoy everyone and happy PC gaming. And best wishes for a happy New Year!
John is the founder and Editor in Chief at DSOGaming. He is a PC gaming fan and highly supports the modding and indie communities. Before creating DSOGaming, John worked on numerous gaming websites. While he is a die-hard PC gamer, his gaming roots can be found on consoles. John loved - and still does - the 16-bit consoles, and considers SNES to be one of the best consoles. Still, the PC platform won him over consoles. That was mainly due to 3DFX and its iconic dedicated 3D accelerator graphics card, Voodoo 2. John has also written a higher degree thesis on the "The Evolution of PC graphics cards."