Image Quality And Anti-Aliasing
Deus Ex: Human Revolution uses a modified version of the Crystal Dynamic game engine, most recently used on the PC in the Tomb Raider spinoff Lara Croft and the Guardian Of Light. The engine is updated for Deus Ex, with DirectX 11 features like soft shadows and tessellation added, in addition to FXAA and MLAA anti-aliasing support. Even without these features, the game is very attractive in DirectX 9 mode, as you can see in the following comparison:
Note the soft shadow effect on the bottom-left in DirectX 11 mode above. Tessellation and soft shadows are nice to have, but realistically, their effects are difficult to notice while you’re actually playing the game. So, owners of DirectX 9- and 10-class cards won’t feel compelled to upgrade for this title.
From a visual standpoint, the game looks great and the art direction is very slick. Our only complaint is that the character models look somewhat primitive at times, especially when the camera is focused on them during conversations.
FXAA and Morphological Anti-Aliasing (MLAA) in DirectX 11 mode
DirectX 9 mode has access to standard edge anti-aliasing, but DirectX 11 mode grants access to FXAA and MLAA. Both of these are post-process anti-aliasing filters that rely on graphics card pixel shader power to analyze the video output, look for aliased edges, and smooth them out as much as possible.
While Nvidia has offered FXAA code to developers for a little while already, AMD’s MLAA was previously only been available on Radeon graphics cards by forcing the feature with the Catalyst driver. This marks the first time AMD is sharing the MLAA code with a game developer.
There are two benefits to this approach: its vendor-agnostic (meaning it can be used on both Radeon and GeForce graphics cards) and it allows the developer to exclude the post-process AA effect from text and other informational displays that the filter would otherwise blur.
Having said all that, let’s compare the game’s AA modes: Edge AA, FXAA, and MLAA:
It’s interesting that MLAA output is somewhat similar to Edge AA in that textures usually remain aliased, except in rare cases. On the other hand, FXAA does a lot more work on aliased textures. Whether this is good or bad is a little subjective because FXAA does lose a little texture detail compared to MLAA. The good news is that the game accommodates both, and players can set their AA preference. As you’ll see in our benchmarks later, there isn’t a lot of difference between MLAA and FXAA with regard to performance.