3D console gaming test: Gran Turismo 5 3D
1st Dec 2010 | 10:18
Has GT5 cracked 3D gaming?
A couple of weeks ago we checked out Call Of Duty: Black Ops in 3D, to see how the biggest game of all time furthered the nascent cause of domestic 3D playback. And we came away feeling less than impressed.
On paper, though, new PS3 racing blockbuster Gran Turismo 5 has a much better chance of delivering the 3D goods. For instance, unlike Black Ops, GT5 has been developed right from the start for just one console, meaning it has a greater chance of eking out every last drop of performance potential from its native PS3 home.
Potentially even more importantly, while Black Ops seemed to have its 3D mode 'bolted on' relatively late in the day, the GT5 team claim they've been working on GT5's 3D mode for the best part of two years. All very promising.
After turning down the volume of our TVs to hide the godawful jazz funk soundtrack that accompanies GT5's onscreen menus, the 3D-related menu items immediately reinforce the idea that this game takes its 3D duties much more seriously than Black Ops.
For as well as just switching the output to stereoscopic 3D, you can adjust separate 'Parallax' and convergence settings for the 3D output. The Parallax system lets you adjust the 'strength' of the 3D effect across 10 different settings, increasing or decreasing the perceived depth of field in the image.
The convergence setting allows for some startlingly subtle fine-tuning of the perceived distance of the point where the left and right 3D images converge.
To be honest, most people will probably be happy to stick with the default settings, as striking the right balance manually between the convergence and parallax settings can actually be quite a time consuming business. So much so that it might have been nice if GT5's convergence setting actually responded automatically to some degree to shifts in the parallax setting. But hey - any 3D flexibility at all is much better than the complete lack of it noted with Black Ops.
GT5 3D performance
In action, GT5's 3D performance is so far ahead of Black Ops' that it's frankly embarrassing for the latter's developer, Treyarch. Especially when you consider that Black Ops' PS3 3D implementation was notably inferior to the Xbox 360's.
For a start, the amount of crosstalk noise (ghosting around the edges of objects in the mid and far distance) is vastly reduced. So much so that it's hardly visible at all when playing on one of Panasonic's 3D plasma TVs.
The higher you set the Parallax setting the more crosstalk noise and blurring you start to see. But you can then reduce this again via careful manipulation of the convergence tool.
Crosstalk remains, it has to be said, more evident on LCD TVs than it is on the Panasonic plasmas, but this is down to shortcomings in LCD technology, not problems with the GT5's 3D engine.
With practically zero crosstalk noise to contend with when playing on plasma TVs, it's much easier to appreciate another strength of the GT5 3D technology: resolution. For even though the game inevitably has to sacrifice some resolution to fit the necessary 'top and bottom' stereo 3D images onto your screen, the action still looks much more high definition in 3D than Black Ops does.
This is extremely important, for it neatly sidesteps the common issue with side by side material whereby switching to 3D means trading an HD image for something that looks more like a standard def one.
The game's naturally bright and colourful graphics - at least during daytime races - also mean that the graphics still look intense, dynamic and exciting even with your brightness-reducing 3D glasses on.
The only technical hitch with the 3D mode, in fact, is that in pushing to keep the detail levels high with 3D playback, sometimes the game's frame rate suffers. At its worst this can feel pretty jarring given how superbly smooth the gameplay is generally.
However, noticeably severe frame rate drops really don't happen very often at all, so overall GT5's 3D mode rates as a clear technical success.
GT5 3D gameplay
But does it also enhance gameplay in any way? Actually yes, it does. Being able to visually appreciate more accurately the distances between you and upcoming corners or cars is both more exciting and more conducive to precision driving - especially given that the clarity of your view isn't impaired by constant crosstalk noise like it is with Black Ops.
The clarity of the 3D effect (particularly on plasma TVs) also makes the gaming world feel more immersive and 'real', especially if you're lucky enough to be using a screen of 50in or more. The thought of playing this on one of the new breed of 3D projectors with a steering wheel in hand is enough to send shivers down the spine of any self-respecting race game addict.
It's worth adding, too, that watching GT5's amazing replays in 3D is without doubt one of the most impressive demonstrations yet of what 3D is capable of in terms of sheer image quality.
After taking a serious knock at the hands of the underwhelming Black Ops code, the new HD 3D technology can hold its head high again thanks to GT5.
In fact, the technical and gameplay prowess of GT5's 3D mode proves definitively that 3D really can and does work in a gaming context. It just needs to be done right.