Lost Planet: DirectX 10 vs. DirectX 9

Lost Planet marks gaming world’s first foray into DirectX 10. Check out how it compares to DirectX 9.

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We've been waiting for the first DirectX 10-capable game to appear, anything really. Windows Vista has been available for almost half a year, and we've been wasting our GeForce 8800 GTX's precious GPU performance on pedestrian DirectX 9 games since last November. We initially expected Crysis or Company of Heroes, or maybe even Supreme Commander (which is no longer coming), to be the first game to introduce us to Windows Vista's DirectX 10 world, but patch delays and ever-moving release windows have let Lost Planet, a port of an Xbox 360 game, grab the spotlight.

Lost Planet originally came out for the Xbox 360 in January of 2007. The game takes place on an icy planet filled with monsters, pirates, big guns, and even bigger monsters. As Wayne the snow pirate, you make your way through snow-ravaged landscapes to avenge the death of your father. The stark, frigid world makes for a great backdrop to highlight the benefits of high dynamic range lighting. The white environment can reflect blinding sunlight, while fancy particle systems toss up tufts of snow and ice.

The game looks great in both DirectX 9 and 10, but we couldn't tell much of a difference between the two versions. Shadows looked slightly better in DirectX 10, but that's only because we could change the shadows setting to high, whereas in DirectX 9 we could only use the medium setting. After failing to see any major graphical differences between the two versions, we asked Capcom about what makes the DirectX 10 version special. A Capcom representative told us that the DirectX 10 improvements primarily enhanced performance by up to "10 to 20 percent" through the use of "geometry shaders, depth resolve, and stream output." That means that the Lost Planet demo is only using DirectX 10 to increase performance, not to produce advanced graphics effects.

We found that the DirectX 10 version of Lost Planet performed markedly slower when compared to the DirectX 9 version at the exact same settings. Additionally, the high-quality shadows we saw in DirectX 10 didn't seem to justify the performance hit. We did not perform an ATI versus Nvidia comparison because Capcom worked with Nvidia on the DirectX 10 development process and ATI didn't have the opportunity to tune its Radeon HD 2900 XT for the demo release.

The Lost Planet demo isn't a final version of the game, but the developers don't have much time to add in new effects before the game's June 26 release date. It looks like we can safely go back to waiting on Crysis or Company of Heroes for all those amazing DirectX 10 graphics.

Mouse over each DirectX 9 image to see the DirectX 10 comparison image.

Lost Planet DirectX 9 vs. DirectX 10

System Setup: Intel Core 2 X6800, EVGA nForce680i SLI, 2GB Corsair Dominator CM2X1024 Memory (1GB x 2), 160GB Seagate 7200.7 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows Vista Ultimate. Graphics Cards: Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB. Graphics Driver: Nvidia Forceware beta 158.43.

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