The State of DirectX 11 - Image Quality & Performance

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Aliens vs Predator: Image Quality



The Aliens and Predator franchises should require no introduction. The two franchises have been featured in countless movies, comics and games over the last three decades, both separately and together in several Aliens and Predators match-ups including the classic "Aliens versus Predator" PC game from 1999. For those that remember the game, it featured one of the most atmospheric experiences of its time, despite being saddled with DirectX 6 era graphics. The developers of the 1999 classic, Rebellion Developments, are back at it again with another Aliens vs Predator game, this time in glorious DirectX 11.

While lens flares was one of the hot must-have graphical features at the time of Rebellion's original Aliens versus Predator game, the new game embraces DirectX 11 and implements hardware tessellation and the latest dynamic lighting and shadow algorithms with DirectCompute. With the DirectX 11 rendering path enabled and the settings cranked up, Aliens vs Predator is a very good looking game. Check out the following video for an overview of Aliens vs Predator's DirectX 11 graphical features.



It's worth noting that anti-aliasing is only available with the DirectX 10 and 11 rendering paths. If you are using DirectX 9, the option simply won't be available for selection in-game, although you could still force FSAA through your drivers.

We chose to do our image quality comparisons for Aliens vs Predator between Dx11 and Dx9, with the AA turned on in Dx11 mode. We chose this because AA in Aliens vs Predator is implemented deep in the rendering path and disabling it also effects other graphical features such as lighting. AvP isn't the only game to do this and we had to make similar concessions with Bad Company 2.

   

Image quality differences appear to be minimal at first glance. The game looks great in both Dx9 and Dx11 modes. However upon closer inspection, we see that Dx11 rendering offers some subtle graphical improvements. Lighting effects are more pleasing and the shadows have more depth. The graphics in Dx11 seems to have more contrast overall, the shadows are darker and the lights are brighter.

As the video illustrates, Aliens vs Predator makes extensive use of hardware tessellation in the DirectX 11 rendering mode. In fact, the geometry detail in AvP is dynamic. Depending on how far a player is from an in-game object, the game engine will dynamically alter the level of geometry the object possesses. Tessellation is used to seamlessly alter the level of geometry detail. This is easy to spot when viewing the game with wire frames turned on, but when the geometry is covered in mapped and lighted textures and the wire frames are turned off, we had a hard time spotting geometry differences between Dx9 and Dx11.

   

We didn't bother including any comparison screenshots for DirectX 10, simply because the graphical differences become even smaller. In side-by-side screenshot comparisons of DirectX 11 and DirectX 10 with Aliens vs Predator, we really couldn't notice any differences. Any differences that may exist would likely be even less noticeable in-game when the objects are in movement and motion blur filters are applied. The main graphical feature you will miss out on with DirectX 10 compared to 11 is hardware tessellation. DirectCompute, and therefore all of the lighting effects, will still be available.

Overall, Aliens vs Predator is a very good looking game. The DirectX 11 rendering mode certainly adds some extra visual interest but the difference is hardly night and day. The added image quality enabling DirectX 11 features brings adds some extra realism, that is, if you have time to stop and spot them in the mayhem. For the best experience, we would definitely recommend DirectX 11, but it would hardly be a disaster if you had to play the game in DirectX 9.


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