Although I don’t play video games very much these days, my current favorite game is still Team Fortress 2, and it has been ever since its release. Seeing Team Fortress 2 come to the Mac last Thursday was truly awesome. Finally the Mac was starting to plug its last gap; video game support. I’d never played the original Team Fortress Classic game, perhaps having been too young to appreciate it at its pinnacle, however, after loading the hugely anticipated Team Fortress 2 (the game that had spent nine years in development) for the first time, I was immediately plunged into something very new and exciting.
Ever since I first heard of the idea of true 3D gaming, with depth and things popping out of the screen I was captivated, as any of my friends will tell you!
NVIDIA claimed to have created a set of glasses, that when coupled with a special 120Hz monitor, would transform any PC video game into an immerse 3D experience (all be it that some games would work better than others). It was an impressive claim which the reviews I read seemed to match.
I’ve had my Samsung 120Hz monitor and NVIDIA 3D Vision set for a couple of months now, so I feel that I’ve spent an appropriate amount of time to make a decent comment on the product.
I can completely confirm many of the things other reviewers write. Firstly, the installation of NVIDIA 3D vision is as simple as everyone makes it out to be. It’s a simple case of uninstalling your old graphics drivers, downloading the latest driver CD, installing, and quickly walking through the setup wizard. Then, any 3D game you load will automatically set itself to 3D mode, and you’ll be able to adjust settings using simple shortcuts at any time in the game on the fly. It really does just work.
But some games work better than others. The first game I tried was Half Life 2: Lost Coast. An old benchmark now, but with a NVIDIA 8800 GTS 640 Mb (doubling up to two GPUs using SLI should in theory allow one graphics card to be used per eye!) graphics card I was able to run the game in its highest resolution with all the graphics settings turned their highest and 3D vision enabled. And it looks incredibly good. The 3D effect works amazingly well with the Source engine games, with only minor problems involving the HDR effect, which can be turned off if wished.
So the effect then… What you will tend to find is that the effect creates more depth than it produces things popping out of the screen, but this depth is what gives the games an all-new immersive and realistic feel to them.
Lord of the Rings: Online, looked superb, and there was a very low hit on the performance for me. The depth really looks nice, and there’s a nice point at which close objects pop slightly out of the screen. I haven’t tried, as I’m staying well away from my World of Warcraft account, but I’m certain it’ll have an equally gripping 3D experience.
Some people have noted that it can be hard to see what the cursor is pointing at in games, but I hardly ever have a problem with this in games that the effect works well for anyway. For FPS games, NVIDIA has built in a system to replace the 2D cursor for some games with a dynamic 3D one, which gets around this problem. For games were it’s required to click on an object, I found that a 2D cursor over a 3D image works effectively anyway.
A general point is that the glasses do make everything you’re looking at a lot darker, so it’s necessary to turn the brightness up, and play around with the contrast. The good side to this is that it darkens everything in the room, which means you can focus much more on the game – making playing in the dark a whole lot more cinematic!
On the downside, the effect didn’t really seem to work for top down 3D games, such as The Sims 3 and Supreme Commander. The problem is that it becomes hard to focus your eyes on items that aren’t directly in front of you. These were the worst games that I’ve seen for the effect, but I’ve found it hard to find ones that don’t work well, so they’re part of a very small minority. I haven’t yet tried Age of Empires 3, which is supposed to work really well, and I can believe that some RTS games will, as I have been playing Warcraft 3: Frozen Throne, for which the effect works superbly. Because the terrain is the same level as the screen’s window, most of the objects in the game are projected out of the screen – which looks fantastic. Buildings pop out of the screen, catapults fire corpses in curved angles that come right out of the monitor before curving round and landing on their targets, and dragons sour high in the sky above anything else.
3D Vision can only ever add to the whole gaming experience, but you’ll tend to find yourself sticking only to games where the 3D effect works best. Furthermore, once you’ve been playing in 3D you’ll never be able to turn back, but the other side of the coin is that it is a very pricey upgrade to your experience. Having 3D is really just a single effect. It’s an incredibly well put together and effective, but it is still just a single effect, just like HDR lighting or ‘ragdoll’ physics; it’s another effect that adds depth and realism to games. It’s this reason that’s placing it more among enthusiasts than the standard consumer. For more casual gamers though, upgrading to 3D is certainly worth not upgrading your graphics card for, particularly as you won’t notice 2D effects such as anti-aliasing for a while with the glory of 3D. It’s also certainly worth considering if you’re in need of a new monitor anyway.
Overall it’s a superbly executed product that will only continue to improve both visually, and performance-wise, as NVIDIA continues to release new drivers, and developers work out ways of better supporting this technology within their games.