Back in December 2013, I decided to trade in my hunk of junk six year old HP Pavilion PC for a new custom built PC. Running on an Intel i5-4570, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD with Windows 7, I was in PC gaming heaven at the time. I couldn’t quite afford a new video card, so my 3 year old Radeon HD5770 was put into the PC as a stopgap until I could afford a new video card. It worked out great, pushing most of the PC games I had to high settings.
But then, tragedy struck. I saw graphical artifacts while playing Crysis, but thought nothing of it at the time. Several days later, my video card started spinning its fans loudly while I was idling on my PC, temperatures rising by the second. Even with a quick dusting, the card still got loud and didn’t show a picture. It happened to me again: a video card died on me. I got the HD5770 as an emergency replacement for my dead GeForce 8800GT back in 2010, and now I had another dead video card. I was amazed the Radeon lasted that long, maybe pushing all those polygons in those two months was a bit hard on the old gal.
For the past month I’ve been playing other games, mostly on console. Stuff like binging the 2010 Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit reboot and Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Annoyed that I couldn’t play much on the PC, I decided to test something.
All CPUs these days come with a integrated graphics chip inside them. The most hardcore of PC gamers won’t go this route, opting to buy a video card to do all the heavy lifting for their gaming needs. I thought I’d give my i5 processor’s integrated graphics chip a shot in the meantime. After installing the newest drivers for it, I tried a bunch of games on the HD4600, Intel’s integrated graphics chip and screenshotted the results.
Boy, I was surprised at what worked and how it ran. Pretty much every game I threw at it worked mostly fine with little problems, albeit with considerably lower graphical fidelity. For several of the games, I had to kick the resolution down to 1280×720 and lowering the graphics settings as far as they could, but most of them ran perfectly fine. Here are a few examples I decided to try:
Grand Theft Auto IV
I never thought this could run GTA IV. The game was notorious at the time for its ridiculous hardware requirements, though we’ve made significant advances in technology since its PC release five years ago. It ran pretty well even with the HD5770, so I was totally not expecting this to work with the Intel graphics. Yet, I could run this, with everything on low, at about 15-20 frames per second. There’s a lot of model and texture pop-in, so it’s not the most ideal way to experience Liberty City, but it’s playable.
Surprisingly from what little I played, I enjoyed it. Then again, I was never into the goofy antics that plagued the earlier GTA games like San Andreas, so maybe this game is perfect for me.
Saints Row IV
I remember slogging through Saints Row: The Third on that junky old PC. Everything on low quality at 640×480, with framerates well into the teens. Some very dark times.
When I upgraded to the new PC, being able to run that as well as Saints Row IV here on high settings with a solid framerate was a godsend. Even with the integrated graphics shown here, I can still run and jump through cyber Steelport with little problems. Drastically better than what I suffered on the old PC.
I need to get back to this game sometime, this game is pure dumb fun.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Anything made by Valve will run on most computers at a solid framerate, and CS:GO is no exception. With everything on medium-high, I was getting 70-100 frames on average. The framerate takes a hit if the action gets heavy, but this is a given. I didn’t try other Valve games like Team Fortress 2 or DOTA 2, but I assume they too would run at a solid framerate on medium settings.
This game has become one of my frequently played games as of late. Partially because I used to be super into Counter-Strike back during the 1.5 days. Also because they introduced gun skins to the game, and it fueled my pack rat mentality much like Team Fortress 2 did when they introduced hats. Still, it’s a great game, a drastic improvement over Counter-Strike: Source.
When I first tried Payday with integrated graphics, I could barely get it to run with everything set to low. After upgrading the graphics drivers, this game now runs at 1280×720 at around 30 frames or so, with everything on low settings. I’m assuming, Diesel, the engine Overkill used for the game, isn’t that super scalable. Ironic, considering it was made for a racing game back in 2002.
Much like CS:GO, this too has become my go-to game as of late. I loved Payday: The Heist, and got into the sequel a few months after it came out. It’s more fleshed out and a bit more strategic, while still having the run and gun tactics of the first game. It’s not perfect, but I’m enjoying it. Definitely great with friends.
