If you've been to your local movie theater lately you've probably noticed a resurgence in 3D films with the biggest blockbuster so far being Pixar's "Up" and the band U2 even releasing a concert film entirely in 3D with many more on the way. Some television shows and even sports games have even been broadcast in 3D. Luckily the technology has come a long way in the years since it last fadeda way and things are looking better than ever. This may not make for better content necessarily, but there is definitely a new major push from film and television studios to market this and get 3D in their products.
When 3D glasses were popular video game technology was brand new and nothing more than a few pixels running across the screen. Obviously games have come light years since then with games such as Crysis offering photorealistic quality graphics and massive immersive 3D worlds. Nvidia, the other major player in the graphics world, seeks to also ride this new 3D wave with their Nvidia 3D Vision technology this time bringing gamers into the current 3D craze.
I'm definitely one to keep up with the latest tech, it may not be always what's powering my system or what I use at home, but technology news I follow daily and obviously write about. Yet somehow Nvidia's GeForce 3D Vision went under my radar likely due to many new AMD products being launched at the same time such as Phenom II, Socket AM3 motherboards, and new graphics cards from ATI. I also hadn't read of it in any recent reviews and to be fair to my self, we haven't received as much Nvidia hardware for review lately as AMD. It's fair to say then that I had no bias or expectations for Nvidia 3D Vision coming into a meeting recently at QuakeCon and was a little surprised to see the 3D glasses they were showing off which I had heard of but hadn't seen anyone use as of yet.
We kicked things off with a game that has received rave reviews lately, Eidos's Batman: Arkham Asylum, which currently has over 90% score on average. The game is a third-person action-stealth game developed by Rocksteady out for consoles now and the PC in two more weeks and looks to be one of surprise hits of the year.
As soon as the game loaded the first thing I noticed was how Batman's cape trails him perfectly when he runs and leaps out from the screen at you. The cowl and the flowing cape are some of the iconic symbols of Batman and here they're done excellently. Batman also has a variety of gadgets at his disposable to take out fiends and the in-game heads-up display is perfectly removed from the rest of the scene to give depth. It is obvious this game has been tweaked heavily and is an excellent showcase for Nvidia's technology. During some moments you do come out of the 3D experience from the pre-rendered cinematics but for the most part the 3D is incredibly immersive and exciting. I remember moving back a bit as a bolt flied towards the screen as Batman removed a grate to sneak around Arkham. That seems like a minor detail or not very exciting but in action it is very, very cool.
As exciting as it was to watch, Arkham Asylum was only demoed to me and I didn't get any hands-on time to try it out in 3D. When I picked up Resident Evil 5 on my own things really got fun. I had played the demo previously on the XBox 360 and this was the same section that I played with Nvidia 3D Vision on the PC. I definitely had fun with the game, though I'm more a first-person shooter fan, it didn't quite pull me in to try the full game on the XBox. This same section of the game played with 3D was right away much more intense. These glasses definitely work and can make a very good game that much more exciting when playing. Not only did zombies pop out the screen but my character had definite space and everything had an extra level of definition to it that you just can't get watching a 2D screen. And since Resident Evil 5 uses a lot of in-game cinematics they also looked fantastic. It might be hard to believe but I think immersive is the key word for this technology when it works, it really gives you a much better feeling for what's going on in the game world. Unfortunately I can't recall many specific graphics details from my experience but I can say it worked and was a blast to play. At no time did I experience headaches or nausea seen with other 3D systems. Resident Evil 5 is launched for the PC also a few weeks from now and seems to be a very good port.
This won't be an article going in depth on how the glasses work as I only had about 30-45 minutes with them but let me give you a quick overview on what you need for Nvidia's 3D Vision to work. First, there are actually two Nvidia solutions and the one I got to check out was the higher-end Nvidia GeForce 3D Vision but Nvidia also offers Nvidia 3D Vision Discover which requires your regular 3D glasses that are basically free at this point, a recent GeForce graphics card, and Windows Vista or Windows 7. You can read more about that here at Nvidia's site.
The Nvidia GeForce 3D Vision kicks things up a little bit with the first requirement being a monitor which supports 120Hz refresh rates to draw to images for each eye onscreen, a GeForce graphics card and a fairly powerful one as you will lose speed using this, Windows Vista or Windows 7, and the Nvidia 3D Vision kit from Nvidia which goes for about $200 online. This comes with high-end stereoscopic glasses with wireless IR technology built in, separate nose pieces for the goggles, a bag and cloth to clean the glasses, transmitter for the glasses which hooks up to your computer, various cables and converters, and stereoscopic photo viewer and for movies.
Obviously $200 isn't something to sneeze at but by its self it isn't that bad. Unfortunately, the price of some of these LCD monitors at 120Hz is considerably more than those which run at 60Hz. You can pick up a 22" Viewsonic which runs at 1680x1050 resolution with 1,000:1 contrast ratio and the 120Hz spec for $299. A comparable 22" Viewsonic is $179 at 60Hz. Samsung also offers a monitor with similar specs, the 2233RZ at a similar price. None of these are 1080p monitors which you should know if you're looking for a monitor that supports full HD though 1680x1050 is still a decent resolution and higher than 720p, those looking to buy a system like this probably are gamers who also want 1080p support. There are some other solutions including high-end HDTVs and projectors, Nvidia has the full list here as well as system requirements.
The other problem is that although hundreds of titles are supported, it seem as if some other websites impressions of the glasses who had more time to write a full review show that when it works great it is spectacular and makes gaming better but many times it doesn't work well or requires you to turn off graphic settings. There also appears to be a performance hit from Tech Report's findings.
Overall, I have to say my first impression of Nvidia's GeForce 3D Vision I came away very impressed. The technology worked great, at least on the games I played, and definitely added to the fun and the immersiveness. This could be one of the most important gaming peripherals to be released as I'd say when it does work it really helps push you into the game world such as with the Wiimote and much more than the rumble packs that showed up first over a dozen years ago and are now ubiquitous. The problem is, it appears, is though my hands-on time was fun that on many titles there are still problems with 3D and it's still early in the technology's days. I'm sure these bugs can be worked out and it's to Nvidia's benefit to do so as to not create a stigma around the technology. The other major problem is of course cost factor which if you only need to buy the glasses once, $200 isn't cheap but it might be worth it to some. The requirement of a special monitor and the price and lack of choice though do hurt today.
All of that said though, I'm not doom and gloom about this. The technology is fresh but already tremendously impressive when working and though it may not happen soon, it's likely that 120Hz output on monitors will start to become more and more standard as films are also released in 3D on Blu-Ray for the home market. I'd also be shocked if one or more of the next-generation consoles doesn't support some 3D technology, though new consoles probably won't be released for 3-4 years. How soon and how cheap 120Hz monitors will get no one can say at this point but it is imperative for 3D to become successful. I think this is much more exciting than PhysX my self, having seen that and tried 3D this is easily the more fun and rewarding technology. ATI and AMD, if they aren't already, should definitely be working on some solution of their own to 3D as it may not matter now but better to be up to speed rather than being caught without it if the technology does start to catch on. Those looking to pick this up though will probably be Nvidia fans and those with some extra cash, for everyone else it probably isn't quite ready for prime time and it may burn too much a hole in one's pocket book. But if you can afford it and don't mind all games not working perfectly, this looks to be a very, very fun development. Congrats to Nvidia for pushing some new technology in the PC world.
You can pick up both the glasses and monitor for $551 from TheNerds.net