Quake 3: Arena is an oldie but a goldie when it comes to gaming benchmarks and its design really shows off some of the advantages of the Pentium 4 and Athlon 64 models. Quake 3 is both floating-point intensive and has support for SIMD optimizations (MMX, 3DNow! and SSE), making it a great fit for processor testing. It also happens to scale nicely to faster CPUs, video cards and motherboards, and Quake 3 performance is still used as a barometer for many CPU and 3D video card purchases.
Quake 3 testing is performed starting with High Quality settings, then racking in-game detail settings to maximum, and a 1024x768 resolution, using release 1.30, along with the standard "demo Four".
For pure gaming muscle, it's tough to beat the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, and in Quake 3 benchmarking, the 3.4 GHz EE model really laps the field. Both the Pentium 4-3.4 and 3.2 GHz EE processors are virtually untouchable in this game test, though the Pentium 4 3.2E again shows a small performance jump compared to 3.2 GHz Northwood numbers.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a good system benchmark, but we're giving the nod to the updated version: Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. This game has made a few revisions to the basic RtCW design, as well as solidifying the features support. The setup is the same as Quake 3, with a 1024x768 resolution, and High quality defaults with in-game detail settings at maximum. We have used a custom demo taken from the Railgun game area, along with plenty of MP participants. This is one tough demo test, so expect the framerates to sink below those of Quake 3, and give our processors a much tougher workload.
Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory shows the same basic trend line as Quake 3, but it's a much tighter race between the high-end processors. The Pentium 4-3.4 GHz EE is the overall performance winner, but this time, the 3.2 GHz EE model falls a bit shy of the Athlon FX-51 score. This Prescott-Northwood comparison gets an added wrinkle, as the Pentium 4 3.2E falls behind in the race, finishing just back of the Pentium 4-3.2 GHz.
The Comanche 4 benchmark from Novalogic gives us an opportunity to use an actual flight sim for performance testing. Flight sims are notorious for their CPU-dependence, and this makes the Comanche 4 benchmark potentially a better CPU test than it is for 3D video cards. The reliance on the CPU shows itself off in the benchmark, and even the slightest difference in framerates could pay off in significantly enhanced game framerates. For our processor comparison, all testing has been performed at 1024x768, 32-bit with audio disabled.
Comanche 4 is a real CPU horse, and although the individual framerates are low, it does provide a nice stress test for competing processors. This is our first big surprise, as the Pentium 4 3.2E literally hit the wall with Comanche 4, and its score falls below even that of the Pentium 4-3.0 GHz. This is obviously a game benchmark that does not favor the new Prescott design, while the Pentium 4-3.4 GHz EE puts on another show and takes top spot.