Without a doubt we would've liked Crysis 2 to support DX11 at launch, but there are a few advantages to using DX9, the most important of which is that the pool of PC gamers that run somewhat dated hardware will be able to enjoy the game. Three year-old cards like the Radeon HD 4980 and GeForce GTX 285 provide playable performance at 1680x1050 using the Very High quality settings, for example.
Several other cards impressed us when running the game on Very High. Affordable products such as the Radeon HD 5830, GeForce GTX 460 and Radeon HD 6850 mustered the strength to churn out playable frame rates at 1680x1050. Then at 1920x1200, relatively affordable graphics cards such as the Radeon HD 6870 and GeForce GTX 560 Ti scored solidly.
AMD's upper-echelon Radeon HD 6970 and HD 6950 were not quite as impressive when compared to Nvidia's competing products. Both were slower than the GeForce GTX 470 when running Crysis 2 at 1920x1200 using the Very High quality settings. Meanwhile, we found the last-gen GeForce GTX 470 and GTX 480 to be unusually fast, keeping pace with and occasionally beating the GTX 580 and GTX 570.
Folks with lower-end systems will be able to enjoy the game as it scales very well. The visual quality of the High preset is still good and it's not nearly as taxing as the game's Very High settings. Those with performance graphics cards dating back as far as 2007 should be able to play Crysis 2 at a reasonable resolution.
As we mentioned in the intro, there seems to be an issue with Crossfire performance in Crysis 2. We saw a dramatic separation between the Radeon HD 6990 and GeForce GTX 590, with the former averaging 56fps (8fps lower than the GTX 580) and the latter fetching 95fps. The game almost feels tailor-made for Nvidia's dual-GPU offering -- not too surprising though as this is a TWIMTBP (The Way It's Meant to Be Played) title.
While it's become increasingly common to see dual-core processors struggling with modern games, we can't recall the last time dual-core chips suffered as badly as they do in Crysis 2 (perhaps it was with Battlefield: Bad Company 2). Although we only tested CPU performance using the extreme preset, it seems dual-core processors are at a total disadvantage unless they have the capability of running four threads like the Core i3 540.
Crysis 2 may not be exactly what PC gamers expected, but despite the seemingly console-biased launch, Crytek has proven that it's still possible to create an incredibly good looking game with DirectX 9. Many new DX11-based games have shown the advantages of the newer API, but we're no longer convinced Crysis 2 suffers from its lack of DX11 -- something we never expected to say.