The State of DirectX 10 - Image Quality & Performance

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Lost Planet: Image Quality & Features

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Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is a third-person shooter created by Capcom for the XBOX 360. Lost Planet is a pretty standard third-person console shooter and it features both personel and vehicle combat. The game features a heavily scripted and story-driven single player mode as well as multiplayer mode. While the gameplay is not particularly original and the story takes itself a bit too seriously, Lost Planet features slick, well executed action as well as some of the best graphics on any platform. Never had we seen such blatent and overly frequent use of motion blur effects. Normally this would be a complaint but the game just looks so good, you can't help but forgive it for showing off.

About five months after Lost Planet arrived on the XBOX 360, Capcom ported it to the PC. The PC release includes some exclusive content not found in the original XBOX 360 version such as several new multiplayer maps, a movie mode that lets you view all the cutscenes back-to-back, a Resident Evil 4 style view mode, and three new characters. Possibly the most interesting -- as well as the most relavent to this article -- exclusive feature is DirectX 10 support. DirectX 10 in Lost Planet brings several new image quality enhancements like better depth of field effects, motion blur and fur shading.

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Lost Planet Screenshots (DirectX 10)

Possibly because it's a XBOX 360 port, Lost Planet has the shortest list of DX10 exclusive image quality enhancements out of the five games in our test. In fact, we found that the PC version of Lost Planet is a near perfect port of the original XBOX 360 version. This isn't necessarily a good thing since very little was done to help adapt the game to the unique controls and hardware challenges of the PC. No where is this more apparent than in the menu, which breaks just about every convention for menu navigation with a keyboard. The graphics also appear to be of the same general quality as the XBOX 360 version which isn't as much of a complaint since the game looks excellent on the 360.

In total, we were only able to notice three differences in image quality in Lost Planet, between DX9 and DX10. The most noticable difference in image quality between DX9 and DX10 is the way fur is rendered. Lost Planet takes place on a bitterly cold ice planet and just about everyone's attire has fur incorporated into it somewhere. It's also a third-person game so you're constantly staring at your in-game character's back-side, and your usually wearing fur-lined clothing. What that all amounts to is that you'll be seeing a lot of the fur effect and we definitely noticed the image quality difference between DX9 and DX10. In the two images below, you can see that the fur effect in DX9 looks kind of spotty and prickly while the DX10 fur looks like it would be nice and soft. While this is a nice image quality improvement, we can't say it really improved our gaming experience any.

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Fur Effect in Lost Planet

Another difference we noticed is with the way shadows are rendered, or more specifically, the way shadow edges are rendered. In DX9, shadow edges are hard and unnaturally sharp and crisp. Shadows in DX9 are also aliased, regardless of the level of anti-aliasing used. In DX10, shadow edges are softer and appear slightly blurry. We also never noticed any shadow edge aliasing in DX10. However, we'd like to note that the difference is rather subtle and you probably won't notice unless you were looking for it and knew what to look for.

The last image quality difference that we were able to notice showed up when we were comparing the screenshots we took. In DX10, contrast seems to be higher all-around and this results in a couple of image quality advantages. The biggest advantage of higher contrast is apparent when you're outdoors, which is most of the time. Lost Planet uses a thick haze to control draw distance and objects that are farther away tend to get lost in the haze and become difficult to see. With higher constrast, far-off objects that are still within the draw distance are more visible, making the draw distance appear longer. This can be noticed in the image below, where the mountain in the distance is hard to see in DX9 but plainly visible in DX10.

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Contrast Difference in Lost Planet

Another image quality improvement that results as a side-effect of increased contrast in DX10 is better object detail. It's constantly snowing in Lost Planet and you'll be spending a lot of time in snowy white landscapes where a higher contrast results in a slight increase in object detail. Thanks to the ever-present snowy white haze, details on objects are difficult to see unless your standing right next to them. With increased contrast, this issue is slightly eleviated.

Lastly, the motion blur effects in DX10 are supposed to be of higher quality than in DX9. However, we were unable to notice a difference. Any attempt to take screenshots to directly compare the difference would also be extremely difficult. Even if we were to get such screenshots, they wouldn't help much since this is a moving effect and unless it looks better while moving, which is doesn't appear to, then it doesn't really matter.

Image Quality Impressions

Overall, Lost Planet boasts the smallest image quality improvement in DX10 over DX9. Whether or not DX10 is worth the trouble will be determined by the performance numbers on the next page, but we can tell you now that it certainly doesn't make much of a difference when it comes to image quality. The up-side is that Lost Planet looks every bit as good on the PC as it did on the XBOX 360 and it remains a beautiful game while in motion thanks to healthy and frequent doses of the game's excellent motion blur and depth of field effects.


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