Our game testing continues with a final trio of demanding titles. Whether it's CPU or GPU analysis, Crysis 3 is our go-to game to get an initial overview of the kind of performance we can expect - generally speaking, if the first two levels of this title play out at the frame-rate you want, you're good to go for the vast majority of action games out there. Five years on, Crysis' final entry continues to play havoc with all manner of PC hardware.

Our CPU test suite also benefits from the inclusion of the incredibly demanding Kingdom Come Deliverance, built on a much more modern iteration of the CryEngine. The game includes an 'ultra high' setting that incurs a remarkable CPU load that even gives the new Core i9 9900K some issues. We've also returned The Witcher 3 to CPU testing duties, running at ultra settings - albeit with Hairworks disabled - with our time-honoured trip through Novigrad City. It's a phenomenal example of an engine that manages to scale across hardware well, though 9900K improvements are still fairly limitedd. But let's kick off this phase of our analysis with a return to the jungle.

Crysis 3

Percentage differentials between the processors here don't quite tell the full story, as the cutscene here ping-pongs between areas where the CPU is our limiting factor and where, remarkably, even at 1080p, the GPU - or perhaps the Nvidia driver - can be our bottleneck. The Core i9 9900K's overall lead across the clip is still notable though, if not representative of two extra cores and 400MHz of bonus frequency. Historically, this is a multi-core aware title that has seen plenty of benefits for Ryzen - but Intel's push to six and eight core processors has eliminated that advantage.

Note that during gameplay, draw call-intensive scenes combined with heavy background streaming can see the Ryzen processors dip beneath 60 frames per second during gameplay - even the 2700X has a momentary stutter in these areas, while i7 and 9 are generally fine. Frame-times increase there too, but the extra processing time doesn't take you beneath that 60fps threshold.

Crysis 3: Very High, SMAA T2X

  • Ryzen 7 2700X
  • Core i7 8700K
  • Core i9 9900K
  • Ryzen 7 2700X
  • Core i7 8700K
  • Core i9 9900K
  • Ryzen 7 2700X
  • Core i7 8700K
  • Core i7 9900K

Kingdom Come Deliverance

Run this game on ultra high and any kind of run through settlements will see frame-rates collapse. The frame-time graph is also extremely spikey - a tell-tale sign that we're in trouble, CPU-wise. Certainly at 1080p, we are almost entirely CPU-bound and while frame-rate averages are at 60fps or higher, stretches of our benchmark run operate with a considerably lower performance level. Once again, Intel's Core products show a distinct advantage, but the differential between 8700K and 9900K isn't in line with the very significant increase in spec.

Obviously, the numbers tighten up as we move to 1440p and 4K, but curiously, the 9900K's lead over the 8700K actually seems to open up at the higher resolution. When you actually see how this game runs at 1080p though, there is the sense that the very obvious stutter can skew results. It's only really at 4K where performance settles down into something consistent. Our advice for this title is to run it one rung down from max settings - ultra high is designed for the hardware of the future. But with that being said, I'd say that the 9900K qualifies there...

Kingdom Come Deliverance: Ultra High, SMAA

  • Ryzen 7 2700X
  • Core i7 8700K
  • Core i9 9900K
  • Ryzen 7 2700X
  • Core i7 8700K
  • Core i9 9900K
  • Ryzen 7 2700X
  • Core i7 8700K
  • Core i9 9900K

The Witcher 3

The Witcher 3 is generally an easy game to run, with plenty of scalability built into the engine. However, at its ultra settings and galloping at speed through dense areas like Novigrad, the tech is tested on multiple levels. First of all, the CPU is given a thorough work-out, and this tends to scale with memory bandwidth from your DDR4. Secondly, you can actually be storage-bound here - I've spotted stutter here running on an at-capacity entry-level SSD. However, as things stand, this title shows a 10 per cent advantage to the 9900K over its 8700K rival, while the lead over Ryzen is remarkable.

Again, 1440p resolution can see performance improvements between the three processors but as expected, the performance numbers close up as the GPU takes more of a role in proceedings. At 4K, the CPUs are effectively like for like - as you would expect - but the Ryzen does have more of a propensity to stutter. In general, stutter can be mitigated by setting a frame-rate ceiling appropriate to the hardware you have and even in Novigrad, a 60fps limit helps matters immensely.

Witcher 3: Ultra, Post-AA, No Hairworks

  • Ryzen 7 2700X
  • Core i7 8700K
  • Core i9 9900K
  • Core Ryzen 7 2700X
  • Core i7 8700K
  • Core i9 9900K
  • Ryzen 7 2700X
  • Core i7 8700K
  • Core i9 9900K

Intel Core i9 9900K analysis

About the author

Richard Leadbetter

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.