With the introduction of patch 1.3, there have been several new additions to the Far Cry engine. It is great to see a developer that is willing to develop their engine further at every possible opportunity, but it\'s even more fantastic that they are keen to make the improvements available to the public.
It\'s very easy to develop new features for a new engine, or for an expansion pack, but actually giving these features to their initial customers is a fantastic gesture made to them - it is a great way of having faith in their consumers, and also the title, which is still one of the biggest sellers of the year.
Real-World Performance improvements:
We have covered a lot since we first had a look at the performance differences to be gained from the new patch running at its default settings, but we found that there were improvements in performance on both sides of the coin. Shader Model 3.0 really gave the GeForce 6800Ultra a boost in performance, a boost that has brought it back in to contention with the ATI X800 XT Platinum Edition, while Shader Model 2.0b has given ATI the slight edge, just.
Seeing as many board partners actually clock their GeForce 6800Ultra implementations higher than the reference 400/1100 clock speeds, we expect the gap will be next to nothing between the X800 XT PE and, say, the XFX GeForce 6800Ultra, which is clocked at 450/1100. Far Cry has been an easy win for ATI ever since release, with both higher image quality, and generally higher frame rates. This patch makes things interesting again; both boards are now capable of running the title at 1600x1200 at maximum details with 2xAA and 8xAF.
There is something that is worth noting at this point; we found that ForceWare 66.81 caused some slight pauses during game play using the 1.3 patch - this problem was not apparent with Far Cry patch 1.1. We found this to happen at reasonably regular intervals – regular enough for it to become rather annoying when playing through Far Cry on the GeForce 6800Ultra. It was not a consistent event, but it happened in several instances with varying consistency. It could happen during any of the following instances: when a door was opened, when we fired our character\'s weapons, and also when an enemy started firing a weapon in our general direction.
We did not find this to be a problem with an earlier driver build, 66.72 to be specific, so for now, we will assume that this will be fixed in a later revision of the ForceWare drivers.
High Dynamic Range Rendering:
There is so much to say about this exciting new feature, but the majority of our thoughts are that this is nothing short of fantastic. The way that things have all of a sudden become massively realistic adds even more enjoyment in to the title - if you have a GeForce 6800 of some description, we recommend playing through the game again, just to experience the way that HDR really draws you in to the environment to an extent where you really feel like a part of the game. The only real draw back was the performance hit, but the Far Cry engine still looks absolutely fantastic at 1024x768, even without HDR enabled.
We expect that using two GeForce 6800GT\'s or Ultra\'s running in SLI mode will deliver enough performance for us to be absorbed in to Far Cry\'s HDR mode at 1600x1200. In short, we really can\'t wait to see High Dynamic Range rendering on two GeForce 6800\'s.
Final, Final Thoughts...
There is no doubting that Crytek have made a name for themselves, a name that we put right up there with the likes of idsoftware and Valve - Far Cry simply goes from strength to strength. This release will certainly not do them any harm either, being the first publicly available game to support both Shader Model 3.0 and ATI\'s Shader Model 2.0b, along with the HDR capabilities of the GeForce 6 series. We can\'t forget that there are also improvements in performance for ATI customers, courtesy of the introduction of the 3Dc compression technique, albeit in its beta stages.
At this point, we are more impressed, and excited, by the introduction of High Dynamic Range rendering, than we are about the introduction of Shader Model 3.0, and of course Shader Model 2.0b. When the performance overheads are figured out and this feature can be used at 1280x1024 or greater, we will be able to experience a very very absorbing and realistic gaming experience.