This one’s kind of a given: It’s running on Unreal Engine 3, and much like the Source engine, Unreal will run on most PC setups with relative ease. Here, everything’s on low-medium settings at 720p. It runs fairly smooth, which is important for a game like this. Much like Payday 2, until I had upgraded the graphic drivers, this was running quite sluggishly, even going through the menus.
Borderlands was an alright game, but Borderlands 2 fixes all the problems that the first game had and made a drastically improved game overall. Hell, even the PC port is much better, considering the last one had Gamespy as its online service. I’ve played through this with friends, which is essential to enjoying this dumb game, because the jokes miss more than they hit.
Max Payne 3
When I booted Max Payne 3 up, it was stuck on the settings I had already set with the HD5770: high to very high on almost every setting, thus the game ran very slowly even through the menus. After kicking everything down to Normal and even switching to DirectX10 mode, it ran much smoother. It looks about as good as its console brethren. This game is a much better benchmark than the other Rockstar game I tried earlier, especially when you play some of the later chapters.
I was super into this game for a while. I used to really be into Max Payne and the mod scene, and while Max Payne 3 has the typical Rockstar “feel” that’s been there since GTA IV, it’s still a good shooter overall. Highly recommended.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Alas, as of this writing I didn’t own Battlefield 3 or 4, but I do own Bad Company 2, which will have to do. It’s on the Frostbite engine, I wasn’t expecting to run on these at all unless I had a beefy video card. Then again, my old PC could run the game with the HD5770 with everything on low and at 15 frames a second, so maybe it’s not as intense.
Surprisingly, it actually runs! On Medium settings it runs fairly choppy, but kick everything to Low and you got a smooth playable experience. Granted, it makes Battlefield look like a game from 2006, but it’s better than nothing. I was more surprised when I found out people are still playing this four years later. Now I don’t feel bad that I don’t have Battlefield 4 like all the cool kids do.
Of course I’d have to test this game. It’s the benchmark game. The game that people bought video cards and CPUs specifically to test their machines and push to their absolute limits. Granted, Crysis 2 or 3 would probably be better benchmarking games now, but the first game still holds up. I seriously didn’t think this could run it at all. Then I went to a late section with all the ice and snow, with everything on medium, and it ran. It didn’t look as good, obviously, but I’m amazed it even ran, and ran pretty smooth.
There was a time on the old PC where I tried to play this, and finished the whole game with everything on low and often in the single digits. I don’t know how I played that and enjoyed it, but I did. I don’t think this game has aged especially well, but it was a cool hardware benchmark for many years.
I should look into finding mods for this game, just to spice things up a bit. Maybe look into that DeLorean mod that changes the day-night cycle, that looked pretty cool.
I did try a few older games like Grand Theft Auto III, which ran perfectly smooth since it’s an older game, so I didn’t bother to take screenshots of those. I’ve also been playing a couple of indie games like Receiver and Gunscape, which are based on the Unity engine and ran okay from what I could see, just a few hitches here and there. Basically older games should have no trouble running on integrated graphics all maxed out.
As I kept going through each and every major game and playing through it, I kept getting more surprised that these game could run and can play just fine. Turns out that Intel made a pretty decent integrated graphics chip. It’s obviously not an outright replacement for a video card, but if you’re stuck without a card for whatever reason, you have something to fall back on in the meantime.
Thankfully this period of no hardcore PC gaming will be over soon, as I already got a GeForce GTX 760 on the way to put into this PC of mine. But I will always remember the time where I played PC games with an integrated Intel graphics chip, and was amazed at what ran.
While it’s not the ideal way to play these games, if you’re desperate to play games, it’s worth a shot. I played through games on a garbage HP Pavilion machine running Windows Vista with the barest of minimum settings. There’s a fandom for cranking games down to the lowest settings, and I’m here for it. Cranking everything to max is great, but so is appreciating the games that scale to so many PC setups.
Update 2/8/2016: Oops, seems the DeLorean mod leads to a bad link. Fixed it by leading to the original designer’s webpage. Still a neat project.
Update 4/16/2020: Updated for grammatical changes and newer links. Including updating the DeLorean Crysis mod link a second time.