The State of DirectX 11 - Image Quality & Performance

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Bad Company 2: Image Quality

Hot on the heels of Modern Warfare 2 is DICE's direct competitor in the squad-based modern combat first-person shooter sub-genre, Bad Company 2. A direct sequel to the original Bad Company, BC2 offers a host of improvements and a graphical face lift. Most important to us for this article, BC2 adds DirectX 11 support.

Bad Company 2 is built on the Frostbite game engine, the same one used by the original Bad Company. Frostbite is DICE's own proprietary tech, and it was originally built for current-gen consoles. For Bad Company 2, the Frostbite engine was substantially overhauled to accommodate the special requirements of PCs. In addition to adding support for Dx11, DICE also integrated full support for ATI's EyeInfinity and NVIDIA's 3D Vision technologies.

As the video below illustrates, DICE also spent a lot of time tuning the PC version of the game to avoid that "console port" feel PC gamers have come to associate with bad ports. They have gotten rid of the 10-foot interface and claustrophobic field of view of the console version, which are great when the screen is far away from the player but inappropriate for PC use where the user is sitting much closer.

Just like with Aliens vs Predator, anti-aliasing is only available with DirectX 10 and 11 and isn't available with DirectX 9. You may still force FSAA through the drivers, though at significant cost to performance, and you'll still miss out on some of the image quality benefits that the in-game method provides. Just like with Aliens vs Predator, we chose to conduct our image quality comparison between DirectX 11 and DirectX 9, since the graphical differences between DirectX 10 and 11 are minimal.


With the graphics cranked up, the differences in image quality are subtle. One of the major graphical benefits of DirectX 11 is the addition of soft shadows. Another major graphical addition is the implementation of horizon-based ambient occlusion (HBAO), a method of screen-space ambient occlusion (SSAO) originally introduced by NVIDIA at Siggraph '08. This can be observed in nearly every scene but is perhaps most obvious when viewing the water effects and on the weapons in the second screenshot (above, right).

In DirectX 9, without HBAO, the light reflecting from the water doesn't effect the scene much, leaving many areas in deep shadow and dark. With HBAO enabled in DirectX 11 (also available in Dx10), the light reflected from the water is incorporated into the rest of the on-screen scene and areas like the rocks and the player's weapon are brighter as a result of the additional light.


Another area where the new graphical effects are readily observed is in the last screenshot (above, right), on the edge of the beanie cap worn by the soldier. In DirectX 9 the cap produces a sharp straight edge against the soldier's face, with no transition or shadow. In DirectX 11 the lip of the cap produces a slight shadow over the soldier's face which gives the appearance of added depth and enhances realism.

Overall, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is a very good looking game with highly realistic graphics and good usage of DirectX 11 features. While Bad Company 2 definitely incorporates many Dx11 graphical features, like Aliens vs Predator, the ultimate result is still relatively subtle. This is especially true when things are in motion, as they would be in-game. When the virtual bullets are flying, it's not often that you can find the time to stop and notice the extra graphical enhancements.

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