Review Index:

Pixel Shader 3.0 in Motion: FarCry 1.2 Patch Test

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

GeForce 6800 Ultra - Fort Demo

Our Testing Methods

With all the controversy of graphics testing in the past six months, it would be insane for me to present these numbers to you without telling you exactly how they were tested.  All three demos that you will see used in FarCry (Fort, Dam and Regulator) were recorded using the in-game "demorecord" function in the developer mode of the game.  During the demo record, and while in god mode, the enemies of FarCry do not interact with the player, so I chose levels in which there were a lot of characters and in-game character interaction if possible.  The recorded demos are therefore actual gameplay, just in a very repeatable form.  The demos were played back and benchmarked using the latest version of FRAPs to get the framerates and framegraphs.

You will see two types of graphs presented at each resolution as well.  The first is a time-based line graph that shows the framerate of the game being run at each second in time.  This graph will give you the overall feel of the gameplay and how well the card performs over the life of the demo.  You will notice one thing as these graphs progress: the lines for each test may not end at the same time.  This is because the demos took shorter amounts of physical time to run and playback: where SM3 might take 200 seconds, SM2 might take 220 seconds, and thus the line graphs will not match up exactly.  However, the inflection points of each line on the graph WILL have a corresponding point on the other line and it should be easy to see where this occurs.

The second graph is a bar graph that tells you the average framerate, the maximum framerate, and the minimum framerate.  The minimum and average are important numbers here as we want the minimum to be high enough to not affect our gaming experience.  While it will be the decision of each individual gamer what is the lowest they will allow, comparing the Min FPS to the line graph and seeing how often this minimum occurs, should give you a good idea of what your gaming experience will be like with this game, and that video card on that resolution. 

Reading benchmarks has never been easier, right?  :)

Our Test Setup

Pentium 4 Test System Setup


Intel P4E @ 3.4 GHz


Intel 875DP Motherboard

Power Supply 

Antec 460 watt


2x512MB Corsair PC4000 DDR

Hard Drive

40GB 7200RPM Western Digital EIDE

Sound Card

Creative Labs Live!

Video Card

NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra
NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT

Video Drivers

NVIDIA 61.45 (w/ SM3.0 support)
ATI Catalyst 4.6

DirectX Version

DX 9.0c

Operating System

Windows XP w/ Service Pack 2

FarCry - Fort demo

The Fort demo that we are using was custom made by me for our in-house testing.  It starts in the beginning of the Fort level and walks through the level making sure to include all items and characters in view as often as possible.  This is mostly an outdoors level, thus making it harder on the graphics system than doing an indoor one.  It takes place mostly in the dense jungle. 

This is the easiest test we threw at these graphics cards, running with no AA or AF and a resolution of 1024x768.  The new SM3.0 path gets a slight edge, with the Average FPS coming in at just 2 FPS higher. 

Notice that the blue line on the graph above, completes before the red line.  This means the time it took for the demo to complete in Shader Model 3.0 mode was smaller, which makes sense.  Even with all the eye candy turned on, the 6800 Ultra is able to keep the framerates high on 1024x768 for a good gaming experience.  The SM3.0 path again doesn't offer a big increase in performance, but 3 FPS on the average is good for a free upgrade.  Notice that the Max FPS went up by 8 FPS, but the Min FPS stayed about the same.

Pumping up the resolution gives us a better view of the SM3.0 path in the new FarCry 1.2 patch.  Looking at the time graph, the framerate is kept above 40 the entire time, making 1600x1200 a very playable resolution.  The Avg FPS sees a 5 FPS gain on the shader 3.0, and the minimum FPS stays a bit higher as well. Judging from the time line graph above it, it keeps the Min FPS higher for a significant portion of the end of the demo.

Here we begin to see some big differences in the shader model 3.0 path -- with the resolution cranked up to 1600x1200 and with all the eyecandy on at 4xAA and 8xAF.  The Avg FPS gets a nice boost from 47.5 to 58.5, a 23% increase in performance!  The Min FPS, very important for playability, goes from 27 to 36, a 33% increase!  This new FarCry 1.2 patch with SM3.0 enabled turns this resolution's playability from questionable to almost certainly, depending on your individual preferences. 

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