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

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

Motorstorm: Pacific Rift

These are all 2D screenshots, incidentally.

The first game we put through Sony's 3D hype-machine was Motorstorm: Pacific Rift (read our original review here). From the moment we sped off the starting line, we were acutely aware of the added depth the game throws at you. Trees and grass whip by in an alarmingly authentic manner, while the 3D crash cinematics are truly a sight to behold. We found ourselves awaiting each new pileup in baited awe. You won't want to skip the replays; that's for sure.

The nitro-boost animation has also been given a 3D spit-and-polish — the track seems to momentarily rush away from your car in classic dolly-zoom fashion, as made famous by Star Wars' Millennium Falcon. It's a cool effect that we didn't get tired of.

If you're the type of gamer who cranes their neck from side-to-side when drifting around corners, expect to get a nasty case of whiplash. The added sense of realism really makes you react physically. On the downside, the wheels of our dirt buggy seemed to kind of 'float' above the track. This appears to be a problem for the current crop of 3D games — we experienced the same issue with James Cameron's Avatar: The Game.

It's a small quibble though and something you quickly get used to. All in all, Motorstorm: Pacific Rift in 3D is definitely an improvement on the original.

Man-on-the-street verdict: "Driving through the trees is awesome!"

Super Stardust HD

Super Stardust HD doesn't seem like an obvious choice to showcase 3D gaming — after all, it's essentially a prettified version of the distinctly 2D Asteroids. There's also a hell of a lot happening on screen, with particle effects, hyper-coloured backgrounds and polygons-a-go-go whizzing all over the shop. It easily could have been one huge cluster of a mess.

Well, after clocking on some quality time with Super Stardust HD in 3D, we can confidently attest to its brilliance. The lazy rotations of the huge space rocks look especially slick in 3D, while the added effects, such as sparks flying towards the screen, give a real sense of depth. While the changes are purely cosmetic, they make what was once a pretty game truly gob-smacking. Space in 3D = win.

Man-on-the-street verdict: "Ooooh! Pretty!"

Wipeout HD

Wipeout HD is probably the game that gave us the most problems in 3D. It's simply too damn fast. We weren't given a chance to appreciate the visuals as they rocketed past our ship at breakneck speed. In fact, everything shoots by so quickly that we couldn't even tell if the 3D was properly aligned. We actually paused the game a few times to check if our glasses were working.

The twists and turns of the track were also a little disorientating. Motorstorm: Pacific Rift managed to avoid this issue because each track has plenty of long straights. By contrast, Wipeout HD is like a roller-coaster — there's simply nothing to focus on. (For the record, I'm a Wipeout veteran who has been a fan of the series since the PSX original — so don't put this down to me being crap.)

We also found it difficult to focus on our HUD display due to the 3D perspective. Instead of taking a quick glance at your current weapon (or whatever), you first have to refocus your eyes. As you can imagine, this takes quite a bit of getting used to. In a game like Wipeout HD, you really need to keep your eyes on the track at all times. The addition of another dimension makes it difficult to do so.

Man-on-the-street verdict: "It's cool, but it hurts my brain a bit."

PAIN

PAIN is not so much a game as it is an exercise in rag doll physics. You basically chuck a dude in the air and laugh at the destructive shenanigans that ensue. As such, we weren't particularly keen to check the game out in three dimensions.

That said, PAIN is definitely more fun in 3D, which is presumably why Sony included it in its launch line-up. We found ourselves bracing for impact each time our on-screen avatar hurtled towards a hard and pointy object. Despite the cartoony graphics on display, we couldn't help but wince at the sight of each impending skyscraper.

PAIN is a supremely dumb game and the injection of 3D doesn't make it any smarter. Nonetheless, it will make for a suitable 3D demo to amuse and impress your friends with.

Man-on-the-street verdict: "Hur hur hur hur hur hur."

Closing thoughts

Our verdict? Believe it or not, this latest craze to hit the gaming arena is more than just a gimmick. No, really.

While there are a few kinks that need ironing out, the extra layer of immersion that 3D provides is impossible to deny. As steely-eyed games journalists, it takes a lot to impress us on a technological front — years of PR hyperbole have made us jaded, horrible people.

And yet, Sony's shift into the third dimension has caused us to sit up and take notice. It's not revolutionary by any means, but it does add significantly to the gameplay. (The largely rubbish Pain actually felt fun, for example.)

To be honest, we're not sure we'd spring for a new TV just to play 3D video games. For starters, there's the whole thing with the glasses: unless your mates have their own pairs, it's going to kill multiplayer gaming in your lounge room. (Unless you revert to 2D of course, but then, what was the point of buying a 3D TV in the first place?)

On the other hand, if you're already on the lookout for a new TV, we reckon the extra dosh is probably worth it. Go for one of Sony's 3D TVs: the moment Killzone 3 hits, you won't be disappointed.

Related articles:

Could 3D video gaming wreck your eyes?

3D games on PS3 take a step closer

E3 Awards 2010

The sights and sounds of E3 2010

Why do the press hate Sony?

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Chris Jager

GamePro Australia

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