Notebookcheck

Splinter Cell: Blacklist Benchmarked

Florian Glaser (translated by Ariana Brodsky), 09/02/2013

Return of a stealth legend. Along with Thief, Dishonored and Hitman, Splinter Cell is one of the few stealth games on the market. With Blacklist, Ubisoft wants to rebound from their not-so-popular Conviction. We are here to analyze for you whether the title will run fluidly on your notebook.

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Splinter Cell: Blacklist Logo

For the original German article, see here.

Graphics

Despite its cliché and rather uninspired terror story, Blacklist is a thrill from the first minute. However, the atmosphere is not the only reason the new Splinter Cell installment is interesting -- it plays nicely too. The game's controls function surprisingly fluidly and require a certain expertise, at least at high levels of difficulty. Ubisoft manages a good compromise between hardcore stealth and more widely accessible action components.

Like the recently reviewed The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, Blacklist also uses the extremely successful Unreal Engine. In this case not version 3, "just" version 2.5, but heavily modified by the developers. As a result, Blacklist has support for DirectX 11 and numerous graphics features.

These features include tessellation, parallax mapping and ambient occlusion (field AO, SSAO & HBAO), as well as anti-aliasing modes FXAA, MSAA, SSAA and Nvidia's exclusive TXAA. The expanded graphics menu also has controls for texture sharpness, shadow quality, texture filtering and vertical synchronization. With the exception of the DirectX option, all changes are adopted immediately, though you sometimes have to reload from the most recent save.

Basic settings like Display Mode, Resolution, Frame Rate and Aspect Ratio are located in the "Basic Options" menu. Here you will also find various presets, though we did not use them for our benchmarks. While some graphics options do not cost hardly anything in terms of performance, some of them make a considerable impact on the game's speed. Anti-aliasing proves to take an especially high toll on the performance.

Overall, the graphics make a good, though not phenomenal impression. For one thing, some textures aren't particularly sharp. For another, the game is plagued with a variety of bugs. During our tests, we ran across the following issues:

  • On a desktop system, the installation aborted with an error message ("missing files"). Verifying the game files solved the problem.
  • Every once in a while, the game crashed for no apparent reason.
  • The presets like to plug in strange values (e.g. 4x MSAA on High and FXAA on Ultra).
  • On Nvidia systems with Optimus technology, the driver/game launcher has to be set to "high performance", otherwise Blacklist will run with the Intel GPU.
  • In DirectX 11 mode, the game often fails to start properly. In our experience, changing the window mode, resolution or display can help.
  • High-end graphics cards sometimes work slower in DirectX 9 mode than under DirectX 11 (not necessarily a bug).
  • The frame rate varies more than it ought from one game situation to another.
  • The system brings up an error message when an Intel chip is in DirectX 11 mode ("out of memory").
  • The Radeon HD 8970M did worse with the beta driver Catalyst 13.8 than the weaker HD 7970M. Using Catalyst 13.4 instead brought the two cards' scores much closer together.
Low Settings
Low Settings
Medium Settings
Medium Settings
High Settings
High Settings
Ultra Settings
Ultra Settings
Low Settings
Low Settings
Medium Settings
Medium Settings
High Settings
High Settings
Ultra Settings
Ultra Settings

Benchmark

We used the beginning of the first campaign mission ("Safehouse") for our benchmark sequence. The sequence takes place in Benghazi/Libya. The high density of people and objects makes the passage good for speed measurements. You can see the nice light, shadow and mirror effects in the video below. As is true of most third-person titles, 30 fps proves to be enough for a decent gaming experience.

Results

Owners of low-performance office notebooks that lack a dedicated graphics card will have to make do with low resolutions and low levels of detail. While the HD Graphics 3000 cannot reach a fluid speed, in DirectX 9 mode (1024x768) the HD 4000 and the HD4600 manage just over 40 and 50 fps, respectively.

For medium settings and 1366x768 pixels, you will need a graphics card from the multimedia segment. Nvidia's popular GeForce GT 630M comes to about 30 fps in DirectX 11 mode. For high details, activated parallax and tessellation effects, ambient occlusion and FXAA, the game demands a high-end graphics accelerator (starting at the GeForce GTX 660M).

1920x1080 pixels, maximum settings and 4x MSAA make even today's top models break into a sweat. Only cards from the GeForce GTX 680M on up have enough power to handle that.

