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Half-Life 2 (2004) - retro - PC performance graphics benchmarks of Graphics Cards


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Year of construction: 2004
Genre: Action / 3D / 3rd Person
developer: Airtight Games
Publisher: Square Enix 

hl2 sys 

Half-Life 2 is a computer game, a science-fiction first-person shooter, a sequel to Half-Life, developed by Valve Corporation and published by them and Sierra Entertainment. The game was released on November 16, 2004 (November 21, 2004 in Russia and the CIS countries by SoftClub) and received the highest ratings from many authoritative publications. In addition, the game has collected many awards and more than 45 Game of the Year 2004 titles. In 2012, Half-life 2 was awarded at the Spike VGA 10 (Spike Video Game Awards) as the best game of the decade. Development lasted six years, during which the game's source code was even stolen and posted on the Internet. 

The main technological achievements of the developers can be considered the Source engine, which provided players with stunning character animation, advanced artificial intelligence of opponents, realistic physics and shader rendering. An unprecedented level of player interaction with the outside world was achieved through the use of a modified version of the Havok Physics physics engine. To date, the game has sold more than 12 million copies, not including sales through the Steam service. In 2005, the game was re-released in a collector's boxed edition of Half-Life - Game of the Year. In Russia and the CIS countries, the collection was released by Buka. About 40 million US dollars were spent on the development of the game.


This subsection of our review highlights the main graphical aspects of this game. Particular attention is paid to the version of the graphics engine used, the version of the API used, graphic settings and the quality of development of the main visual aspects.

Supported OS and graphics API

Half-Life 2 is supported by major Windows operating systems, which include Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 and MAC. Other operating systems are not currently supported by developers and will not receive support. 

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The priority and main graphics API for Half-Life 2 is DirectX 9

Game engine 

Half-Life 2 is based on the Source EngineThe first release version of the engine is Source Engine 6, which debuted Half-Life 2. It initially supports scaling, upgradeability, shader rendering, facial animation, and dynamic lighting and dimming. It was originally used in some games before 2005, and was later updated to Source Engine 7. This version of the engine is obsolete as it is no longer used by any games on Steam.

 653px-Source engine logo.svg


Source Engine, or Source, is a game engine developed by Valve Corporation. Its features include a modular basis and convenience, synchronization of lip movements with speech, technology for expressing emotions and a physics system operating over a network. Uses the .mdl engine model format common to Valve products. The Source physics engine includes some reworked Havok physics engine code and ragdoll physics principles. The engine can work with a video card that supports DirectX 6-11. The debut of Source can be considered November 16, 2004 - the release date of the first games based on it: Half-Life 2, Counter-Strike: Source and Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. 

A definite version of the engine can only be named for games released before 2007 inclusive. Since, for example, in the Source SDK, when selecting a game, the engine is also selected, where the version is clearly written, you can also view the protocol version in the console. In Left 4 Dead and subsequent games it is impossible to name the specific engine version, and there is also no way to view the protocol version in the console. Also, the engine versions of Counter-Strike: Source and Left 4 Dead 2 are significantly different, but here they have one version noted, Left 4 Dead 2 was released in 2009, and Counter-Strike: Source was updated to the Source Engine 2009 in 2010. Graphically, the engine is superior to Left 4 Dead 2, but Counter-Strike: Source has more minor improvements (for example, the server browser has been noticeably improved) that appeared after the release of Left 4 Dead 2.

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Source has significant advantages in several key aspects of game development: character animation, advanced artificial intelligence, realistic physics, and shader rendering. The Source animation system allows you to create expressive characters with an endless range of facial expressions, allowing them to convey a message without saying a word. In addition to this, the characters have one of the most advanced artificial intelligence systems, which makes them extremely skilled allies and enemies. mUsing the engine, you can easily create beautiful and realistic worlds that respond to your presence. Developers can move away from creating scripted scenes (which were the standard for games of the last generation), and create games of completely new styles.

Source contains complex networking code that provides support for up to 32 players over LAN and the Internet. The Source engine is made with the expectation of regular updates, which is reflected in its wide possibilities for modification and improvement without changing any key architectural features of the engine. In combination with the Steam digital distribution system, the engine can be updated immediately after an update is released. For example, if Source starts supporting physical cards, then all games distributed through Steam that use Source itself will begin to support them. This could be observed after the developers added High Dynamic Range Rendering to the engine.

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However, total modification of all Source games is impossible in practice, because the update system is not available to the creators of modifications, which means that only the developers themselves can develop the engine. Source uses Direct3D shaders version 3.0. 

Advanced Game Settings

Half-Life 2 has a very wide range of game settings. We can vary settings from low to high, tailoring game performance to virtually any home PC gaming setup, modern or legacy.

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Below we have provided screenshots of the game at various graphics settings, where our readers can see the difference between the minimum, medium and maximum graphics quality settings. 

Various quality modes
niz 1 sr 1 max 1
niz 2 sr 2 max 2

As we can see, the picture quality between different settings is quite good, especially when moving from low to medium settings.

Comparison of FullHD and 4K
hd 1 4k1
hd 2 4k2

Half-Life 4 looks pretty good in 2K, but it's clear that the game wasn't optimized for ultra-high resolution.

Comparison of anti-aliasing modes

no aa aa

Activating anti-aliasing completely eliminates surface irregularities, making the picture almost perfect.

