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The 3D Goggles, They Do Nothing?

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(They don’t do nothing – I just wanted to make the gag).

NVIDIA’s current big deal is true 3D gaming – a funny pair of specs that blesses on-screen worlds with depth and pop-outery, just like movies from the 80s or late 00s. Which one of those two it is most akin to depends on the spectacle technology you use – old fashioned red/blue sillies or complicated and expensive stereoscopic shutter thingers. I’ve been having a poke at the former which – in theory – works with most every 3D game, so long as you have a recentish NVIDIA card.

NVIDIA sells its own set of these red and cyan (N.B. red and green ones will not work) anaglyphic glasses, apparently fine-tuned to create the best possible image. I don’t have those – instead, I have a set of super-cheap similar ones, bought from Dealextreme. The effect works pretty well with them, but because they’re not 100% colour matched to what NVIDIA’s software generates, there is a spot of double-imaging where the red and cyan outlines fail to quite match up. It’s possible monitor colour calibration could get around this, but as it is I’m fairly happy with what I get, given the glasses only cost three bucks. Though they do make me look like Uber-Dork:

What I also needed was NVIDIA’s 3D vision software, which it doesn’t exactly scream about on its site because it likes to provide on CD with graphics cards/posh stereoscopic spectacles, but eventually I found it here. It runs a short test to check you can see as 3d-god intended in your specs, and frankly the static 3D images it presents in it were a whole lot more impressive than what I later saw in games themselves.

Then it’s a matter of loading up a videogame, and hitting Ctrl-T to turn the 3D on or off. First port of call was Batman: Arkham Asylum, which used NVIDIA 3D as a selling point for the 3D version. And it was pretty great – this is a game about vertiginious drops and imposing architecture, and that seems to suit nasty-glasses-o-vision rather well. When Bats goes for a glide from a tall ledge, he really does seem to pop out from the depths he’s sailing towards.

Next as Resident Evil 5, another officially supported game, and from that I got very little. The degree to which the red/cyan filters block out all colours was more apparent in a game that’s not designed to look as gloomy and desaturated as Batman (much of it is set outdoors, in blazing African sunshine), and that the cyan on my glasses wasn’t note-perfect meant some hud elements and pop-ups were ghosting distractingly. Ctrl+F3 or F4 alters the 3D depth, and I had to set this almost to the bottom to get something that didn’t make me all head asplode. On top of that, the far more flat, rigid world of Resi 5 didn’t engender itself to 3D anywhere near as much as Batman. 3D doesn’t add much to the experience of linear trudging down some sort of corridor or narrow street with a character who can’t jump.

Trackmania was an odd’un, as it offers its own 3D mode. I made the mistake of turning on both that and the NVIDIA 3D, which in short order required me to go have a nice cup of tea and a sit down for a while. I’ll go back to that one once the trauma’s passed.

Left 4 Dead worked pretty well – the HUD seemed to hover hologramatically over the game, and my character’s outstretched hand when reaching for ammo or whatnot really did seem to be emerging from somewhere off-screen. I’d have to say that it wasn’t a worthwhile trade-off for a full colour spectrum, however.

Suprisingly, the most effective game was some Tropico 3 preview code I’ve had installed for a while. 3D vision seems to work best when you’ve got a camera you can steer far beyond a single character’s perspective, so a bird’s eye zoom of the game’s lush island offered up trees that seemed to stand out, buildings with depth… The trick, with that and any other game you’re trying this with, is to move your head as you play – that way, the contents of the screen appear to move with you, rather than remaining static. It’s not something that comes naturally with something like Batman or L4D, where you’ll fall into a fixed hunch, your hands the only parts of you that really move. Something about Tropico had me playing from a far more relaxed and shifting posture, and thus the little, desaturated world in front of me seemed to shimmer and move.

So, is this version 3D vision worthwhile? If you can find some cheap specs, it’s worth an occasional play and coo, but it’s really not something I’d want to regularly game with. I always felt a bit woozy for a while afterwards, plus I very quickly stopped noticing the effect once I was engrossed in a game. But then that’s forever the case – what you do in a game will always, always occupy your conciousness far more than how it looks. It’s also not officially supported in all games – it does turn on for anything, but you might get haywire effects such as certain in-game elements appearing at the wrong depth level. Generally, it was pretty successful in everything I tried, however. The list of officially thumbs-upped titles is here, if you’re interested.

I would be curious to try the expensive, powered-glasses take on 3D Vision, as those don’t sacrifice colour – but it’s not something I’m willing to spend money on to suck-and-see. Anyone here used it yet?

Oh, and if you don’t have a supported card, you could try this third-party alternative, though it’ll cost you money once the trial’s up.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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