The DX9 gaming era is upon us
Recently we asked you, the readers of FiringSquad, just which games you’d like to see us incorporate into our suite of benchmarks. Besides EA’s upcoming Battlefield 1942/Vietnam successor, Battlefield 2, the predominant answer was without a doubt Vivendi/Starbreeze Studios latest shooter, Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay.
Based on the recent Hollywood movie (the events in the game take place before the movie), in Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay you’ll play the role of Vin Diesel himself, Richard Riddick, as he attempts to escape from Butcher Bay, a triple max security prison that makes Alcatraz look like “Camp Cupcake”, the minimum security prison in West Virginia that currently serves as the home for Martha Stewart and 1,054 other women.
But Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay isn’t your typical shoot ‘em up first-person shooter with repetitive gameplay, as the game combines action, stealth, adventure, and RPG elements all into one package. In our review of Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, Jakub went on to say “this is the game Doom 3 should have been”, ultimately earning our Editor’s Choice Award and a 93% rating. But we weren’t the only ones who fell in love with the game, as a number of you have written in with your own glowing reviews of the game, while numerous other publications for both the PC and Xbox have been equally impressed with this game, earning a 91% overall score on GameRankings.com.
Much like CryTek came out of nowhere with Far Cry in 2004, and Infinity Ward with Call of Duty at the end of 2003, Starbreeze Studios appears poised to do the same this year with Chronicles of Riddick, especially with its incredibly low $30 price tag.
Graphically, Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay is a definite treat in the eye candy department. While the game was originally launched for the Xbox, Starbreeze has adopted their custom Starbreeze Engine used by the game to take advantage of 2.0 pixel and vertex shaders. Like most recent shooters, Chronicles of Riddick takes advantage of normal maps, while the game’s “2.0++” mode enables soft stencil shadows for GeForce 6 users (although this comes at a remarkable performance hit, which you’ll see in our benchmarks). Rumors have persisted that the game supports 2.0b and 3.0 shaders as well, but to the best of our knowledge, this isn’t the case, and with rumors that Starbreeze is already working on their next engine for PlayStation 3/Xbox Next, it’s doubtful this would be added to the game now that it’s finished.
How we test
With so much going for it, we knew we had to find a way to incorporate the game into our test suite. But unfortunately, unlike DOOM 3, Half-Life 2, and Far Cry, Chronicles of Riddick doesn’t provide a “timedemo” mode for benchmarking, nor does it provide demo recording/playback capability.
UPDATE 2/27/05: It has come to our attention, that Chronicles of Riddick does feature a timedemo mode for benchmarking, and the commands are similar to those used by DOOM 3. Simply type "CTRL ALT ~" to bring down the console and use the "timdemo" command to initiate timedemo mode.
So how are we able to run consistent benchmarks with the game if we can’t run 100% repeatable demos for playback? Simple, we improvised. Chronicles of Riddick has a number of areas within the game where you can attain consistent results, but we don’t want to get into specifics, as we wouldn’t like to see graphics card manufacturers tuning their drivers specifically for areas/maps that we list in this article. We will say that our test sequence combines both outdoor and indoor areas, with lots of shadowing involved. We’ve provided our FRAPS log so you can see that our sequence is indeed reliable, the system used consists of a GeForce 6800 GT running at 1024x768 (no AA or AF) on an Athlon 64 4000+.
In three test runs, we got a pretty steady average (well under 1 frame per second separates the three fps scores), with consistent figures for our maximum and minimum frame rates as well.