When Ubisoft released the newest title in their Splinter Cell series of stealth-action games earlier this year, there was a certain amount of controversy surrounding the visual effects the game supported. Or, perhaps more aptly put, the controversy was based on the fact that Chaos Theory shipped with no support for Shader Model 2.0, largely viewed by the online graphics community as an inflection point for games coded to support DX9-level technology since it is supported by both ATI and NVIDIA hardware, whereas only the latter's chips currently support SM3.0. The shader profiles found in the shipping game supported SM1.1 and SM3.0, which left those owning graphics boards based on ATI chips limited to the 1.1 profile and its lack of additional features, such as parallax mapping and high quality soft shadows. These visual effects were considered to be artificially, and unfairly, limited to the SM3.0 profile, and various message boards hummed with conspiracy theories and rumors as to why Chaos Theory shipped in such a state. Yet now with the recently released 1.04 patch for the game, an additional shader profile for SM2.0 support has been added to the game, available only for ATI hardware, and this article will detail the shader profile performance differences using an ATI Radeon X800 XT and a NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT graphics boards. Before digging into the benchmark results, however, a brief overview of the shader profiles and features supported in Chaos Theory would be appropriate.
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