(left) Shadows Low (right) Shadows High
The game offers the choice of setting Shadows to either Low or High, shown here. In reality, even some of the lowest systems will auto-detect to High. At that setting the shadows aren't the taxing Soft Shadows we have seen cripple system in games such as F.E.A.R. but we would certainly take the performance advantage of these "older generation" shadows rather than trade speed for the questionable benefit of soft shadows.
(left)Simple Reflections (right) Reflect AllHalf-Life 2
had some of the best rendered water in any game, so it is no surprise to see it used with great effect in SiN Episodes
. The good news is that it looks good even at the lowest detail setting - Simple Reflections. The even better news is that most people should have enough GPU power to run with either Reflect World or Reflect All enabled, producing even more gorgeous visuals.
(left to right) Texture Detail Low, Medium and High
As should be obvious looking at the above screen captures (cropped at 100%) Low Texture Detail is best avoided, unless you want to be transported back in time to 1998 when the original Half-Life
came out. Medium Detail doesn't look too bad - you can still see what everything is though it clearly isn't as sharp as High Detail (far right). There is some great visual humour in the game, so it would be a shame if you can't read the jokes.
Everybody should know by now what a dramatic different Anti-Aliasing can do for in-game visual quality, smoothing out hard edges and banishing ugly jaggies to the history books. Interestingly, the effect of different levels of AA vary from title to title. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
is one that doesn't require enormous amounts of AA, as most of the time you are either roaming around the countryside or creeping around in dungeons. Both scenerios lack large numbers of sharp edges with contrasting backgrounds - the worst case scenario for jaggies.
The Source Engine does well, compared with other FPS games, and even just 2xAA does a fair job of smoothing edges. Here you can see the difference between 0xAA and 4xAA - click the screenshots for full-size versions. It should be obvious that playing with AA is infinitely more enjoyable than without. However, not all Anti-Aliasing is the same, as we will demonstrate...