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Low End PC Performance Guide: Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3

Almost every game that has been released, especially games that are graphically amazing or introduced new technologies, came along with the question, “Can you run it?” And then technology and gaming websites published performance analysis of the game and the used hardware to answer this question. The problem is that the budget or the older gaming systems were being left out and disregarded. What the publishers do is that they pair a low-end video card with a high-end processor and with higher amount of RAM to assess on how it will perform, but none of these represents a “true” budget gaming setup.

For the first game in our series article and probably for our succeeding games, we used a 2008 mid-range gaming system – the time when dual-core processors and 2GB RAM rules the market – a perfect mid-range setup at that time. And the graphics card, the GeForce 9600GT, was considered best-value mid-range graphics card – but that was 2008. Today, as the technology keeps on advancing, the system we used can now be considered a budget, low-end gaming system. Athlon X2 5000+ performance is slower with Athlon II X2 250 – the cheapest AMD dual-core you can buy today while the GeForce 9600GT is somewhere in the GeForce GT 440 DDR5 and AMD Radeon 5670/6570 performance. Our system only garnered 4813 3DMark Vantage score with 3894 GPU score and 16444 CPU score at Performance.


Processor AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ 2.6GHz Dual-core Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 or AMD Phenom X3 8750 Tri-Core
Memory 3GB DDR2 800MHz 2GB
Video Card nVidia GeForce 9600GT 512MB DDR3 nVidia GeForce 8600GT or ATI Radeon X1950 256MB
Driver / Patch version nVidia Forceware 285.62 No patch available at the time of writing.
Operating System / DirectX Windows 7 SP1 64-bit / DX 11 Windows XP / DX 9.0

Released on November 2011, the Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 used the updated Infinity Ward Engine 4, the engine used for Modern Warfare 2.  What surprised me is that, according to Activision, it requires an AMD triple-core processor. I couldn’t believe this as it only used an older engine and the graphics are not that astounding. Even games with the best graphics and sophisticated AI only require dual-core processors.

CPU Usage
Memory Usage

The game can utilize two cores, both a good and bad sign for our old dual-core. Good because the game can still be played with our processor, and bad, for the processor is being pushed harder to play the game. As for memory usage, 2GB is enough and you won’t have any problem if are still on Windows XP, but we recommend additional RAM if you are on Windows Vista and 7.




Anti-Aliasing - Off
Anti-Aliasing - 2x
Anti-Aliasing - 4x



Shadows - Off
Shadows - On


Specular Map

Specular Map - Off
Specular Map - On


Depth of Field

Depth of Field - Off
Depth of Field -On


Soften Smoke Edges

Soft Smoke - Off
Soft Smoke - On


Screen Space Ambient Occlusion

SSAO - Off
SSAO - Low
SSAO - High


Bullets Impact

Bullets Impact - Off
Bullets Impact - On


Image Quality

Image Quality - Low
Image Quality - Normal
Image Quality - High
Image Quality - Extra
Image Quality - Native


Texture Quality

Texture Quality - Low
Texture Quality - Normal
Texture Quality - High
Texture Quality - Extra


Preset Quality

Based on the compared images, we created our “custom” settings. We turned off settings that barely changed the visuals of the game. These were ambient occlusion, specular map, soft smoke, and depth of field.

All Low
All High / No AA
All High / 4x AA



For our benchmarking process, we used FRAPS to measure the frames per second from the start of “Black Tuesday” mission. The video below is the benchmarking sequence we used.



The following settings were used at 1280×1024 and 1024×768 resolutions.


  Low High High + 4xAA Custom
Anti-aliasing Off Off 4x 2x
Refresh Rate 60 Hz 60 Hz 60 Hz 60 Hz
Sync Every Frame No No No No
Shadows No Yes Yes Yes
Specular Map No Yes Yes No
Depth of Field No Yes Yes No
Screen Space Ambient Occlusion Off High Quality High Quality Off
Soften Smoke Edges No Yes Yes No
Bullet Impacts No Yes Yes Yes
Image Quality Low Extra Extra Native
Texture Quality Manual Manual Manual Manual
Texture Resolution Low Extra Extra Extra
Normal Map Resolution Low Extra Extra Extra
Specular Map Resolution Low Extra Extra Extra



There’s no doubt that our system is still capable of playing the game at low setting. At high settings, looking at the line graph, almost half of the frames dropped below 30 especially with 4x AA. Though this is still playable for the most part, you will feel the difference when you played at low setting. Our custom setting gave us very playable experience with minimum frame never dropped at 30.

At 1024×768 resolution, the same story with very minimal and unnoticeable improvements. Lowering the resolution didn’t help much to make the gameplay smoother on high settings. Take a look at the video below for the side-by-side performance comparison.



Modern Warfare is not a demanding game to start with – when you play it on today’s gaming systems that is. Although it uses an older engine, it still gives toil in older systems. But with the right settings, our “old” gaming PC is very capable of playing Modern Warfare 3 with visuals comparable to high settings, at least at 1280×1024 resolution. If you are playing at higher resolutions, then you need to disable or tone down additional settings. Graphics is only a part of the game; just enjoy the game as long you like it. I remember beating HAWX and Portal at lowest settings at 800×600 with nVidia integrated graphics. But then those games were entertaining, challenging, and exceptional especially Portal you won’t mind if you are playing at low settings. But if you really want to play with the highest settings possible, we suggest you upgrade the processor or the video card. It is still nicer and better to play with beautiful and eye-catching graphics.

Updated: December 5, 2018 — 11:49 am


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