Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/1677




For years, AMD has been talking about the positive impact that 64-bit will have on games. Honestly, we never bought it; games are still a couple of years away from breaking the 2GB process limitation under present day 32-bit Windows. Despite our lack of belief, AMD still did their best to convey the message that gamers would be given a better experience in a 64-bit environment.

AMD has been demoing 64-bit versions of the Unreal engine as well as Far Cry for quite some time now, but neither were ever made public. Originally, we heard talk of 20% increases in performance due to decreased register pressure when running in 64-bit mode. We desperately wanted to see a game recompiled with 64-bit support, but alas, we needed a 64-bit OS. Last month's release of Windows XP x64 Edition fulfilled the latter requirement, but we still lacked any games to test the hype.

The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay actually shipped with a 64-bit binary out of the box. Unfortunately, we saw absolutely no performance improvement from using the 64-bit binary vs. the 32-bit binary in our extensive evaluation of the x64 edition OS. If performance under Riddick was any indication, 64-bit wasn't going to be much of a performance sell for gamers.

Today, however, AMD and Ubisoft are announcing public availability of the first 64-bit patch and content update to Far Cry. As we just implied, the 64-bit add-ons to Far Cry come in two separate packages. First, there's the actual 64-bit patch that installs and enables a native 64-bit binary to run under x64 edition. The second package is the AMD64 Exclusive Content Update that improves the actual content in the game.

AMD listed the changes to the 64-bit version of Far Cry as follows:
All Levels
  • Improved terrain textures
  • Increased view distance
  • Offset bump mapping added for rock and stone objects
  • More insects and birds
On the Pier Level
  • New beach road with additional vehicle
  • Barrel storage camp
  • Opened more space to explore
Pier and Boat
  • New terrain textures with shader
Two New 64-bit only Multiplayer levels
  • Stronghold
  • Gorge
As you can probably already tell, none of the additions or enhancements have anything to do with 64-bit memory addressability. In fact, a fast GPU is all you really need to take advantage of most of these features - not a 64-bit CPU. The patched version of Far Cry doesn't even eat up more than 512MB of memory during normal gameplay, and supporting more insects and birds doesn't really depend on more architecture registers provided by AMD64 either. It's no surprise that none of the enhancements offered by the 64-bit patch have anything to do with a 64-bit CPU at all, but you have to add value somehow and this is how Ubisoft and AMD decided to do it.


Far Cry doesn't use more than 512MB of memory, even with the 64-bit patches.

Both patches are scheduled to be available to gamers starting today, free of charge, but of course, you must already have a copy of Far Cry to utilize them. The patch and the exclusive content update will only install under Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, so 32-bit XP Professional users will not be able to even install the additional content patch. Despite being very tightly associated with AMD, the new Far Cry patches will work on Intel EM64T enabled systems as well.


Despite the wording of the error message, the patches will work on Intel EM64T enabled systems - just not on 32-bit processors.

The patches themselves are huge, totaling over 1.5GB in size, so be prepared for a hefty download. Even after applying the patches, you can still run the 32-bit Far Cry executable, but doing so will not give you access to the additional features or new multiplayer levels.

The Far Cry patch also acts as a no-CD crack, it appears, as we no longer had to have our play disc in the drive to play the game after applying the 64-bit patch.



64-bit Far Cry Performance

For the most part, 32-bit games run at the same speed or slightly slower under x64 Edition compared to 32-bit Windows XP Professional. And from what we've seen with titles that have native 64-bit binaries (e.g. Chronicles of Riddick), there aren't any real performance gains to be had there either. In order to find out if Far Cry was any different, we looked at two separate platforms: an AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ and an Intel Pentium D 3.2GHz. All benchmarks were conducted with an ATI Radeon X850 XT and at 1024x768 with Very High quality settings enabled.

We compared performance under 32-bit Windows XP, as well as x64 Edition, while running both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Far Cry under the latter. We used our standard Far Cry demo that we've used in all other reviews, and in order to isolate the performance differences from the extra content, we only looked at performance changes with the first 64-bit patch installed - not the Exclusive Content Update.

Far Cry 64-bit vs 32-bit Performance Comparison

First, we see that the difference between running the 32-bit binary in XP Professional and x64 Edition is basically nothing. Next, there's a modest performance gain seen by the Athlon 64 X2 when using the 64-bit binary - we see a boost of 4%. Note that this sort of a performance improvement isn't noticeable at all to the end user, but there is a numerical advantage.

Interestingly enough, Intel actually does a little better - showing a 6.5% increase in performance. It's tough to say exactly why Intel gets more of a performance boost here, other than assuming that for whatever reason, Intel is facing more register pressure in our particular benchmark.

We're just happy that there is any sort of performance improvement at all - but to those looking for major increases in performance by moving to 64-bits, it's less and less likely to happen.



64-bit Far Cry Image Quality

Performance is only one aspect of the new Far Cry patches - the biggest impact will be visual. The visual improvements in the new patches are definitely noticeable, but not across the board.


Hold mouse over image to see the same scene with the new 64-bit patches applied.

And of course, there are the new levels that are only available to those running the 64-bit version:


Final Words

Although AMD and Ubisoft are definitely trying to provide 64-bit gamers with added value, it's honestly going to take games that depend on the benefits of a 64-bit OS to really sell the gaming population on 64-bit. For fans of Far Cry, there's no reason not to try the new patches, but we wouldn't expect a mass exodus to x64 Edition because of the content that's been enabled here.

AMD's goals are quite admirable, but the fact of the matter is that none of the visual improvements enabled by the Far Cry patches had anything to do with AMD64 or EM64T. They are artificially limited to run on those platforms alone, but could work just as well on a 32-bit platform.

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