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mat_dxlevel changes the DirectX mode used within a Source game. The player is only able to use modes that their hardware supports. The format is

 mat_dxlevel [DirectX version]
 mat_dxlevel 70
 mat_dxlevel 80
 mat_dxlevel 81

For DirectX 9 the value depends on the hardware's capability:

 mat_dxlevel 90 - DX9 with Shader Model 2
 mat_dxlevel 95 - DX9 with Shader Model 3

This can also be specified with Launch Options, use +mat_dxlevel [DirectX version] on the launch options of any Source game to do so. Alternatively, you can use -dxlevel [DirectX version], however this specifies a number of extra presets, including resolution and quality.

See Also

DirectX Versions