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Using 3D Vision Surround: The Lynchpin

Nvidia 3D Vision Surround: Is This The Future Of Gaming?
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Subjective reviews are challenging, because what I think is cool might not be as exciting for you. Don’t get me wrong. Performance is a big part of this story, and I’ll get into that shortly. But more than anything, 3D Vision Surround has to be evaluated on the experience it enables.

Fortunately, I’ve laid a little groundwork there by testing a number of games for the launch of 3D Vision last year. Today’s compatibility landscape is better in that there are more titles considered 3D Vision-ready. But others—even new games—simply don’t work well.

Generally Speaking

I enjoyed most of the games I played in 3D. You do lose a lot of light through the wireless active shutter glasses (as seen below), and this is particularly noticeable in already-dark titles like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and Left 4 Dead. Games showcasing more vibrant colors stand out. Far Cry 2 and Just Cause 2 both looked great, for instance.

With the glasses turned on, it's easy to see just how much light you lose to the shutter technology.With the glasses turned on, it's easy to see just how much light you lose to the shutter technology.

The glasses themselves were comfortable enough to wear for extended periods before, and my thoughts there haven’t changed. Naturally, kids with smaller heads won’t find them as snug, and that’s an issue my buddy’s son ran into. But the grown-ups who played around on my 3D Vision Surround system never complained about the form variable in this equation.

It must be said that the Acer displays aren’t my favorite. Their 2D clarity is merely OK, and you have to be looking at them from a very specific angle to get the best 3D picture possible—it’s not even in the middle of the screen. Rather, you almost have to have your eyes aligned with the top bezel. Purportedly, some of the other displays look a lot sharper. Alienware’s 23” OptX AW2310, for instance, has received praise, and only costs $50 more than the Acer screens.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 looks phenomenal. It is indeed one of those 3D Vision-ready titles, and it translates well to Surround. My benchmark sequence consists of the opening scene from World War II. In 3D, the waves splashing over the dinghy’s hull are probably the first thing you’ll notice. And with Surround, you get the wide field of view from both sides of the boat. The good news here is that it’s possible to enjoy this game with all of its effects enabled, giving you the best of DirectX 11 and 3D Vision Surround.

DiRT 2

Another popular title we’ve had in our suite for a while now, DiRT 2 actually doesn’t work with 3D Vision. I didn’t bother benchmarking this one as a result, but I did fire it up to see why Nvidia is recommending against playing it in 3D. Holy puke-fest, Batman. The company’s observations that shadows aren’t rendered correctly and lights aren’t projected correctly are right-on. There are issues with the dust and smoke that play havoc with depth. And after about three minutes, you really want to hurl. Nvidia is straightforward enough to tell you ahead of time though—this one doesn’t work.

Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2 launched before 3D Vision did. And yet, this one gets an Excellent label by Nvidia. That belies some of the compromises you need to make for an optimal experience, though. Setting Post FX to low means turning off DirectX 10 and dipping back to DirectX 9. Set shaders to Medium and turn off Bloom—those probably don’t have as adverse an effect. And when you’re viewing the game in 3D—a completely different experience anyway—it’s hardly noticeable. The fact that this game is so vibrant makes it easy to forget you’re losing light through the glasses and really enjoy the new perspective on gaming that 3D Vision Surround presents.

Crysis

Call it too old to matter, but Crysis remains a tested title in our suite. Unfortunately, the tool we use to measure performance with doesn’t do widescreen gaming resolutions, so we’re skipping the benchmarks here as well. And it’s just as well, because Nvidia tags Crysis with a Good rating, citing a number of quality compromises that need to be made, along with a couple of unavoidable artifacts that’ll likely have you playing Crysis in Surround 2D mode instead of 3D Vision Surround.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Despite its relative newness, CoD gets a Good rating too, due to some objects rendering at the wrong depth. Moreover, you need to use the Widescreen Fixer tool with this game. Otherwise, the field of view is stretched/distorted (this applies to AMD's Eyefinity technology as well, in all fairness). The only real change to make in Call of Duty is turning off the game’s Depth of Field option—everything else looks sharp.

Just Cause 2

Another 3D Vision-ready title, Just Cause 2 can be summed up in one word: sick. This was the game I showed to visitors who wanted to see what 3D Vision Surround was all about. It’s bright enough to diminish the effects of losing light to the shutter glasses, and the effects had my guests bobbing and ducking as if they were in danger of bonking their heads on a palm tree. “This is what I want for Christmas,” one friend quipped to his wife. “How much?” she asked. I patted him on the back. “Wishful thinking, man.”

Aliens Vs. Predator

Nvidia seems to struggle in the games it wasn’t able to affect prior to launch. Aliens vs. Predator isn’t exactly new anymore, yet it’s unrated by the latest driver and wholly unplayable. The fault here is leveled at this one being a game worked on by AMD. I was able to generate benchmark scores using the demo—and the playback actually looked great in 3D Vision Surround mode. Once I hopped into the actual game, though, the hand and gun appearing in front of your face is rendered incorrectly, making it nearly impossible to play.

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