Subjective Tests: The Hard Part
We’ll present the benchmarks shortly. Arguably more important to a product like this is how it actually looks, though. Amazing visuals might be a reason to tolerate a less-than-ideal frame rate. At the same time, a weak implementation would render great performance pointless.
Far Cry 2: Would Play In 3D
Far Cry 2 is one of those games with lush graphics, wide-open environments, and plenty of moving around to appreciate the depth of a stereoscopic solution like Nvidia’s GeForce 3D Vision. Overall, the visuals are compelling and there wasn’t any serious eyestrain to report while playing through the first several "go find this, kill that" tasks.
However, you do make some sacrifices in playing Far Cry 2 with the glasses enabled. We had to drop from DirectX 10 to DirectX 9 rendering, while turning post-processing effects to low and disabling Bloom in the name of compatibility. And because Far Cry 2 is normally such a "bright" game, it becomes all the more apparent that you’re wearing dark glasses when you play through the title and notice the tint.
The 3D technology was especially appreciated in the Jeep, where you really get a sense of the action inside the vehicle and everything else outside. Also, in a field of tall grass, the contrast between environmental objects near and far is impressive. The technology’s weaknesses surfaced when looking at clouds, which took on a shimmer around the outsides and when looking at the fire effects, which didn’t seem as receptive to depth as the other environmental components did. Of course, there’s also the fact that you have to turn down settings in order to get stereoscopic display working properly.
For one reason or another, our 64-bit Core i7 rig would load Crysis, but the game wouldn’t kick into stereo mode. As of this writing, there is a Crysis profile and Nvidia’s driver team apparently hadn’t seen any issues with the game, so this is one we’ll need to revisit.
World In Conflict: Would Not Play In Stereo
Perhaps less an issue with 3D Vision and more representative of the genre in general, World in Conflict, from our graphics test suite, isn’t really suited to stereoscopic play. Nvidia rates it a “Good” in its compatibility list, correctly observing that troop icons render at screen depth. When you consider how many characters may actually be on the screen at any given time, not having those icons at the right depth is actually distracting. It’s also necessary to turn off certain graphics features for maximum compatibility.
If you like to play RTS games with the bird’s eye view of the battlefield, there’s very little to gain by playing World in Conflict in stereo. If, on the other hand, you scroll farther into the action and play primarily from the ground-level, the depth does make some difference. All pluses and minuses considered, we’d just as soon skip this one with the 3D Vision glasses.
Left 4 Dead: Would Play In Stereo
This is the title Nvidia was using to showcase the 3D Vision technology when we previewed it a month ago—and we absolutely know why. Left 4 Dead is already a dark game, so the loss in brightness is hardly perceptible. Moreover, the effect of enabling 3D seems to be amplified when you’re in a dark room shooting zombies that are jumping up in your face. Because a lot of the action is close at hand (and not firing from across a ravine, as it is in Far Cry 2, for example), the addition of real depth is much easier to feel.
Again, the benefits don’t come without a couple of sacrifices, though. Two graphics settings have to be de-tuned in order for the game to work properly in a stereoscopic mode. Nevertheless, if there’s one title to make 3D Vision a must-have, it’s this one.
Call of Duty: World At War: Would Play In Stereo…
…especially if I were a more competitive gamer. You see, the in-game crosshair doesn’t get rendered correctly in stereo, so Nvidia builds in support for its own laser sight, which gets enabled by default (the alternative is running and gunning with no aim whatsoever). On top of always being on, even when you’re setting up options before firing the game up, the Nvidia crosshair is tightly grouped and deep into the monitor, resulting in what amounts to a true last sight on WWII-class weapons. This is great if you try to snipe with a Garand. But it is not so great if you’re on the receiving side wondering how the guy with the sidearm keeps picking you off from 100 yards away. The whole issue of problematic crosshair systems simply illustrates the challenges Nvidia faces with titles already shipping. In scrolling through the software-compatibility list, you'll notice that a number of games with some sort of targeting work better with Nvidia's properly-separated crosshair enabled instead.
Otherwise, the latest Call of Duty works well. You do have to turn off a couple of graphics quality settings, as with most of the games we’ve tested so far. And while we’re not fond of compromising available options in the name of simply working correctly, our (your) hands are tied on this one. In order to get stereo looking as good as possible, certain problematic features have to disabled. This is something Nvidia’s developer relations folks have committed to addressing in upcoming titles, but it remains a point of contention in today’s software.
Fallout 3: Would Play In Stereo
This was the first title we played that didn’t require any special settings in order to work properly. However, we’d recommend playing the title using Nvidia’s own crosshairs instead of the game’s. It’s hardly a surprise that Fallout 3 tends to be a fairly dark game given its post-apocalyptic setting. As with Left 4 Dead, that seems to be one of the key ingredients in a compelling stereo configuration. Overall, Fallout 3 looks superb in stereo with the 3D Vision glasses.
However, you’ll probably want to notch up the brightness. The glasses dim things far too much at default settings.
Unreal Tournament 3: Would Not Play In Stereo
Nvidia lists compatibility in Unreal Tournament 3 (UT3) as Excellent, yet you’ll still need to turn your World Details down to 3 (from a max of 5) before realizing what the company considers to be optimal compatibility. With that said, UT3 runs great in stereo mode. It’s not perfect, though.
The game is fast enough that this writer, who's fine on small ocean crafts, never had a problem with Half-Life 2 when it first came out, and doesn't mind the back seat on winding mountain roads, found himself disoriented after a run-and-gun death match session. There’s just too much going on to process the fight, the speed, and the extra depth. Given a choice of playing with 3D Vision or not, I’d as soon forgo the glasses for a shooter as quick as UT3.