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.

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

Show Restrictions
Pos      Model                                     Splinter 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
 4NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M SLI
117.6
98.6
70
 14NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
115
128
97
51.7
 15AMD Radeon HD 7970
97.6
135.3
83
47.4
 21NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti
134.4
135.9
86
42
 23NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M
113.6
134.9
82.7
41
 29AMD Radeon HD 8970M
82.5
73.4
57.3
30.4
 33NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680M
102.1
116.7
62.7
30.6
 36AMD Radeon HD 7970M
68.7
80.9
60.8
33.4
 43NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770M
113.4
115.2
57.1
27.1
 44NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M
97.9
51
24.8
 51NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675MX
94.3
100.7
48.9
25.4
 53NVIDIA GeForce GTX 850M
106.7
74.652
40.52
17.82
 58NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M
107.4
88.1
39.52
17.72
 67AMD Radeon HD 7770
95.9
100.9
39.2
19.2
 76NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670MX
93.3
82.8
38.8
17.9
 78NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760M
96.8
82.1
37.6
17.1
 84AMD Radeon HD 8870M
46.4
31.6
15
 98NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M
84.4
70.7
31.4
16.7
 100AMD Radeon HD 8850M
37.1
24.4
Pos      Model                                     Splinter Cell: Blacklist
lowmed.highultra
 101*AMD Radeon R9 M265X
72.8
26.7
13
 109NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M
71.4
53.4
26.1
10.8
 111NVIDIA GeForce 840M
52.552
40.952
21.82
9.4
 113NVIDIA GeForce GT 745M
49.8
23.6
 117Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200
68.3
40.2
22
6.7
 119NVIDIA GeForce GT 740M
52.4
 120NVIDIA GeForce 830M
44.1
39
18.6
 124NVIDIA GeForce GT 735M
45.1
32.7
15.6
 126NVIDIA GeForce 825M
49.5
33.9
16.1
 137AMD Radeon HD 8550G + HD 8750M Dual Graphics
31.7
22.3
17.7
 138NVIDIA GeForce GT 730M
46.2
33.7
14.6
 142AMD Radeon HD 8750M
49.9
21.5
 144AMD Radeon R7 M265
43
34.7
17.5
 149NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M
47.1
36
21
 170AMD Radeon HD 8670D
39
13.9
7.5
 174AMD Radeon R6 (Kaveri)
21.1
15.7
7.6
 193AMD Radeon HD 8570D
49
34.3
11
6
 194AMD Radeon HD 8650G + HD 8670M Dual Graphics
35.7
25.6
12
 195AMD Radeon HD 8650G + HD 8570M Dual Graphics
35.4
24.2
10.5
 197AMD Radeon HD 8550G + HD 8670M Dual Graphics
28.9
20.3
Pos      Model                                     Splinter Cell: Blacklist
lowmed.highultra
 198AMD Radeon HD 8670M
39.8
14.3
 218AMD Radeon HD 8650G
33.5
27
 223NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M
47.5
32.5
13.8
 228NVIDIA GeForce 820M
36.1
28.3
13.9
 230NVIDIA GeForce GT 720M
43.1
11.4
 232Intel Iris Graphics 5100
39
22.9
14.2
 244Intel HD Graphics 4600
52.1
 249AMD Radeon HD 7660G
30
26.4
9.3
4.1
 277AMD Radeon HD 7610M
45
36
15
 283Intel HD Graphics 4400
17.6
 320AMD Radeon HD 7480D
24.9
23
4.7
 321Intel HD Graphics 4000
40.7
 324AMD Radeon R5 (Beema)
21.4
15.7
5.3
 326Intel HD Graphics 4200
17.8
10.4
5.8
 334AMD Radeon HD 8450G
23.6
13.7
 338AMD Radeon HD 8400
24
13.5
 350AMD Radeon HD 8330
20.3
15.4
 378Intel HD Graphics (Haswell)
14.2
11.5
 398AMD Radeon HD 8280
17.7
11.5
 415Intel HD Graphics 3000
21.9
Pos      Model                                     Splinter Cell: Blacklist
lowmed.highultra
 433AMD Radeon HD 8210
7.7
 475Intel HD Graphics (Bay Trail)
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 > Splinter Cell: Blacklist Benchmarked
Author: Florian Glaser, 2013-09- 2 (Update: 2013-09- 3)