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Gainward FX PowerPack! Ultra/1800 XP Review - Page 7 of 9

X THE THREAT ROLLING DEMO

This is one gorgeous game. Egosoft implemented bump mapping, textures and lighting in ways that have not been seen before to this extent. The rolling demo was used for the benchmarks below. I've posted over at the Egosoft forums asking for shader pathing information in hopes I could confirm whether X The Threat implements PS2.0 shaders or not. I've yet to receive a reply. Kal found that neither vertex or pixel shaders 2.0 were used in his review so we'll go with that unless we find out otherwise.

X The Threat - Example of Bump Mapping
X The Threat - Example of Bump Mapping

At any rate, one thing is for sure and that is that this game is what Morrowind was to systems a few months back. X is the new great equalizer for even the most ber system of today. This is only the case, however, when you turn on shadows. Setting bump mapping on also brings a drop in performance but not as much as shadows.

The benchmark results below reflect the dramatic effect that shadows and bump mapping have on performance. Note: The demo's AA setting was used. AA and AF were set to "Application Controlled". Also, I'm only showing the overclocked (555/1050) results as the stock speeds were virtually identical (-<1%). Just another example of how stable this card is to handle such a demanding demo at these speeds.

X The Threat Rolling Demo - Benchmark Results
X The Threat Rolling Demo - Benchmark Results

At 1024x768 there is a 42% drop with bump mapping and shadows enabled. Another 15% hit is taken with AA enabled. However, we're still in the 60fps range which is pretty impressive for this game. 1600x1200 with any of those settings enabled starts to get quite a bit slower but cracks 100fps with them off which is nice to see.

X The Threat - Just Beautiful
X The Threat - Just Beautiful

 

STAR WARS: KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic has a lot of graphical options but on in particular that is of interest is "soft shadows". Soft shadows provide a more realistic shadow that isn't as stark and hard-edged as most stencil shadows. The edges are blurred and the shadows even dissipate into the distance as do real shadows. All of this comes at a cost, of course, although not as much as I though it might. You can see some other examples of soft shadows here, here, here and here. Soft shadows are nothing new in concept (just check out 3Dfx talking about it here related to their T-buffer) but they've not been heavily implemented in games.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Unfortunately, I was not convinced that my run-through (one lap around this open area in Taris) using FRAPS was accurate enough to present benchmark results. The scores actually seemed higher with soft shadows enabled which is suspect. I hope to update this section of the review once I've had more time to explore this in more detail. I can say with some certainty, though, that the average frames per second never dipped below 30  at 1600x1200 which is great for a game like this with high texture pack and all eye candy on. Also worth noting is that I dropped my overclocking down to 525/1020 as 555/1050 brought about some artifacting but no crashing of the game.

In lieu of benchmark results below are some texture pack and soft shadow comparison screenshots. There are three texture pack settings (low, medium and high). This first composite points out some areas where you can see a distinct difference. Note: This composite is at a cropped 1000x768 resolution and AA/AF were off so as to focus on texture quality.

Texture Pack Comparisons
Texture Pack Comparisons

The soft shadow comparison below is cropped to 800x600 from original 1024x768 screenshot to focus on the shadows. There is a big difference as you can see in the realism factor. One quirk about the shadows in the game are that sabers are rendered in the shadow yet handguns are not (see Carth's "nubbins" at the end of his arms instead of his pistols' shadows).

Soft Shadow Comparisons
Soft Shadow Comparisons

In actual gameplay, whether or not soft shadows was enabled made little difference in performance. It's not clear to me if this is because of the Gainward 5950 horsepower or not. I hope to update the above benchmarks with a lesser card to find out.

Next Page: Synthetic Benchmarks - 3DMark03 / Aquamark3

Last Updated on February 2, 2004


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