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What does Vista mean for you?

On the eve of Vista's release in the UK, we take a look at what the OS means for PC gaming

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"The revolutionary change in the Windows Vista Display Driver Model means that DirectX 10 and Windows Vista are very closely linked", says Wickham.

So is Vista worth the extra expenditure? Well, yes and no. While it's easy to see Vista's release as a cynical money-making ploy, and while most games utilising DirectX 10 will still be playable on Windows XP with DirectX 9, it's also worth remembering that progress always comes at a cost. And if DirectX 10 delivers on its exhaustive list of revolutionary new features, then the extra outlay should be worth every penny. If not, there could be mass riots outside Microsoft's Seattle offices.

DirectX 10 is being vaunted as the best gaming graphics platform of all time, allowing programmers far greater control over a PC's hardware capabilities - using and abusing them to their full potential. Microsoft claim that developers will also be able to maximise the power of the GPU to far greater effect than before and as a result, create vastly advanced AI and larger, more complex worlds for us to explore.

Colour depths and video streaming are also promised to be infinitely superior to DirectX 9's, while characters will possess an incredible level of detail, allowing them to display human emotions with far greater realism than ever before.

What's more, all of this graphical splendour will apparently come with shortened loading times to boot. It all sounds great on paper but how soon and to what extent these new features will be implemented in the first generation of Vista-only games is yet to be seen.

One thing is for certain, though; if Vista manages to live up to its billing, then it looks like it'll provide an unprecedented leap forward in graphical quality and processing power for games driven by DirectX 10. "Users playing games programmed to take advantage of DirectX 10 will enjoy experiences beyond what people today consider to be next-generation," Wickham promises confidently.

GEARING UP
It's encouraging to note that Vista's capabilities are also raising the pulse of many of the world's leading games developers. "We're excited about the accessibility and usability options for gaming that Vista promises," says Randy Pitchford, president of Gearbox Software. "We're also very encouraged by Microsoft's intent to redouble their attention to the PC as a gaming platform. At Gearbox, we're more excited than ever about PC gaming. Microsoft's attention to PC gaming with Vista allows us to put even more attention towards it than we have in the past."

And with a raft of games in production set to harness both Vista and DirectX 10's awesome powers - including Crytek's dazzling Crysis, plus Hellgate: London, Age Of Conan, Company Of Heroes and Microsoft Flight Simulator X, with many more to follow - it seems that Gearbox aren't the only major developer getting excited by the potential of the new operating system. Meanwhile, PC gamers could perhaps neatly sidestep caring about Shadowrun or the ancient Halo 2 being exclusively tied to Vista - but the very thought of missing out on Remedy's Vista-only Alan Wake makes the blood run cold.

NIMBY?
Vista has also courted controversy among PC gaming enthusiasts due to its symbiotic relationship with the Xbox 360, which allows owners of the two platforms to challenge each other in head-to-head online confrontations via Windows Live Anywhere. In a move that may or may not further exacerbate the console wars, this is the first time such integration has been attempted. "Live Anywhere will connect you to your games, your friends, your entertainment, anytime, anywhere," promises Rich Wickham.

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