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The good news is that this pay-off - and any reduction in resolution over other 22in/23in monitors - is worth it. It's hard to describe the 3D Vision effect because it's not really 3D as you might know it. It's not about things coming out of the screen at you - though nVidia's 3D test shows that such effects are possible.
Instead, it's about looking into your monitor as if it were a window into another, fully 3D world. When it's working well, figures in the foreground stand out in front of objects in the background, and not in some simple, planar manner, but in a way that seems perfectly natural. Play an FPS and you can see that your current weapon is clearly close to you, while targets and buildings in the mid and far distance are further away. And when you're rushed by the zombie hordes in Left4Dead, there's a real sense that those bloodthirsty varmints are headed right at you. We're not quite talking virtual reality, but it certainly adds a new, even more immersive quality to your games.
As you might expect, the effect works best with first-person games and first-person viewpoints. Left4Dead is a definite highlight, as the staging in depth seems to work particularly well, but 3D Vision also delivered excellent results with Far Cry 2 and Mirror's Edge. The latter was a visceral experience played in 2D on a console format, but on a PC with 3D support and the extra graphical bells and whistles of the PhysX version, it's absolutely breathtaking. I can't remember a game that's had me moving back and forth in my chair so much with sheer involvement. When you throw yourself across a gap and grab hold of a ledge or pipe with Faith's fingertips, there's a palpable sense of relief.
Driving games played from a cockpit view also deliver good value. GRID through 3D Vision is an absolutely storming racer, particularly in some of the more manic, pile-up heavy events. And while nothing short of a miracle could make Need for Speed: Pro Street fantastic, 3D Vision comes frighteningly close to doing so, partly because the sensation of depth does something to make the action more convincing and believable. If only the same could be said for the handling and AI.
There are some downsides. Bits of interface and overlaid icons or labels tend to float weirdly over the whole image, and this can have the effect of pulling you out of the experience. It's not a problem in games like FEAR 2 where a heads-up display is part of the fiction, but it can be in some other action titles. It's more of an issue for RTS games and RPGs with an isometric perspective, though your mileage will vary with different titles. Dawn of War II was a bit of a non-starter, with the 3D effect adding little to the game's characters or landscapes, and those floating icons and labels confusing the eyes.
Aging Diablo-clone, Titan Quest, however, was surprisingly good, with trees and towers pushing out into the skyline, and characters appearing to stand tall over the game's Greek landscapes. Platform games can also be rewarding. Tomb Raider: Anniversary is the least advanced of the recent Tomb Raider titles, but the shift into 3D makes the game's big locations look suitably imposing, and adds a new element of vertigo to the game's more vertical sections.
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