My system Specs:
NVidia GF2 MX 400 64 RAM
Soyo K7VTA-Pro motherboard
so on and so forth...
I was STILL having crash-to-desktop and/or complete system freeze even after updating to Detonator 30.82, setting the SYSTEMMEM in cfsconfig, turning all sliders to minimum, and disabling the intor movie.
I had updated my audio drivers, chipset drivers, and even my USB joystick drivers, but the problem never improved.
While I was on Soyo's website downloading Audio drivers and chipset drivers (4-in-1 drivers, they call them) I noticed some BIOS Flash updates for my motherboard. I looked at all the revisions that they listed, but it was only unrelated things like "support for >137 Gigs of HDD space" and "Support for more then 10 USB devices", etc.
I downloaded the flash tool and the latest BIOS update just for the hell of it (both tiny files, just took a second). I figured, if I'm updating everything else, might as well update BIOS, too.
I updated all the drivers, set all the CFS3 settings, and still no luck. Crashing and freezing up.
I rebooted with a boot floppy and flashed the BIOS.
Restarted again, started CFS3, and everything ran fine.
Again, I cannot explain why the BIOS update fixed anything, since it did not explicitly state that it had anything to do with my problems (it only said it provided support for very large HDDs, many USB devices, etc.). It must have snuck in an AGP update or something like that.
Regardless, I re-enabled the opening movie, set the Overall graphics slider to 3, Aircraft to 5, Ground texture to 4 (scenery and clouds are at 3), and ENABLED shadows, reflections, and lighting.
Runs well enough. Gets a bit slow at times, but nothing that prevents playability of the game, and it is very infrequent when it does slow down.
The moral of the story: Try a BIOS flash if all else fails, particularly if you have a Soyo K7VTA-Pro and a GF2 MX 400.