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.

  • 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.