3D Vision and 3D Vision Surround
We received a 3D Vision kit from Nvidia over 3 months ago that we have been continuously evaluating with well over seventy (70!) PC games for a forthcoming mega-review here at ABT. We have also played Alice: Madness Returns from start to finish and replayed much of it in both 1920×1080 in 2D and a little of it in 3D, plus in 3-panel Surround (5760×1080) and in 3D Vision Surround.
Consider this Alice: Madness Returns review as our continuing introduction to stereo 3D reviews at AlienBabelTech and to our 70-plus game mega-review of 3D Vision and 3D Vision Surround evaluation which will be published this coming week.
3D Vision requires a Nvidia GeForce graphics card, the 3D Vision bundle consisting of the LCD shutter glasses and IR emitter that drives them, and one or more 3D Vision-ready true 120Hz 3D-capable monitors. We are using three ASUS VG236H 23″ 120Hz displays.
For Nvidia’s Surround or 3D Vision Surround, you must use SLI and should use 3 identical displays to match color and characteristics across all of the screens. It will work however, as long as all of the displays share the same native resolution, size and orientation.
3D Vision works by sequentially displaying offset “left” and “right” versions of each frame in a game, and blocking the vision from one eye or the other by darkening the shutter glasses in synchronization with the display. Putting on the glasses and switching on 3D Vision immediately darkens the scene compared to 2D, and you will definitely need a bright display to compensate. The ASUS displays are excellent in this regard.
The 3D effect appears real as images seem to extend back into the space behind your 2D display, as if it were a window instead of a flat plane. You can even have objects appear to extend out from the monitor’s screen surface as most of the 3D ads show. Unfortunately, this is the best way to “show” someone stereo 3D (S3D) on a 2D plane although if it actually happens often in a game or a movie, it becomes quite disorienting.
Frankly, we believe that the illusion of 3D would be better displayed as this mural illusion here:
The best S3D appears to take place inside a 3-dimensional space “inside” of your display – as inside of a clear-glass aquarium instead of on a flat screen and the illusion of depth is very convincing. Nvidia’s software works by examining the “Z” co-ordinates already programmed into every PC game which means it works with virtually any video game. Some games work much better than others with 3D Vision and some (all OpenGL) games are not supported by Nvidia’s 3D Vision drivers at all.
Please note that there are also performance penalties with Nvidia’s active shutter method of rendering 3D images. Two frames (left and right) must be generated for each frame in 2D, so your game’s framerate will drop by approximately half when 3D Vision is enabled.
A GTX 580 is barely sufficient to play Alice: Madness Returns at maxed details with PhysX on high in 3D Vision at 1920×1080 and you will still get drops into the 20s in the most intense of firefights. GTX 560 Ti SLI works much better and there are no slowdowns. A GTX 590 is the minimum video card or GTX 560 Ti for 5760×1080 3D Vision Surround and you will really want GTX 580 SLI or Tri-SLI for maximum PhysX and fluid framerates.
There are also limitations to some PC games that will affect the 3D appearance of some objects in the game in relation to others. For example, some effects may be rendered without full 3D information; common are heads-up displays (HUDs) or crosshair sights for targeting. If this happens, items like these will appear at the wrong depth relative to other items in the game and it can be quite disconcerting and/or distracting. This does happen in Alice: Madness Returns and it is best to turn off Post Processing and Motion Blur.
In some of these cases, the game’s graphics effects can be disabled or minimized to work around these issues, and Nvidia’s 3D Vision GeForce driver usually supplies its own crosshair sight in these cases. To help 3D Vision users, Nvidia pre-defines six levels of game compatibility with 3D Vision and it pops up as an green overlay in every game that may be disabled by ctrl+alt+ins.
- 3D Vision Ready
- Not Recommended
In addition to these six categories, there is also “not tested” and we will contribute our own findings for a few of these games that Nvidia has not explored – indeed, some older games have superb 3D Vision results. 3D Vision Ready means the game was designed with Nvidia’s 3D Vision and with 3D Vision Surround in mind.
There are less than 15 games that are certified as 3D Vision Ready – the best ones that this editor have played so far are Crysis 2, Duke Nukem Forever, Batman Arkham Asylum and Mafia II. We were somewhat disappointed with Bulletstorm although it is rated excellent as the 3D effects are occasionally confusing; and it should not be that way. How does Alice: Madness Returns compare?
The majority of the 70-plus games that ABT has tested fall into the Excellent and Good categories – one outstanding game being Just Cause 2 which gets an excellent rating from Nvidia; especially for the breathtaking panoramic super-widescreen aerial views over Panau.
For some of these games, the player may have to adjust or disable some settings and perhaps use Nvidia’s supplied crosshairs for the best experience. Nvidia even offers suggestions on-screen as your game loads. Quite a few of these compromises are necessary with Alice: Madness Returns; the post-processing effects are disabled for 3D Vision and motion blur must be off. Even so, it is difficult to make some jumps because of the depth and because of the imprecise controls. This editor often switched 3D Vision on and off in some areas.
For this article, Alice: Madness Returns was played Core i7-920/GTX 580 for the first play through in both 2D and 3D at maximum details, with 3D Vision switched off for the jumps. For the second play-through and screenshot harvest, the GTX 560 Ti was the weapon of choice and for 3D Vision Surround, GTX 560 Ti SLI along with the latest 275.33 WHQL drivers, which include the 3D profiles for this game and the 3D Vision drivers
Some of the best part of the 3D experience in Alice: Madness Returns centers around the incredible detail in each level. You get to experience Alice’s double and triple jumps that generate flowers and butterflies that fly off deep into the screen; her dodging animations look great in 3D – even dying and disintegrating into butterflies takes away some of the sting of having to restart from a checkpoint .
With each different and changing level, objects continue to move interestingly in a 3-dimensional space. PhysX effects are rendered particularly well with 3D Vision.
Before we get back to the game, let’s check out the hardware that we used for our evaluation.