Image Quality: DirectX 11 Enhancements, Cont'd.
Enough technical explanations: How much better does DirectX 11 look in DiRT 2?
Just so that you can see for yourself, we've taken a video of a benchmark run using both DirectX 9 and DirectX 11 and put them side-by-side for your viewing pleasure:
There you have it folks. And while this video is compressed and admittedly does not demonstrate the clarity and quality that you would see on screen, I can say with 100% confidence that in DiRT 2, the DirectX 11 code path offers no reasonable improvement in quality that would affect your enjoyment of the title while playing it.
While DirectX 11 has massive potential to enhance visual fidelity in future games, DiRT 2 is just not the killer app that makes the feature a must-have. This isn't because Codemasters did a bad job implementing it. Quite the contrary. There are two reasons why DirectX 11 enhancements aren't noticeable in DiRT 2: the DirectX 9 code path is just so damn good, and the star of the game is the cars, not organics.
Codemasters has done such a superlative job with the DirectX 9 engine improved from the game's gorgeous GRiD predecessor that enhancements to lighting and post-processing quality are academic at best. The DirectX 9 mode is just that good.
As for hardware tessellation, it is best used adding detail to organics, but this game is all about vehicles. A car doesn't need extra tessellated detail because a car is a static shell. With the cars being the focal point, tessellated flags, water, and fans are difficult to see, even when looking for the difference.
In fact, the only notable difference we saw between the DirectX 9 and 11 code paths isn't something we were looking for: there is a general blurriness in DirectX 9 mode that didn't manifest itself in DirectX 11. It almost appears as though there is a full-screen anti-aliasing (AA) filter as it blurs not only edges, but also textures. We hypothesize that this might be caused by DirectX 9 quarter-resolution post-processing, but we've asked Codemasters to clarify what is causing the phenomenon. Having said that, it's a subtle effect and in no way marred our gaming experience.