Oblivion will push your computer to its breaking point. Numerous users have tried to squeeze more performance out of this game by tweaking many in-game settings and hacking various files to eke out a few extra frames. A few brave souls have even gone into the inner workings for the promise of better image quality - and with quite a bit of success.
However, for most users, the task will be to squeak out as many frames as is humanly possible. With that in mind, we made our test demo rather stressful, to indicate what parts you would need to upgrade. Our goal was to ensure playability even when the sword swinging gets rough and tumbly.
We ran Oblivion in three different graphical modes. You don't want to miss this.
Oblivion does not come with a built-in test with which to measure performance. We had to improvise by recording our frame rate with FRAPs on a consistent repeatable path. Our twenty-three second long in-game test run works its way through the Chestnut stables map section of Oblivion. We chose the outdoors as the game is considerably more demanding in fresh air environments. The stables also provided numerous characters and animals, which you are sure to encounter while playing the game. We could have tested with a combat heavy scenario, but maintaining consistency would have been difficult.
Oblivion randomly generates trees, as a result, our tests have a built in error that we cannot eliminate. Fortunately, our results didn't vary too much, at most, plus or minus two frames per second.
If you're not in the mood to upgrade your computer, changing a few settings might give you a little speed bump. Oblivion will tax even the most powerful computers. We experimented with the different in-game graphical settings to see which options affect performance the most.
Be sure to check out the three pages after the settings section to see exactly what kind of eye candy you'll be giving up in order to gain a few frames. Some of the images show staggering differences; the term "night and day" would hardly do them justice.
Oblivion likes big beefy graphics cards, but if you're willing to give up a few settings here and there, you can get away without having to spend your unborn child's college tuition for a better gaming experience. All totaled, we tested almost twenty different video cards, everything from the Radeon X1900 XT down to the GeForce 6200 TC.
Oblivion requires a minimum of a 1.7GHz Pentium 4, which is rather paltry considering the multi-gigahertz processors available today. We didn't have a PCI Express-enabled test bed that had that slow of a CPU, but we did use our multiplier unlocked Athlon 64 FX-60 to see how well the game performs across different CPU speeds. We reduced the speed of our Athlon 64 down to 2.0GHz, and then further down to 1.2GHz to see how the CPU scaled with performance.
We varied the amount of system RAM (512MB, 1GB, and 2GB) on our test bed to see how much memory the game needs to run effectively.