Metro 2033 Image Quality Followup

Is there a problem with NVIDIA's new GeForce GTX 480/480 video cards in Metro 2033? We investigated the potential issue and contacted NVIDIA for their insight, and you may be surprised by what we found out.

Image Quality Issues in Metro 2033?

After our Metro 2033 DirectX 11 Gameplay Performance and IQ evaluation published, one of our readers and forum posters directed our attention to a Metro 2033 piece posted at Xbit Laboratories regarding an IQ discrepancy apparently between AMD’s Radeon HD 5000 series video cards and NVIDIA’s new GeForce GTX 480 video cards. Xbit’s piece included a response from developer 4A Games’ Oles Shishkovtsov regarding the issue:

No, the observed difference in quality is not due to the performance of the graphics cards. Indeed, graphics cards from Nvidia and ATI render the scene differently in some antialiasing modes. We are trying to find a way to correct this issue. Again, this has nothing to do with speed.

We proceeded to attempt to verify the problem on our equipment, and we were successful. It certainly appears that there is a problem on the GTX 480/470 that causes diminished visual quality in Metro 2033 in certain rendering modes. Consider the following screenshot:

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For the screenshots resulting in both halves of that image, we ran Metro 2033 at 2560x1600, with 16X AF, the "Very High" Quality setting, and AAA enabled. Tessellation was turned on, and Advanced DoF was turned off. The left hand side of that comparison is from a screenshot taken on a GeForce GTX 480, the right side on a Radeon HD 5870. You don’t have to look very close to see the difference, but you do have to look at them side by side. During gameplay with the camera’s motion blur and object motion blur in action, the difference amounts to nil. Nevertheless, it is still an issue.

Looking a little further, we configured both video cards down to the "High" Quality setting, which produced the screenshot comparison below.

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The difference vanishes. So this issue is specific to the "Very High" Quality setting, which lead us initially to believe that AAA or some other shader or effect used with the "Very High" setting.

We reached out to NVIDIA about this issue, and they responded thusly:

Apparently this is an app bug. It is visible in AAA mode only on GTX480/470. And in MSAA mode on both GTX480/470 and Radeon 5000 series. 4A Games are working to address this bug. I would guess the ETA is about 2 weeks or so.

So there you have it. NVIDIA is aware of the issue, and they say it is an application problem, not a driver or hardware problem. They also said that it affected AMD video cards as well, if MSAA was enabled. So of course, we looked at that too.

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The above screenshot was taken with both video cards using 4X MSAA on the "Very High" Quality setting. As you can see, there is no difference in image quality.

So NVIDIA’s answer seems to be accurate. The issue affects the "Very High" Quality setting only. If you are using Analytical AA, it only affects the GeForce GTX 480 and GeForce GTX 470. If you enable 4X MSAA, it also affects the Radeon HD 5000 series video cards.

The Bottom Line

What started out looking like it could have been a tasty issue turns out to be a non-starter. No Quake / Quack issue here. It is not a hardware problem, it is not a driver problem, and it is definitely not NVIDIA trying to cheat and boost framerates by diminishing image quality. It is an application bug and the developer is aware of it and working on it. A resolution should land whenever the game’s next patch lands, which NVIDIA estimates at "about 2 weeks or so."

As always, thanks go out to our awesome community for pointing these fun things out.

Ongoing Discussion