<firstimage=”//static.makeuseof.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/freegamebenchthumb1.jpg”>As the controversy over the recently released Crysis 2 is highlighting, graphical quality is still a big deal in the PC gaming world. Computers, like consoles, don’t improve on a set cycle; they’re improving constantly, and the newest computer components have raw power that puts both the Xbox 360 and PS3 to shame.
Taking advantage of the power can be difficult, however; doing so without spending a lot of money on benchmarks and games is even harder. Fortunately, there are some game demos that have benchmarks built into them, and they’re a great way to benchmark your gaming PC for free.
Released in 2007, Crysis was and is among the most graphically demanding games ever made. At the time of its introduction most computers struggled to play the game with more than a few details turned up, and even a modern gaming rig may struggle significantly with this game when the settings are at maximum.
This makes Crysis a great benchmark. Even today, the question “Yeah, but can it run Crysis?” is relevant, as there are very few computers capable of showing everything this game is capable of. If your computer has been bad, load Crysis and crank it up to max. That should show it you’re the boss.
In order to use the free game benchmark you’ll need to download the Crysis singleplayer demo, then download the Crysis Benchmarking Tool. You can run the benchmark without this tool, but it’s substantially more difficult. Do yourself a favor and download the extra file.
Just Cause 2
Although primarily a console game, Just Cause 2 (like the original) has no problem making use of the graphical power available on a modern computer. Scenic vistas, detailed models and massive explosions are all part of this game’s visual spice, and they all look better on the PC.
Just Cause 2 is only available on Steam, so you’ll have to sign up for a Steam account to download the demo. The demo benchmark is not as detailed as what is available in the full game, but it does feature a reasonably long gameplay loop that shows off Just Cause 2’s ability to render a massive landmass with little performance degradation.
Essentially a Grand Theft Auto clone with its own dash of style, Mafia II was released to the PC without much fanfare and to average reviews. Despite that, the game’s graphics were concrete shoes to many PCs, particularly those with older processors.
Mafia II isn’t the most beautiful game, in my opinion, but it does offer some very detailed character models and a few cool graphical effects. I’m particularly enamored by how fire and explosions are rendered in this game. The free game benchmark is simple to use and accessed directly through the game’s main menu.
As with Just Cause 2, Steam is the only way to download this game or its demo, which includes the benchmark.
Tom Clancy’s HAWX2
A relatively recent release, Tom Clancy’s HAWX2 is notable for the game’s ability to render huge amounts of high-detail terrain. After all, HAWX2 is a flying game – whenever you’re not in a dogfight you’ll be staring into the distance, admiring the scenery, which is textured using high-resolution satellite images.
HAWX2 supports DirectX 10 and, with the proper settings, can make heavy use of tessellation. This makes it a great benchmark for testing the features of newer graphics cards. This benchmark seems to run particularly well on Nvidia cards in comparison to those from AMD, so you might be a little disappointed if you’re part of the red team, although the most AMD cards made in the last year have no problem with this title.
The HAWX2 benchmark is extremely easy to use and can be downloaded as a standalone executable. You will need to set up an Ubisoft account to run the benchmark. You can also access the benchmark via the game demo available on Steam.
These four games will push your hardware to the limit, but they’re not the only benchmarks available. If you have a favorite – and free – game benchmark not listed here, let us know in the comments!