Back in December, 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. I couldn’t quite afford a new video card, so my 3 year old Radeon HD5770 was put into the PC as a stop gap 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.

So, for the past month I’ve been playing other games, such as binging on Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit from 2010 and playing through Call of Duty: Black Ops II on my 360. After being 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. PC gamers won’t use this, 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, I tried a bunch of games on Intel’s own integrated graphics, the HD4600 and saw the results. Boy, I was surprised.

Pretty much every game I threw at it ran it with little problems, albeit with lower graphical fidelity. For many of the games, it took kicking 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 last year on that junky old PC. When I upgraded to the new PC, being able to run it on high settings at a stable framerate was a godsend. Even with the integrated graphics shown here, I can still run and jump through cyber Steelport with little problems.

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 lowers a bit if the action gets heavy. but this was a given. I didn’t try other Valve games like Team Fortress 2 or DOTA2, 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 packrat mentality much like Team Fortress 2 did when they introduced hats. Still, it’s a great game, a drastic improvement over Counter-Strike: Source.

Payday 2

When I first tried this with the 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. Guess whatever engine Overkill used for this isn’t super scalable.

This 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. It’s great with friends.

Borderlands 2

This one’s kind of a given: It’s running on Unreal Engine 3, and like the Source engine, will run on most PC setups. Everything on low-medium, at 720p. 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 in 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.

Max Payne 3

When I booted it up, it was stuck on the settings I had with the HD5770, with high-very high on almost everything, having the game run very slowly even in the menus. After kicking everything down to Normal and switching to DirectX 10 mode, it ran much smoother. It looks about as good as its console brethren. This game is a good benchmark, especially when you play some of the later chapters.

I was also super into this game for a while. I used to be super into Max Payne, and while this has the typical Rockstar “feel” that’s been there since GTA IV, it’s still a good shooter overall.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Alas, I don’t own Battlefield 3 or 4, so this will have to do. It’s on the Frostbite engine, I wasn’t expecting it to run at all unless you 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 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.

Crysis

Of course I’d try this game. It’s *the* benchmark game. The game that people bought specifically to test their machines and push them to their absolute limits. Granted, Crysis 2 or 3 would likely be better benchmarking games these days, 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.

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.

Miscellaneous

I did try a few older games like Grand Theft Auto III, which ran perfectly smooth, 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 3D 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.

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.

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