Crysis: DirectX 10 vs. DirectX 9

The Crysis demo looks fantastic under both Windows Vista and Windows XP, but which one has the edge?

Crysis, the poster child for modern PC gaming and DirectX 10, will arrive shortly. Crytek has tortured us for years with screenshots and short hands-on experiences showing off the game's wide-open world, with picturesque tropical battlegrounds, perfect for sipping Mai Tais or peppering random bad guys with automatic rifle fire. Crytek released the single-player demo late last week, and we set up a few test systems to see just how the game looks under Windows Vista compared to Windows XP. We also took some in-game benchmarks to see how the frame rates compare in DirectX 9 and DirectX 10.

It wouldn't be an exaggeration to claim that the environments in Crysis come mighty close to photo-realistic. The beaches, sky, and rocks all have a gritty, real-earth feel to them. Crytek took plant matter to a new realm--a botanist would have a field day in Crysis. The palm trees, shrubbery, and grass create the feeling of tropical jungle more so than any other game we've come across.

The game officially limits in-game settings to "high quality" in Windows XP, while Windows Vista gets an additional "very high quality" graphics setting. Crysis still looks good at high quality, but it's a noticeable step down from the very high quality settings. Some ingenious users managed to enable very high quality on the Crysis demo in Windows XP through a clever bit of configuration-file editing. The second image in each set of comparison shots demonstrate what the hacked very high quality settings look like in Windows XP.

As far as we can tell, the difference between very high quality in Windows XP and Windows Vista is quite subtle. We noticed some extra shadowing on the rocks in the Vista version, and while there are differences between the hacked XP shots and the Vista shots, we can't really say that one looks better. Developers have gotten very good at working around hardware limitations to fake great graphics, so we wouldn't be surprised if the DX9 effects were good enough to simulate the results of a more "accurate" DX10 shader.

Image Comparison

Mouse over image caption to change images.

Vista-Very High Quality XP-Very High Quality XP-High Quality

Vista-Very High Quality XP-Very High Quality XP-High Quality

Vista-Very High Quality XP-Very High Quality XP-High Quality

Vista-Very High Quality XP-Very High Quality XP-High Quality

Vista-Very High Quality XP-Very High Quality XP-High Quality

Vista-Very High Quality XP-Very High Quality XP-High Quality


Image Comparison Continued

Mouse over image caption to change images.

Vista-Very High Quality XP-Very High Quality XP-High Quality

Vista-Very High Quality XP-Very High Quality XP-High Quality

Vista-Very High Quality XP-Very High Quality XP-High Quality

Vista-Very High Quality XP-Very High Quality XP-High Quality

Vista-Very High Quality XP-Very High Quality XP-High Quality

Vista-Very High Quality XP-Very High Quality XP-High Quality

Crysis Demo Performance

Crysis will most definitely join our stable of benchmarks for a long time to come. The very high quality settings in Windows Vista thrashed our GeForce 8800 GTX when we tried running it at high resolutions. Frame rate performance kept doubling once we lowered the quality settings to high, medium, and low. The Vista version performed slightly slower than Windows XP at the same settings, but the difference was within three to five percent at the high and medium settings. The hacked very high quality settings under Windows XP were almost 20 percent faster than the Vista frame rates, but comparing frame rates between the two is pointless because it isn't an apples-to-apples comparison. The image differences between the two versions indicate that they don't have an identical workload.

System Setup: Intel Core 2 X6800, eVGA 680i, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2), 750GB Seagate 7200.10 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit. Graphics Card: GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB. Graphics Driver: Nvidia ForceWare 169.04.

The demo isn't a final release of the game, and as such might not represent all the features that Crysis has to offer. The full game comes out the week of November 12, so be on the lookout for further updates.


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