Dead Space: Performance Analyzed

Image-Quality Settings, Cont'd.

High quality also turns on the game's AA option. It is here that the title's console development roots come into play, as it doesn't seem to allow for hardware AA, instead using what appears to be a blur shader on only some of the aliased edges. Because it doesn't work on all aliased edges, some edges are blurry and others are jagged. Even the edges that are smooth look blurry and out of focus. It's a strange and unfortunate situation that graphics card AA isn't supported, while forcing AA through the GeForce or Radeon drivers has no effect in the game.

However, even with these annoyances, the game looks very good with High Detail selected and the Medium Detail setting also noticeably enhances the graphics. Avoid the low-quality setting if possible, though.

Image Quality: Radeon Versus GeForce

We scrutinized both GeForce and Radeon screen captures and came to the following conclusion: the image quality is identical for all intents and purposes. Even zooming in close provided us with no discernable differences, which is very good.

The AO option in the GeForce 185.85 driver

Nvidia has added a little spice to its latest drivers with its AO option. As we mentioned in our Burnout Paradise performance analysis last month, AO is an illumination algorithm that simulates many aspects of ray tracing. It can illuminate the entire scene globally while highlighting the way that light has a difficult time penetrating confined or closed spaces like cracks, thus creating lighting that appears much more realistic.

The big difference here is that, unlike Burnout Paradise, Dead Space has no built-in AO option. Nvidia has taken it upon itself to add this feature to its drivers and it will work with specific games as long as Nvidia has included support for the title.

It's a shame that this feature can't work globally for every game, but it's hard to complain about a free feature that the competition doesn't offer at all. Fortunately, Nvidia's driver team is fairly efficient about adding profiles for new features. And because Nvidia has close ties with a number of developers, it will likely soon integrate AO support for more titles.

Now that I've built it up past any realistic expectation, here's the difference the AO feature offers in Dead Space:

That doesn't look nearly as exciting as I made it sound, does it? The difference is subtle, probably because Dead Space already makes good use of a lighting model that accentuates shadows and depth.

Having said that, the depth is superior with AO enabled. Pay close attention to the bottom of the character's back and the extra depth that the setting provides. By looking at the walls at the top of the image and to the left, you can see once again that there's definitely some shading added in the deeper cracks and crevices.

Is this a game changer? No. And as we'll see later, it comes with a substantial performance hit. But if you're hardware is powerful enough to turn it on at your gaming resolution, I would definitely advocate doing so.

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  • anamaniac
    "Mushkin PC3-10700
    3x 2,048 MB, DDR3-1066, CL 8-8-8-19
    at 1.8 V"

    This is a mistake, right?
  • anamaniac
    Interesting article.

    Deadspace does seem like a decent game, but it was too much for me.
    Tried sitting down to play it a few times, but I just couldn't take it.

    And yeah, the game can play on some junk hardware.
    800x600 res, minimum settings.

    First time I saw one of those creatures, I just wasted ammo. WTF WAS THAT!?!?!
    Pentium D 2.8GHz, 1GB DDR2 533, Nvidia 7500LE 256MB.
    It played. Average framerate was bad, but the minimums were kinda bad, yet still possible.

    Nice to see what I may be able to crank it up to now with my 4670, though a couple gigs of ddr2 800 will be a nice bonus if I find the will to spend my rent money...
  • Andraxxus
    It can play fairly well even on a E6300@1.86Ghz with 1GB DDR2 667 and Nvidia 7600GT but I never finished it.
  • tacoslave
    im ashamed to say this but i jumped when one of those things came at me out of nowhere...
  • axilon
    One of the few games that sucked me in. I do NOT recommend playing it at 3am, the dreams I had....
  • microdots
    9600gt plays this game great
    awesome game regardless tho. everything is very well done, its easy to tell that the developers took great time in perfecting every portion in the levels and environment. as from what i remember it defiantly lived up to its hype. i still haven't beaten it either along with being super cool its also pretty difficult but totally worth the money; a true gaming experience.
  • Ciuy
    so in the end AO = bad. Unless u got to much fps .
  • Kill@dor
    I don't blame you for being scared to try this game out...its really something else ^_^ Very well made game in my opinion
  • rags_20
    I was thinking of trying it. Is it really that scary? I mean, if you turn down the volume, it shouldn't be as scary.
  • Roffey123
    It was the soundscape in the game that got me, I'm used to the monsters and such, but the ambience really got to me - so I never really got far. Perhaps I should summon the courage up for it again.
  • cinergy
    So you have your nvidia optimized game reviewed now (and of course not showing ATI driver version used, which is probably old). Fine. Next time you could put directx 10.1 exclusive game and show how badly nvidia performs there. And no old drivers trick this time!
  • roorunner
    Thank you for the article. Reading it and following your links, I found my favorite game of all time supports this! And I am glad I have Nvidia graphic cards! Tonight - updating the drivers and taking the game for a testdrive! Thanks!!!!
  • Lans
    cinergy, I don't disagree with you on the Nvidia bias or DX10.1 . :)

    Being an AMD/ATI fan myself, you are inherently favor one vendor (Nvidia) over another (ATI) when you have exclusives on features that not all vendors support. Still, it was informative to me and it is not the reviewer's fault that not all vendor support said feature.