Benchmark Table: Splinter Cell: Blacklist
Benchmark Table: Splinter Cell: Blacklist

Verdict

In its current state, Blacklist seems to us like it is not quite a finished product. Ubisoft should have tested the engine a little longer and dealt with more of their bugs. If you are lucky and the game runs flawlessly, there is not quite so much to complain about. Powerful all-round or gaming notebooks will guarantee nice visuals.

Test Systems

Our primary test devices are courtesy of Schenker Technologies (mysn.de):

  • W503 (Core i7-4700MQ, 8 GB DDR3, GeForce GTX 765M, GTX 770M, GTX 780M, Radeon HD 8970M & HD Graphics 4600)
  • M503 (Core i7-4702MQ, 8 GB DDR3, GeForce GT 750M)
  • XMG P502 (Core i7-3610QM, 8 GB DDR3, GeForce GTX 660M, GTX 670MX, GTX 675MX, GTX 680M, Radeon HD 7970M & HD Graphics 4000)
  • Xesia M501 (Core i7-2630QM, 8 GB DDR3, GeForce GT 630M & HD Graphics 3000)

A further thank you goes to Crucial for providing the 480 GB M500 on which Windows 7 Professional 64-bit is installed.

GPU drivers used: Nvidia 326.80 Beta, AMD 13.8 Beta2 (13.4 @ HD 8970M), Intel 9.17.10.3223 and 9.18.10.3165.

From left to right: Schenker Xesia M501, M503, XMG P502 & W503
From left to right: Schenker Xesia M501, M503, XMG P502 & W503

