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Can Ageia's PhysX Card Bring Real-World Physics to Games?


Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, the game with which we tested and the only available game with PhysX support, is not a very good advertisement for Ageia's new physics accelerator technology. Presently, there are simply too many irregularities among the physics effects. These problems are especially apparent in network games when players that don't have the PhysX card are within visual range - a scenario that will likely occur often during online play.

Since the additional physics hardware is not mandatory, Ageia will need to make sure that its card enables more effects and is supported by a larger number of games. Now, the card falls far short of offering the jaw-dropping display of effects that would be necessary to speed the widespread adoption of the PhysX hardware. In the words of three independent onlookers, "Oh, is that it?"

Also, a database with patches to make games PhysX compatible is still missing. Considering that we're talking about the introduction of completely new hardware, it would have been a wise move to have this ready upon release. The short list of upcoming games is not really overly compelling, either. After all, the list of games that supported 3Dfx's Voodoo 3D accelerator was longer, and that company folded nonetheless.

Besides, we would have expected an add-in board based on completely new technology to come in both PCI and PCI Express flavors. At $299, the card is expensive. A GeForce 5600 Ultra with similar specifications is only worth about $100. In order for Ageia's card to become attractive for a broader audience, the price definitely needs to come down a lot.

As things stand now, we would venture to say that the Havok FX physics engine has a better chance of becoming established than Ageia's PhysX. Nvidia's announcement that future drivers will include hardware support for the Havok engine is definitely a point in that engine's favor. Ageia will need to achieve the same kind of presence in the market or risk its card being perceived as a beta project. If that happens, buyers will most likely decide to wait and see how compatibility and game support evolve. At any rate, what nobody needs is two technologies that are completely incompatible with one another.

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