General visual design and game physics

Half-Life 2 at one time created an incredible sensation - unique game mechanics, a high level of artificial intelligence, fairly sane physics and graphics with support for the latest version of DirectX 9 at that time. All this made the game unique and was imprinted in the hearts of fans of the series for many years.

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At that time, the release of the game was in some way a real explosion for the PC industry. It’s no secret that the popular gaming solutions at that time were video accelerators supporting DirectX 8.1, and Half-Life 2 required a more modern one to display all the goodies DirectX 9. So some users urgently tried to upgrade their computer specifically for this game.

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Next, we will move directly to gaming tests and determine what impact this game has on modern computer hardware. 


Test configuration

test stands

Test bench No. 1 based on the Intel Socket 2011 platform

Test bench No. 2 based on the Intel Socket 2011 platform

Test bench No. 3 based on the Intel Socket 1155 platform

Test bench No. 6 based on the AMD Soket AM3 platform

Test bench No. 7 based on the AMD Soket AM3+ platform

Test bench No. 8 based on the Intel Socket 1150 platform

Multimedia equipment

Dell U3010 Monitor 

Monitor ASUS PQ321QE

Software configuration

Operating system

Microsoft Windows 8.1

Graphics driver

Nvidia GeForce/ION Driver Release 337.88

AMD Catalyst 14.6

Monitoring program

MSI Afterburner v3 beta 19

GPU Mist


GPU test

All video cards were tested at maximum graphics quality using MSI Afterburner. The purpose of the test is to determine how video cards from different manufacturers behave under the same conditions. The average and minimum FPS were taken as performance indicators. Below is a video of the test segment: 

Our video cards were tested at different screen sizes of 1920x1080, 2560x1600 and 3840x2160 at the maximum graphics quality settings allowed by Half-Life 2, tests were carried out with anti-aliasing and MSAA 8X. Multi-chip SLI and AMD CrossFireX configurations work without any problems, showing good scalability. 

Testing at 1920x1080 resolution

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Testing at maximum quality settings 1920x1080 

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With these settings, video cards of the Radeon HD 6850 or GeForce GTX 650 Ti level showed an acceptable FPS.

Testing at 2560x1600 resolution

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Testing at maximum quality settings 2560x1600 

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With these settings, video cards of the Radeon HD 6850 or GeForce GTX 650 Ti level showed an acceptable FPS.

Testing at 3840x2160 resolution

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Testing at maximum quality settings 3840x2560 

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With these settings acceptable FPS showed level video cards R7 260X or GeForce GTX 660.


memory GPU

Testing of video memory consumed by the game was carried out by the program MSI Afterburner. The indicator was based on results on top video cards from AMD and NVIDIA with separate screen sizes 1920x1080 and 2560x1600 with different anti-aliasing settings.

Testing at maximum memory GPU quality settings 

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The recommended amount of video memory usage for a resolution of 1920x1080 will be 512 MB of video memory, for a resolution of 2560x1600 - 768 MB of video memory and for a resolution of 3840x2160 about 1280 MB of video memory. 

CPU test

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We tested processor dependence on 15 models of basic configurations that are relevant today. The test was carried out in those places where the value of video cards for the game is minimal and its load was less than 99%, this time at a resolution of 1920x1080 with maximum graphics quality settings. 

 Testing at maximum quality settings 1920x1080 


The processor performance of the game is currently very respectable. It is also clearly visible that the game gives greater preference to only 4-core models.

Loading of processor coresat maximum quality settings 1920x1080 Intel% 

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Loading of processor cores at maximum quality settings 1920x1080 AMD% 

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The game can support up to 4 computing threads; with more cores, Half-Life 2 begins to use the load unevenly.

RAM test

The test was carried out on the basic configuration of Core i 7 3970X@4.9 GHz with 16GB DDR3 2400 MGz pre-installed memory. The entire used operational memory was taken as an indicator. The RAM test on the entire system was carried out on various test benches without launching third-party applications (browsers, etc.). 

Testing the game's RAM consumption at various quality settings 

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As we can see, with various quality settings, the amount of RAM consumed in Half-Life 2 is at the level of 300 megabytes.  

Testing system RAM consumption  

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On a 4GB system, Half-Life 2 consumes about 1.9GB of RAM. In the presence of a system with 8 gigabytes, the RAM consumption of all RAM was 2 gigabytes. With a 16 GB system, system memory consumption was almost 2.3 gigabytes. 

Rate the test  1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Rating 92% [19 vote(s)]

Rate the graphics  1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Rating 89% [22 vote(s)]

Evaluate optimization  1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Rating 90% [21 vote(s)]


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Comments (32)

This comment was made by the moderator on the site

ATP Challenger Tour for PC has already been leaked to the network. These pirates are smart guys.

svl admin
This comment was made by the moderator on the site

Posted by korn87:

Will there be a MotoGP 14 test?
testing GRID Autosport

This comment was made by the moderator on the site

After so many years, the optimization of this engine never ceases to amaze me!

This comment was made by the moderator on the site

The game is from 2004, and the textures are clearer than in some modern console remnants.

This comment was made by the moderator on the site

Will there be tests for GTA 3, Vice City, San Andreas? Preferably with that old hardware))

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