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d1_canals_09, Pure Mode

The Canal map makes a heavy use of reflections and refractions on the water surface. During our demo a helicopter is dropping mines into water, causing alpha-blended sprays and explosions. Additionally, the sun in the scene is also blended using a special pixel shader. Experts say the rendering speed of this scene is primarily limited by the water shader speed, and all the scenes in the game that use the same water shader with refractions and reflections are likely to behave in the same way.

Initially we tested this demo with “reflect world” setting instead of “reflect all” setting in the game; typically the difference between “reflect all” and “reflect world” may be found on levels with water, which is why on levels with no water you will hardly notice any substantial differences. Still, even with “reflect all” enabled, the situation with performance in terms of ranks for different VPUs did not change.

This time the new-generation graphics cards from ATI deliver an excellent performance in all the display modes. Even the 12-pipelined RADEON X800 PRO provides playability, yielding 70 frames per second in 1600x1200 resolution. Alas, the competing solutions from NVIDIA behave worse, and the GeForce 6800 Ultra, the topmost model, is the only member of the NVIDIA team to have a high speed in all the resolutions. The GeForce 6800 GT is fast enough in two first resolutions only, and the GeForce 6800 only shows an acceptable result in 1024x768.

This probably comes as the performance of a graphics card in this scene directly depends on the speed of the water-imitating shader. Cards from ATI Technologies have been traditionally good at processing pixel shaders which are rich in complex math1ematical computations. Added the higher GPU clock rates, they ensure their victory in this test.

Note also that the RADEON 9800 XT graphics card, with a GPU of the previous generation, almost matches the speed of the NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT and is clearly faster compared to the GeForce 6800 and GeForce 6600 GT; RADEON 9800 PRO. Unfortunately, we did not have RADEON 9600-series in our possession to test them, however, the RADEON 9500 PRO typically performs in line with the RADEON 9600 XT and, based on the scores in pure mode in mid-resolution, it does not seem that with everything set to the max the RADEON 9500- and 9600-series are really rapid performers in the Half-Life 2 Canals 09 map.

Graphics cards of the GeForce FX family seem to be doing fine, but don’t forget that they’re working in the DirectX 8.1 mode and thus do not provide the same image quality as modern DirectX 9.0 graphics cards do.

As for the cards with the PCI Express interface, it’s the same as with the AGP hardware: top products from ATI Technologies are in the lead, and the RADEON X700 XT is as fast as the much more expensive GeForce 6800 GT. The RADEON X600 XT cannot run this game at a comfortable speed even in the lowest resolution.

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