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PC Report: DiRT Showdown on Linux

By Soeb on Dec 21 2015 03:00 PM in Port reports
PC Reports are a series of quick first impressions regarding the technical aspects of a PC game. This report was written by PCGamingWiki contributor Soeb. For an up to date account of DiRT Showdown fixes and improvements, please visit its respective PCGamingWiki article.

DiRT Showdown is the first Codemasters racing game to receive a Linux release. Available first on Windows on May 24, 2012, it came out for Linux on August 17, 2015, brought over by Virtual Programming. Most recently on 10 December GRID Autosport, another Codemasters release, came to Linux. We have now released a Linux report for that title as well, which you can find here.

System requirements


Windows

  • CPU: Intel Pentium D 3.2 GHz, AMD Athlon 64 X2
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce 8000 Series, ATI Radeon HD 2000 Series, Intel HD Graphics 2500
  • OS: Vista, 7

Linux

  • CPU: AMD Athlon 64 x2, 3.2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
  • RAM: 4 GB
  • GPU: Nvidia, AMD, 1 GB of VRAM, OpenGL 4.1 compatible
  • OS: Ubuntu 14.10, Mint 17.1
Rather unusually, the game mentions no specific GPU requirements on Linux. Asking only for OpenGL 4.1 compatibility, one could expect a broader range of support, for once not relying on higher-end equipment - though still bumping the Linux version ahead by several generations of GPUs. Unfortunately, this is followed up by the usual disclaimer that Intel cards are not supported at the moment - though this is stated as purely a drivers limitation, and something that will be resolved in the future. Additionally, you'll need a slightly better processor, and double the RAM too.

The following report is based on experience of playing the game on a machine with an Intel Xeon E3-1241v3, 12 GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GTX 770 with 2 GB of VRAM, on Window 7 SP1 64-bit (driver version 359.06) and Ubuntu 15.10 64-bit (driver version 358.16).

A copy of the game was purchased using my own funds.

Graphical features


Dirt Showdown supports every graphical feature present on Windows, without exception.

video


Of course, the same can't be said for all additional features. Once again, additional forms of anti-aliasing besides MSAA are unavailable. Furthermore, the game's native support for Nvidia 3D Vision is not present on Linux, due to lack of driver support.



Performance


I'm always curious to see how well a port does in comparison with Windows. While the usual expectation is a general loss, on some level, there's always the hope a port may end up differenty - and in this case, I was very surprised with the results. The following charts are based on the default benchmark provided. Error bars represent the minimum frame rate.

presets.svg


From the various AAA ports we've received over the past 2 years, this is the first time the Linux version gets better performance at any point, to the best of my knowledge - with a 50% performance gain over Windows on the lowest settings, and always maintaining some sort of a lead until the highest settings, where the game suffers a drop of about 13%. This can be alleviated by disabling advanced lightning and global illumination, bringing the port close to perfect parity in performance.

aa.svg


Interestingly enough with anti-aliasing, picking higher quality AA results in a smaller performance loss compared to Windows. Going to 8x multisampling AA costs you about 20% on Windows and only 12% on Linux - or closing the gap to just 5% between the systems. This speaks volumes of the progress done since the first Linux releases, and shows there's still a lot of potential for other ports.

More importantly, the frame time seldom strayed above 16.7ms even on highest settings - helping to avoid visible stutter and tearing. However, the game is still prone to occasionally - if very infrequently - fail to hit that target regardless of graphical settings. This situation is of course not ideal, as this means the game is more prone to stuttering. With that said, during the time I spent playing, I have not experienced any noticable stutter.

Experience


Of course, there's a lot more to look for in a port than just performance. Especially in a racing game, peripheral support is important.

Thanks to the use of SDL2, the game's controller support is superb. Unfortunately, this doesn't extend to wheel support. The game does not include built-in support for even the most popular of wheels. For some hardware the wheel needs to be bound to a standard controller layout using Steam Big Picture to work at all, but in many cases even this doesn't solve the issue and the game remains unable to use your wheel. One can hope this may still be resolved in future patches, and better wheel support could be added at some point.

When it comes to save games, the files are not cross-platform, and you cannot expect to reuse them when playing on another system. If you've already played the game previously on Windows, or if you're looking to continue your progress on a different system, this is not a possibility. On top of this, the save files are still going to be synced to all platforms, which means you will have to wait for cloud synchronization, without any benefits. However, at least in multiplayer full compatiblity is present, and you are able to play together with Windows and OS X users.

Conclusion


What can be said without a doubt is that for most players, the port provides a superb experience. While there are miles to go in many areas - wheel support absolutely should be present in a racing game, and in a much more approachable fashion than what's available here - in the least it makes up for it with well above average performance.

The port is not quite perfect, but still well ahead of other releases. Given the massive strides Virtual Programming have made since their first Linux port - after this, I'm looking forward to what they can bring next.

PC Reports are a series of quick first impressions regarding the technical aspects of a PC game. This report was written by PCGamingWiki contributor Soeb. For an up to date account of DiRT Showdown fixes and improvements, please visit its respective PCGamingWiki article.




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1 Comments

Photo
Mars icecream
Dec 28 2015 11:36 PM
I'm very much enjoying these Linux port reports. The benchmarks are particularly interesting, I'm waiting for a title that generally runs better on Linux. Really satisfied with this one.
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