Nvidia has been working with Ubisoft for the past few months, making sure that a proper code path and support for shader model 3.0 is included with the latest FarCry patch. The new 1.2 patch will enable shader model 3.0 support and a dedicated code path for the GeForce 6800 series of graphics accelarators. Obviously all of Nvidia’s efforts were meant to improve image quality and performance. In the past few days we’ve been evaluating the 1.2 patch and can be nothing but enthusiastic about it. Overall image quality has improved, quite significantly here and there, I couldn’t find any wrong textures or awkward looking shading in the game. Performance has also been improved, dramatically in some areas, less so in others, but overall you’ll see a 10 to 15% performance increase in FarCry from installing it.
Does this mean the ATi cards run slow as a dog now? No, fortunately performance has improved across the board. Whether shader model 3.0 allowed Nvidia to have greater performance gains we can’t exactly tell, as we’re not able to determine where shader model 3.0 is used versus 2.0. What is clear though is the fact that Nvidia manages to get a greater performance boost from this patch than ATi. Whether this performance gain is mostly attributed to the FarCry patch or the new 61.45 drivers we can’t exactly judge, as the 61.45 driver is needed to enable shader model 3.0 support. What is clear however is that the combination of both is a winning combination.
Ubisoft should have this patch available for download next week, as we understand it is now being distributed to mirrors worldwide as the patch we received was already the final version, so it is basically ready to go. What we conclude from what we’ve seen though is that shader model 3.0 support helps improve performance by putting less overhead on the graphics processor when rendering complex scenes. This is best seen with rendering scenes where many, moving, light sources cast shadows on the walls or their surroundings, it is there where we saw the Nvidia cards gain a significant boost in performance.