Is Vista Good for Gaming?

Three reasons Windows Vista is terrible for gaming ... and six reasons why it's great

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3. Lack of DirectX 10 games. Incompatibilities are awful, but perhaps the greatest flaw with Vista gaming is the fact that, as of March 2007, not a single DirectX 10 game has been released. And none are close to being released. The sad truth for gamers is that it will take at least six months for Windows game developers to finish the DX10 titles that are currently under development. Crysis is one of the titles gamers are most excited about, but it's not scheduled for release until late 2007.

This means that during this half-year waiting period, there really isn't any reason for gamers to switch to Windows Vista. However, users with DX10 video cards such as nVidia's GeForce 8800 GTX or GTS may experience gaming satisfaction with older games on the new operating system. Microsoft and numerous outlets have indicated that DX10 video cards have provided nice performance boosts for DX9 video games. Our tests have confirmed this, showing frame rate boosts in F.E.A.R. and Supreme Commander.

Six reasons Windows Vista is good for PC gaming

1. DirectX 10. Without a doubt, Vista's support for DirectX 10 is the primary reason why gaming in the Windows environment will transcend gamers' wildest dreams and far exceed the visual quality of even the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. "When DX10 games come out, the end result will be a significant increase in visual fidelity," said Microsoft's Donahue.

This means a marked increase in the number of objects and/or characters on the screen at a time, as well as dramatic impact on the level of background detail -- trees, water, stars -- in outdoor and indoor environments. It also means, for example, that characters' clothing and fur will flap in the wind. Based on the early gameplay screenshots released for DX10 games such as Crysis, the impact of this new version of DirectX is quite clear even at a glance. (See the comparative scenes from Age of Conan: The Hyborian Adventures below.)

This increase in graphical quality is the result of a number of enhancements in DirectX 10 code, operations and resulting capabilities. As an example, a brand-new shader model (Version 4.0) in DX10 allows for more detailed and nuanced 3-D graphics. (A shader guides GPUs in defining 3-D objects with colors and/or textures.) DirectX 10 is such a leap forward in graphics technology that Microsoft has actually included the old version of DirectX -- Version 9 -- in Windows Vista along with this new version. In fact, Vista's much-vaunted Aero interface actually runs on DirectX 9.

To take advantage of this new functionality, gamers will have to purchase new DX10-compatible 3-D graphics cards, such as nVidia's GeForce 8800 series. On the downside, these cards cost between $400 and $600. On the upside, nVidia will likely announce and release lower-end versions of these graphics processors sometime over the next few months.

vistagames_conandx9.jpg
A scene from Age of Conan: The Hyborian Adventures as seen in DX9.
vistagames_conandx10.jpg
The same scene when viewed in DX10. Both images courtesy of GamePro.com.
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