After having played and tested newly released games like Medal of Honor: Airborne and Bioshock that require the latest hardware for the best visual experience, it appears that Enemy Territory: Quake Wars can be enjoyed on previous generation hardware almost without a sacrifice. Many will find that the high quality visual setting with 2x anti-aliasing to be more than good enough. That being the case, a GeForce 8600 GT will be sufficient on a 19” wide screen LCD (~1440x900).
As in all previous games built around id's Tech 4 engine, we found Radeon graphics cards struggling in ETQW once any form of anti-aliasing was enabled. That said, the older Radeon X1900/X1950 cards do work rather well.
Those wanting to run 4x anti-aliasing will really need to stick with the higher-end options, particularly at resolutions equal to or greater than 1680x1050. The GeForce 8800 GTX was an overkill for this game as it managed over 70fps at 1920x1200 with 4xAA/8xAF enabled. Owners of the flagship GeForce 8 card can look forward to glitch-free gameplay, and the same can be said for those with GeForce 8800 GTS cards as well.
Interestingly, while the graphics card does play its part, the processor has proven to be just as important on this occasion. Almost 40fps were lost when going from a Core 2 Duo E6850 to the E4300, and despite the obvious 1.2GHz frequency decline, this isn't a common scenario on many other gaming titles that rely more heavily on the GPU. Overclockers will find a strong justification for going forward with their experiments based on this game's test results, for example those using Core 2 E4300 processors running at 2.5GHz and beyond should notice huge performance benefits.
When comparing Windows XP versus Vista performance, we found that XP did offer better performance, though thankfully the margins were not nearly as significant as with earlier driver revisions (this is still a DirectX 9 title).
Overall, while I personally have not been impressed by either the visuals or gameplay in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, it is shaping up to be a very popular game based on the amount of times the demo has been downloaded so far. By the end of the year we may be able to draw a better conclusion on the definitive shooter of the year as we await for releases of HL2 Episode 2, Team Fortress 2, Crysis, Gears of War, Unreal Tournament 3, Call of Duty 4, and more.