PlayStation 3 in 3D impressions: almost, but not quite

There are plenty of opinions to be had on 3D, and while many of the staff at Engadget could take it or leave it, this particular writer is a pretty firm fan of the concept. Notice the word "concept." 3D is hard to pull off well. We've all had to come to grips with the dimming effect of most 3D tech, due to the fact that we're only seeing about half the potential brightness of a display, and 3D gaming presents a whole different ream of problems. Follow after the break as we walk through some of our experiences with the PlayStation 3 in 3D and see if it can measure up to our hopes and dreams for a world with one extra dimension. %Gallery-95475%

The Killzone 3 gameplay demo we saw yesterday at Sony's presser was really the pinnacle of what we've seen for 3D gaming. Formula: take one of the best-looking games on any system ever and put it in 3D. We were thrilled to try it out on the show floor, but unfortunately we're not so sure it lives up to its self-produced hype. The big problem is that the game runs at a seriously reduced resolution in order to compensate for the doubled framerate of 3D. All the assists and art direction still shine, and the game still looks pretty good, but there are tons of "jaggies," and you notice the lost fidelity every time you get a glimpse of the game running in 2D.

There's also the problem dimming caused by the shutter glasses (possibly exacerbated by the show lights we were playing under), which makes some of the darker or more cluttered scenes seem muddy and difficult to discern. But, it's still great playing in 3D. The sense of space is really tangible, and we had none of the problems we anticipated of not knowing where to focus our eyes. Big scenes felt bigger, danger felt more immediate, and we really see the advantage of 3D for first-person shooters. Unfortunately, while the technical execution remains lacking, it's hard to see using 3D for anything but the most casual of sessions: for an extended playthrough or competitive multiplayer, 2D is a must. On a more positive note, Sony says that they're working on getting the resolution to match (or appear to match) to 2D gameplay in 3D mode, so perhaps this game will get better with time (it's in pre-alpha currently), but we'll have to wait and see.

MotorStorm Apocalypse had similar problems with jaggies caused by a low resolution: let's hope Sony is planning for similar resolution improvements here. With MotorStorm at least we know that MotorStorm: Pacific Rift uses the lower quality assets and effects from splitscreen mode during 3D, along with an upscaled low-res render, and it seems similar here. The graphics aren't bad, but they hardly seem competitive with what MotorStorm looks like in 2D. We also had trouble discerning obstacles at times due to the dimness of the display, and some of the reflections on the screen where we were playing caused even more confusion.

One of the much better looking games we saw was MLB 10 The Show. It looked to be playing at a much higher resolution, and with the higher quality graphics that the relative simplicity of baseball games have always enabled. Also, the cleanness of the field made the screen dimness not as much of an issue, and there really is a benefit to 3D during hitting... can you imagine that? An actual practical use for all these graphical shenanigans?

We also spotted Wipeout HD in all its smooth, high resolution 3D glory, along with a few other titles, but they're all a variation on the same theme: if a game is capable of being played in 1080p at a high frame rate in 2D, then the 3D version will do much better than a game that was already struggling to chug along at 720p (like MotorStorm, for instance). If developers can't manage to squeeze much more power out of the system, we might be waiting until the next generation of consoles for truly premiere 3D experiences, but hopefully games like Killzone and MotorStorm can bump up their resolution and redeem themselves before launch.