Designed as a showcase for DirectX11, Heaven provides a fully realised, outdoor 3D environment filled with lush vegetation and highly detailed models. The floating islands are dotted with dragons, dirigibles and other surprises lovingly rendered by an engine that supports ambient occlusion, stereo 3D, tessellation and other advanced features that are only just now starting to appear in top-shelf computer games.
The built in flyby test provides a score for comparison to other systems, but the real fun here resides in the open nature of Unigine's world; by taking down the fences and allowing users to explore they've made Heaven the Skyrim of benchmarking.
Using simple keyboard controls familiar to most gamers you can freely navigate the environment and alter just about every visual setting in real time; a more interactive and entertaining experience than a static flyby. This instant feedback allows you to easily separate the options that run smoothly from those that stifle framerates.
You can also alter the time of day (the gas lamps turn on at night), toggle the soundtrack on or off and select between several camera modes. Although designed for DX11, Heaven also supports DX9 and 10 along with OpenGL, making it a one stop tool suitable for a wide range of systems. It was written with higher-end rigs in mind, however, so you’ll need a beefy and fairly recent videocard to pass through Unigine's pearly gates.
While generally stable, a few curious situations occurred that suggest the code remains unfinished. Occasional DX11 error messages during startup on multi-display systems, clipping issues in free form movement and unimplemented features displayed in the settings tabs indicate a lack of polish and optimisation. Fortunately, these don't appear to impact accuracy or usability.
A fantastically expensive Pro version exists for close to $500 (£300), but the differences between the free and pro versions boil down to automation, data export, and commercial licensing, aspects more relevant to developers than to most gamers. While products such as 3DMark Basic may provide more comprehensive data and other frills, Heaven is faster to run, more flexible and definitely more fun. I also think it looks better than 3DMark Basic 11's murky underwater world. If you’re a gamer with a mid to high-end system and want to see what games will look like in a year or two, Heaven awaits.