By Andrew Groen
January 18, 2010 - Anybody who says that 3D graphics won't matter for video games clearly wasn't at CES this year. Furthermore, I assure you that anybody who plays Super Stardust HD in full 3D will instantly change their mind. Not even Uncharted 2 running on the sweetest Plasma TV on the planet looks quite as awe-inspiring as watching an asteroid slowly ripped apart by laser blasts in SSHD running on one of Sony's new 3D TVs.
If you have any interest in the video gaming media at all, then your enthusiasm and curiosity will be sparked immediately upon seeing this in motion. Where could this go, and how could this advance gaming? Were not quite sure yet, as most 3D gaming technology is still in prototype form. It will take game developers and artists to take this blank canvas and make it into something beautiful. However, right now we've got a hunch that Sony is betting on 3D to become the next big thing in gaming, which should get everyone very excited.
More so than any other company at CES this year, Sony seemed to back 3D gaming technology the most. And why shouldn't they? It makes perfect sense for Sony. If they can develop compelling reasons for consumers to want to make the jump to 3D, then they stand to have customers knocking at their door begging for a brand new HD 3D TV as well as a new gaming console. Not to mention the fantastic impact it would have on their Blu-ray sales if they can bring the likes of UP! and Avatar 3D into the living room.
So, of course it makes sense for Sony to put their full weight behind this new technology, but is it going to happen? Will we see the great games of the coming years with an all new depth of field? If PlayStation's presence at CES 2010 is any indication, yes, we most certainly will. Along with our eye-opening and jaw-dropping demo of Super Stardust 3D, we also played Gran Turismo 5 and Resident Evil 5 as well. Along with those blockbusters, we saw 3D videos of Killzone 2, Wipeout Pulse, Motorstorm Pacific Rift, and Little Big Planet. We think it's pretty clear that Sony is trying to communicate to gamers that the games they thought were amazing in 2D, are going to be even more amazing in three dimensions.
The latter of those videos we saw, Little Big Planet, was particularly amazing, and it's not hard to imagine why. The game looks as though it was built from the ground up for three dimensional capabilities. But, it's not just the aesthetics that benefit from this added functionality, the levels seemed much easier to navigate due to the added depth perception. The cardboard cutout levels were far more defined than they ever had been in 2D, and instantly one of our only complaints about that brilliant game was fixed (in the original LBP, it was sometimes hard to see how far into the foreground and background you were in each level). LittleBigPlanet looks as though it was always meant to be played in 3D.
Killzone 2, unfortunately, didn't get much of a showing at all. The only offering on display at Sony's booth was a brief clip of a commercial, and while it looked cool, we're still wondering how the game itself would look and be affected by the switch. Shooters in general don't seem like they'll benefit very much from this technology. We were able to try out 3D Resident Evil 5, and while the look was very nice, the gameplay stayed almost exactly the same. Nothing was really helped or hindered by adding depth of field.
We simply hope that this technology continues to be considered icing-on-the-cake, and that developers aren't forced to include it in their games for fear of seeming "outdated." Clearly some games stand to benefit greatly from 3D effects, but it doesn't make much sense to force all game developers to include a feature that doesn't help their games. We saw with Resident Evil 5 that shooters don't seem to gain much, functioning much the same as they do in 2D. Still others, like Wipeout Pulse and Motorstorm, look very cool but don't advance in the gameplay department. Hopefully developers can continue to have the choice of including this, without the stress of forcing it where it doesn't belong and, in doing so, wasting a lot of valuable development time.
Sony has been constantly searching for a trump card they can use to sway gamers to the PS3 and dig themselves out of third place in the console wars. Judging from their current support of the 3D movement, it looks like they've found it, and it's certainly got the potential to produce outstanding results.
Regardless of your stance on which console offers the best gaming experience, there's little denying that Sony has had a bit of a rough time this generation. They've been playing catch up with Xbox 360 for years, most notably in the online gaming aspects. However, they won big betting on Blu-ray, and they're poised to take another gamble on 3D. Will it work out as well for them? Only time will tell, but if they can create more experiences on par with Super Stardust HD, then their chances are very good.
CCC Freelance Writer