Hands-on with PlayStation 3D: Gimmick or game-changer?

We sink our teeth into the PlayStation 3's 3D launch lineup

The video games industry is about to receive its biggest technological shake-up since it switched from monochrome to colour in 1979. [Namco's Galaxian, fact-fans — Ed.] No, it's not the Microsoft Kinect or PlayStation Move, or even the TN Games FPS Gaming Vest (badass as that may be). We're talking, of course, about true 3D gaming.

Ever since Mario 64 introduced console owners to the third dimension, the ability to create 3D games has been lurking surreptitiously in the background. However, it has only become a viable option for consumers this year with the advent of 3D TV.

Presumably you've seen these things being advertised by now — on your boring, 2D TV. But how does the technology work, exactly? And what can it offer PS3 gamers? Step back; we are about to drop our science on those assembled.

A 3D TV, yesterday

3D Gaming 101

With a fast refresh rate of either 200Hz or 400Hz, 3D TVs are able to display a large number of video frames per second (perfect for gaming, non?) The 3D effect is created when the alternating video frames are shifted slightly horizontally from each other and then viewed with 'active shutter' glasses.

Active shutter glasses block the vision from alternating eyes in time with alternating frames, and the human eye views the video as if it was in three dimensions — with a perceived depth of vision just like real life. The end result, on paper at least, is images that leap right out of the screen.

3D TV

'Active shutter' 3D glasses

If you're a fan of video games, 3D TVs offer a lot to be excited about. Most major games publishers are supporting 3D in some form; especially Sony, which has a lot invested in the technology. Last year, Sony Computer Entertainment announced that it will release stereoscopic 3D games titles for the PlayStation 3 in conjunction with Sony's 3D TV launch.

3D versions of popular PS3 games are now available via the PSN network — but you'll need a 3D TV to play them, natch.

The PlayStation 3's 3D capabilities are delivered via a free Internet download — firmware update 3.40, to be precise. “There is no need to repurchase the system to enjoy 3D games," explained Nainan Shah, vice-president of the new 3D platform. In other words, you don't need to spring for a new console. Phew. (A firmware update for 3D Blu-ray movies is also in the pipeline.)

Game-Changer or Game-Over?

Money: the barrier to 3D goodness.

Alongside sports and pornography (it says here) video games are one of the key driving forces behind 3D technology. According to an Insight Media report, gaming will help sell 40 million 3D HDTVs by 2014. As I'm sure you'll agree; that's a lot of 3s and Ds.

However, the more sceptical among us can't help but wonder whether the reality will match the hype. The problem is, most of us already own a HDTV and are in no hurry to replace the bloody thing. It's the DVD/Blu-ray switcheroo all over again, but with the addition of big plastic glasses. Is it really any wonder that gamers aren't clamouring in the streets to embrace this new technology? [Yes! — James Cameron.]

The question on everyone's lips is: do 3D games offer enough improvements to justify such an extravagant purchase? More to the point, do they actually enhance the gaming experience at all? Or is it merely a hollow fad?

PlayStation 3(D)

Last week, we checked out Sony's first batch of 3D games for the PlayStation 3 — namely, Wipeout HD, Super Stardust HD, MotorStorm: Pacific Rift and PAIN.

To test each game, we used Sony's shiny new BRAVIA KDL-46HX800 LED television which sports 3D capabilities. [Read our review of the BRAVIA KDL-46HX800 here.] Incidentally, we were using one of those big George Foreman Grill-style PS3s, which is fully compatible with the 3D technology.

With oversized 3D glasses perched atop our noses, we ran through each game in their 2D and 3D iterations. We also roped one of our non-gaming pals into the office to give us a “man-on-the-street” perspective.

Here's a look at each game in turn, with our thoughts on how they played...

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Chris Jager

GamePro Australia
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