|Duke Nukem Forever: The 3D Vision Experience|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Games|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Wednesday, 22 June 2011|
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Duke Nukem Forever: 3D Vision Experience
After a 14 year gestation, Duke Nukem Forever has finally arrived. Those of us who played the original Duke Nukem games after weaning ourselves from Doom and Quake have finally had our patience rewarded, but adding a little frosting to the cake is the fact that Duke Nukem Forever was coded to take full advantage of NVIDIA's 3D Vision technology: it's a "3D Ready"-qualified game. Benchmark Reviews takes a look at this irreverent take on the FPS genre in 3D.
Benchmark Reviews has always been interested in 3D graphics technology, starting with our original review of the NVIDIA 3D Vision bundle. We've covered games that make particularly good use of the technology, like Mafia II, published a 3D Vision Multimedia Resource Guide that you might find useful, and compared it with AMD's competing HD3D system in this article. NVIDIA's 3D Vision will work with virtually any available game, albeit with differing levels of success.
But Duke Nukem Forever is, arguably, special: originally announced in 1997 after the runaway success of the original Duke Nukem 3D (itself an update to the original 1991-era Duke Nukem, which was a two-dimensional "side scroller" game), technical problems and (more significantly) poor management delayed its release for over a decade, making it one of the top vaporware titles of all time. So how does it play now that it's finally here? Before I get into that, I should review how 3D Vision works.
3D Vision requires an NVIDIA GeForce graphics card, the 3D Vision bundle consisting of the LCD shutter glasses and IR emitter that drives them, and one or more 120Hz 3D-capable monitors. The system 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. The effect is real and convincing: images seem to extened back into the space behind your display, as if it were a window looking into a different world. You can even have objects appear to protrude out from the monitor's screen surface! NVIDIA's software works by examing the "Z" co-ordinates the game sends to the graphics card driver, which means it works with virtually any video game.
But there are limitations. Two frames (left and right) must be generated where only one frame was before, so your game's FPS will drop by 50% or so when 3D Vision is enabled. This is less of a problem that it was when 3D Vision was introduced since moderately-priced yet powerful cards like the GTX560 made their appearance. There are also limitations to some games: to increase FPS performance, developers will often take shortcuts that will affect the 3D appearance of some objects in the game. For example, fire and particle effects like smoke are often rendered without full 3D information, as are heads-up displays for things like character health and weapon status, or gun sights for targeting. Items like this will appear at the wrong visual "depth" relative to other items in the game. In some cases you can disable some of the game's graphics effects to work around these problems, and the 3D Vision driver can even supply its own gun sight in some cases. To help users, NVIDIA defines six levels of game compatibility with 3D Vision.
The highest level is 3D Vision Ready. Games in this category are written specifically to take maximum advantage of 3D Vision. It's a short list: 17 items at the time of this writing, with several being demos or technology examples like NVIDIA's own Endless City. But Duke Nukem Forever is on the list, along with such luminaries as Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Mafia II.
Under 3D Vision Ready, in descending order, are Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor, and Not Recommended. The majority of games fall into the Excellent and Good categories, wherein you'll have to disable some in-game graphical effects and perhaps use NVIDIA's gun sight for the best experience. But none of these compromises are necessary with Duke Nukem Forever.
For this article, I played Duke Nukem Forever on my personal system; sadly, I have but a single, 1680x1050 3D-capable monitor. I used NVIDIA's newly released 275.33 WHQL drivers, which include the profiles for this game.