Overview

Discussion
Show Restrictions
Pos      Model                                     Perf. RatingSplinter Cell: Blacklist
 Splinter Cell: Blacklist (2013)
low
1024x768
DX9, Low / Off
med.
1366x768
DX11, Medium / Off
high
1366x768
DX11, High / On, Field AO & SSAO
4xAF FXAA
ultra
1920x1080
DX11, Ultra / On, Field AO & HBAO
8xAF 4x MSAA
 16NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M SLI
~95.575%
117.6
98.6
70
 32NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
88
115
128
97
51.7
 33AMD Radeon HD 7970
81
97.6
135.3
83
47.4
 47NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti
86.8
134.4
135.9
86
42
 49NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M
81.6
113.6
134.9
82.7
41
 53NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M
68.9
88.5
109.6
77.1
35.5
 57AMD Radeon HD 8970M
54.2
82.5
73.4
57.3
30.4
 61NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680M
67.3
102.1
116.7
62.7
30.6
 65AMD Radeon HD 7970M
55
68.7
80.9
60.8
33.4
 71NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M
66.5
106.5
120.3
58.3
27.4
 75NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770M
66.4
113.4
115.2
57.1
27.1
 76NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M
~53.175%
97.9
51
24.8
 82NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675MX
57.5
94.3
100.7
48.9
25.4
 85NVIDIA GeForce GTX 850M
50.2
106.7
74.652
40.52
17.82
 93NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M
52.5
107.4
88.1
39.52
17.72
 109AMD Radeon HD 7770
53.2
95.9
100.9
39.2
19.2
 120NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670MX
48.8
93.3
82.8
38.8
17.9
 122NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760M
48.7
96.8
82.1
37.6
17.1
 130AMD Radeon HD 8870M
~29.275%
46.4
31.6
15
Pos      Model                                     Splinter Cell: Blacklist
lowmed.highultra
 143NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M
42.6
84.4
70.7
31.4
16.7
 145AMD Radeon HD 8850M
~2650%
37.1
24.4
 147AMD Radeon R9 M265X
~33.175%
72.8
26.7
13
 158NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M
33.6
71.4
53.4
26.1
10.8
 169NVIDIA GeForce 840M
26.2
52.552
40.952
21.82
9.4
 171NVIDIA GeForce GT 745M
~30.350%
49.8
23.6
 175Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200
28.1
68.3
40.2
22
6.7
 178NVIDIA GeForce GT 740M
~3925%
52.4
 181NVIDIA GeForce 830M
~26.875%
44.1
39
18.6
 187NVIDIA GeForce GT 735M
~24.575%
45.1
32.7
15.6
 189NVIDIA GeForce 825M
~2675%
49.5
33.9
16.1
 200AMD Radeon HD 8550G + HD 8750M Dual Graphics
~19.375%
31.7
22.3
17.7
 202NVIDIA GeForce GT 730M
~24.775%
46.2
33.7
14.6
 206AMD Radeon HD 8750M
~26.550%
49.9
21.5
 209AMD Radeon R7 M265
~25.175%
43
34.7
17.5
 213NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M
~27.675%
47.1
36
21
 234AMD Radeon R7 M260
14.6
23.1
26.7
14.5
4.9
 243AMD Radeon HD 8670D
~17.875%
39
13.9
7.5
 247AMD Radeon R6 (Kaveri)
~11.775%
21.1
15.7
7.6
 267AMD Radeon HD 8570D
20.4
49
34.3
11
6
Pos      Model                                     Splinter Cell: Blacklist
lowmed.highultra
 268AMD Radeon HD 8650G + HD 8670M Dual Graphics
~19.275%
35.7
25.6
12
 269AMD Radeon HD 8650G + HD 8570M Dual Graphics
~18.375%
35.4
24.2
10.5
 271AMD Radeon HD 8550G + HD 8670M Dual Graphics
~18.250%
28.9
20.3
 272AMD Radeon HD 8670M
~20.150%
39.8
14.3
 292AMD Radeon HD 8650G
~22.450%
33.5
27
 297NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M
~24.475%
47.5
32.5
13.8
 305NVIDIA GeForce 820M
~20.675%
36.1
28.3
13.9
 308NVIDIA GeForce GT 720M
~20.250%
43.1
11.4
 312AMD Radeon R5 M230
~16.875%
30.4
23.9
10.1
 321Intel Iris Graphics 5100
~20.175%
39
22.9
14.2
 326Intel HD Graphics 4600
~38.825%
52.1
 328Intel HD Graphics 5500
~11.975%
23.2
13.5
8.5
 334AMD Radeon HD 7660G
14.3
30
26.4
9.3
4.1
 360AMD Radeon HD 7610M
~25.175%
45
36
15
 370Intel HD Graphics 4400
~13.125%
17.6
 400Intel HD Graphics 5300
~11.150%
18.2
11.7
 408AMD Radeon HD 7480D
~13.475%
24.9
23
4.7
 409Intel HD Graphics 4000
~30.325%
40.7
 415AMD Radeon R5 (Beema/Carrizo-L)
~1175%
21.4
15.7
5.3
 416AMD Radeon R4 (Beema)
~10.775%
21.9
13.3
5.9
Pos      Model                                     Splinter Cell: Blacklist
lowmed.highultra
 417Intel HD Graphics 4200
~8.975%
17.8
10.4
5.8
 426AMD Radeon HD 8450G
~13.850%
23.6
13.7
 430AMD Radeon HD 8400
~13.950%
24
13.5
 443AMD Radeon HD 8330
~13.250%
20.3
15.4
 446AMD Radeon R3 (Mullins/Beema)
~10.275%
21.2
13.1
5.1
 472Intel HD Graphics (Haswell)
~9.550%
14.2
11.5
 494AMD Radeon HD 8280
~10.850%
17.7
11.5
 511Intel HD Graphics 3000
~16.325%
21.9
 529AMD Radeon HD 8210
~5.725%
7.7
 572Intel HD Graphics (Bay Trail)
~750%
11
7.8
* Smaller values are better. / * Approximate position

 

Legend
5Stutters – This game is very likely to stutter and have poor frame rates. Based on all known benchmarks using the specified graphical settings, average frame rates are expected to fall below 25fps
May Stutter – This graphics card has not been explicitly tested on this game. Based on interpolated information from surrounding graphics cards of similar performance levels, stutters and poor frame rates are expected.
30Fluent – Based on all known benchmarks using the specified graphical settings, this game should run at or above 25fps
40Fluent – Based on all known benchmarks using the specified graphical settings, this game should run at or above 35fps
May Run Fluently – This graphics card has not been explicitly tested on this game. Based on interpolated information from surrounding graphics cards of similar performance levels, fluent frame rates are expected.
123Uncertain – This graphics card experienced unexpected performance issues during testing for this game. A slower card may be able to achieve better and more consistent frame rates than this particular GPU running the same benchmark scene.
Uncertain – This graphics card has not been explicitly tested on this game and no reliable interpolation can be made based on the performances of surrounding cards of the same class or family.
The value in the fields displays the average frame rate of all values in the database. Move your cursor over the value to see individual results.
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Splinter Cell: Blacklist Benchmarked
Florian Glaser, 2013-09- 2 (Update: 2013-09- 3)