Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - PC Tweak Guide

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion breathes the rarified air of the “upgrade game,” a title so huge (and so demanding of your PC's horsepower) that you might have to buy new hardware just to enjoy it. Like two other "upgrade games," Half-Life 2 and Battlefield 2, this fourth Elder Scrolls RPG is a first-person game at heart. Hitting your target means precision aiming and good timing, just like in a shooting game. This also means your PC must deliver smooth animation (tech-y guys will say at least 25-30 frames per second) to keep the game feeling playable. Anything less and it becomes a not-so-fun slideshow where you can’t connect with your enemies.

Whereas Half-Life 2 and the Battlefield 2 needed solid processing power and gobs of memory, Oblivion’s requirements rest squarely upon the shoulders of your graphics card. And it's not just about your screen resolution; it's more about special effects like pixel shading (the current hot technique for realistic lighting and shadows) and full-screen anti-aliasing, which makes things look smooth and lifelike. Oblivion uses those tricks, so you may need the latest video card to see them properly. We recommend ATI's X1600 series cards, which we have spotted for less than $200 online as of press time. If you prefer nVidia cards, the new GeForce 7900 GT offers great performance for just under $300.

But that's about where you should limit your budget; the Xbox 360 becomes an extremely attractive alternative if you start going above $350. Oblivion runs smoothly and in HD on the 360 without protest. Take a hard look at the recommended requirements for the PC version of Oblivion: a 360 plus a small HDTV might just set you back less than a new computer with similar specs.