    As far as I know, this site is not among the few that had an in-depth look at Assassin's Creed and DX10.1 mess. Now with DX11 looming, maybe we'll finally see a DX10.1 review in form DX11 preview? :)

    I guess you can call the selection of which features to cover and which not to cover clear favoring Nvidia at the moment...
  • avatar_raq
    It's nice to do performance analysis for games, but it'll be nicer if its done soon after their release, I finished this game twice (one @1280x1024 and the other @1920x1080) before this article!
    Nevertheless, keep up the good work.
  • daft
    considering that the game was released back in october.....
  • nerdherd
    I think this is a great article. I would LOVE to see an article done like this for more major game releases closer to their actual release date! Maybe even a few days before the game gets officially released? That would be awesome.
  • megamanx00
    Poor little 4650. I played this game on high with one 3850 at 1680x1050. Anyway this article is a little late, but better late than never. Dead space is an awesome game. It seems like NVIDIAs new AO option doesn't really do much for it.
  • cleeve
    daftconsidering that the game was released back in october.....

    Aha, but in October Nvidia's new AO feature wasn't here, now was it? Read the first page of the article.

    As far as thwe next game, I'm gunning for Red Faction: Guerilla
  • cleeve
    Lanscinergy, I don't disagree with you on the Nvidia bias or DX10.1 . Being an AMD/ATI fan myself, you are inherently favor one vendor (Nvidia) over another (ATI) when you have exclusives on features that not all vendors support.

    See, I *do* disagree with you guys. There is no Nvidia BIAS here, I simply wanted to see what their new feature can do. And if it turned out to be good, it's exposure and reviews like this that can spurn AMD to looking at including such a feature themselves.

    Also guys - if there was a bias, wouldn't I have been screaming from the rooftops that it was the best thing sincle sliced bread? I'm pretty sure I let folks know the feature was best left off unless you happened to have a graphics card that could handle it easily.

    DirectX 10.1... now, that's a great feature, but I'm waiting for a new, killer title to exploit it. Tom Clancy's HAWX shows a great improvement with Dx10.1, the visuals are awesome. The problem is that the game sucks, so I'm not going to waste time on an in-depth analysis of something I wouldn't recommend. Assasin's Creed, well, I missed the boat on that one because this series is relatively new, but I'm hoping Assasin's Creed II will give give us another chance.

    Similarly, Nvidia is trying to tell everyone how great PhysX is, and I keep reminding everyone it's a useless feature in 99% of the games it's been included in. Mirror's Edge would be the closest thing to a must-have title for that feature, but with PhysX looking to be included in future DirectX APIs when physis becomes more mainstream, I'm not sure Nvidia will have any lasting advantage there. Too far ahead of the curve.

    As for CUDA... mreh. Still haven't seen anything that makes me say "wow".
  • jwl3
    How appropriate. I just downloaded the game last week and started playing. Despite all the positive reviews, the game doesn't draw me in for the following reasons:

    1) the controls suck. I cannot even assign my usual arrow key buttons to movement what the f?

    2)It takes me two button presses to get my weapon out. Why? Why? Why? Why can't I just use my left mouse button to fire? Why must I bring up the rig and then fire? And forget about changing weapons. You literally have to put your weapon down, change weapons, click ok, bring new weapon up, and fire. Are you effing kidding me???

    3) the third person perspective is awful. Not only is it nauseating, the fun of FPS's is that you feel like you're the person in the game.

    4) The zero-gravity sites are annoying. I'm relieved when those parts of the game are over - they're tedious as all heck.

    5) Again with the controls, you'd think using a health pack was easy, Nope. Open inventory, select health pack, select use, close inventory. Wow.

    I can't count the number of times I've had to reload the level cause I couldn't switch to the appropriate weapon in time. Get a freaking clue EA. I used to be a huge fan of EA, buying 10 of their games each year. Until they screwed PC users by canceling all the EA sports games for the PC. I swore from that point on that I wouldn't buy another EA game (produced or distributed or whatever). I'm glad I didn't buy this POS game.