Deus Ex: Human Revolution Performance Preview

We secured an advance copy of Deus Ex: Human Revolution so that we could show our readers how the game will perform when it launches later today. We've given it a quick once-over with four different video cards. We have a full run-down of the game coming after it officially launches, but this is here to whet your appetites now!

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Image Quality

During our brief time with the game, we did manage to take some screenshots. For the purposes of this preview, we would like to show you some quick comparisons of two of the most prominent graphical features in this game: Anti-Aliasing and Tessellation.

Anti-Aliasing

There are no traditional multi-sampling or super-sampling anti-aliasing options in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. In the past, this might have been cause for open revolt, but times change. As it happens, DE:HR does have some other anti-aliasing options available. There is an "Edge AA" option, which is a shader-based technique similar to what we've seen in the past with games like S.T.A.L.K.E.R.. There are three FXAA levels ("FXAA Low", "FXAA Medium", and "FXAA High") which, as the name suggests, employ NVIDIA's FXAA shader technology. Lastly, this game sports an implementation of AMD's MLAA technology. For a long time, MLAA was exclusively enabled through AMD's Catalyst Control Center. Lately, however, it has been implemented by a few games. Shogun II has it, Deus Ex: Human Revolution has it, and we are told the upcoming title Battlefield 3 will have it. Let's take a look at these options.

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The top left corner of the above comparison depicts DE:HR with AA disabled, and it looks how we expect it to look. Even without zooming, there is ample evidence of aliasing all around the chair and window. Turning on the "Edge AA" option, it is obvious that the beams cutting across the window are smoothed, and the bars of the chair have been smoothed slightly as well.

With the "FXAA Low" option, there is a slight improvement over "Edge AA" on the chair, but the edges of the beams across the window are slightly less smooth. "FXAA Medium" generally improves both the chair and the window beams, and "FXAA High" improves them further still.

Interestingly, MLAA looks a little worse to our eyes than "FXAA High." We don't know anything yet about how MLAA is implemented in this game, but we're going to try to find out. But looking specifically at the further arm rest on the chair, there is some artifacting going on. Additionally, the overall level of contrast is reduces with MLAA, making the game look slightly less dynamic. In the above screenshot, it is easy to see how much darker the stenciled text on the crate (behind the chair) is with MLAA than with FXAA.

There was no performance difference to speak of between the "FXAA High" and "MLAA" options. In fact, "FXAA High" and "FXAA Medium" gave us the same performance as well. "FXAA Low" was about 1 FPS faster than "FXAA Medium", and "Edge AA" was similarly 1 FPS faster than "FXAA Low". Disabling AA completely gave us a 3 FPS increase in performance in the scene above.

So for now at least, FXAA looks to be a superior option in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, compared to MLAA. We will have more screenshots and analysis in our full evaluation of this game.

Tessellation

Deus Ex: Human Revolution uses tessellation where we believe it counts most: character meshes. Every person we encountered in this game had a wonderfully curvy, organic look to them. Even the mechanically augmented characters had smooth, sleek lines. It is quite noticeable. There may be other areas in which tessellation is used, but that where it sticks out to us.

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The screenshot comparison above depicts the main character, Adam Jensen. It is very easy to notice that his ears and suit are nicely curved and rounded with tessellation enabled. The back of his collar and the strap on his shoulder are most conspicuously rounded. This kind of thing really sticks out when playing the game. There is also hardly a performance hit at all for using tessellation. In this scene, we lost only 1 FPS by enabling tessellation. We have become so used to seeing polygonal human meshes in video games, it was actually quite striking to us to see them so smooth here. Again, we'll have more data, comparisons, and analysis in our complete evaluation.


Random Screenshots

The following screenshots were taken using an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570 at 1920x1200 with maximum in-game settings. We used "FXAA High" and 16X AF for these screenshots; Post-Processing and Tessellation were enabled, and Shadows were set to "Soft".

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The Bottom Line

There are no hard conclusions that we can draw yet regarding Deus Ex: Human Revolution, since the retail game is not yet released and we have not had the time to fully scrub the game to find the best way to test it. But for now at least, it looks like AMD's Radeon HD 6970 is the video card to beat, and it looks like NVIDIA's FXAA technology will give gamers a slightly better visual experience than AMD's MLAA technology. We will have more video cards, more information, more image comparisons, and more analysis as soon as we can get it to you in our full gameplay performance and image quality evaluation.

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