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The Verdict on the PS3’s 3D Gaming

Ever since James Cameron’s Avatar demolished records at the box office, 3D has been at the forefront of the future of entertainment, both at home and in theaters. While 3D films continue to outsell their 2D counterparts at the box office, the Home Theater industry already has begun it’s attempt to translate that same success into the homes of consumers around the world. This will prove to be a much more difficult task however, since there is obviously a major difference in paying $20 per movie ticket to see the latest flick in 3D as opposed to plunking down thousands of dollars on a new 3D-capable HDTV, especially when the majority of consumers only recently upgraded to HD. Of course the expense doesn’t end there either; you’ll need a 3D transmitter and active shutter glasses to view the images coming from your 3DTV. You’ll also need a 3D source: either a 3D capable Blu-Ray player or in our cases, a PlayStation 3.

That’s right, Sony isn’t lying when it says that the PS3 “Only Does Everything”. The PlayStation 3 is already capable of 3D gaming, provided you’ve updated to the most recent system software. That means each and every one of you own part of the 3D equation (note: a PS3 firmware update is due this September which will allow the playback of 3D Blu-Ray movies). At this year’s E3, Sony painted a clear picture that 3D is going to play a major role in it’s upcoming software line-up – both with first and third party software. We got a chance to try some of Sony’s upcoming games in 3D, and while we were certainly blown away, it didn’t give us a clear answer as to if 3D was worth the investment. Since part of our goal is to inform the masses about what’s hot in the world of PlayStation, we took it upon ourselves to take the 3D plunge and give you a straight answer if 3D gaming is all it’s cracked up to be. Simply put, it sure as hell is.

Having already tried some 3D games at E3, we had an idea of what we were in for. However, there’s a big difference in the frantic, geek-gasmic environment of E3 and the quiet confines of our office while relaxing on our couch with a can of soda. Basically, we were able to come down from cloud 9, concentrate, and really put the 3D games through their paces. At the moment, the 3D offering on the PSN isn’t exactly brimming with excitement – most of the games are 3D updated versions of older PSN titles, and 3D capable demos of recent PS3 titles. At the time of publishing, the games available in 3D are: Super Stardust HD, Wipeout HD, PAIN (only certain gameplay modes), and two demos, Motorstorm: Pacific Rift and MLB: The Show 2010. Don’t get me wrong, these games are fantastic titles, some of the best on the PlayStation Network or any downloadable environment for that matter, however let’s face it, they’re not new and exciting like Killzone 3 or Motorstorm: Apocalypse. Or are they? Playing each game in 3D was like a whole new experience sans one, which was particularly PAINful to play through. Though I think my issue was more with the game modes available for it than the actual 3D.

We’ll start with our favorite of the bunch, MLB: The Show 2010. We’ve spent numerous hours putting our hometown favorite, the Boston Red Sox, through many a season in the regular version of the game. After just a few minutes of playing the 3D version, it was easy to see that MLB: The Show 2010 ‘knocked it out of the park’. The first thing you’ll notice, and this is something you’ll find throughout all the 3D games and the 3D experience in general, is the amazing amount of perceived depth that is created. It really seems as though you’re looking out into a baseball field. This extra level of depth is especially useful at bat. Keeping your eye on the ball and swinging accordingly was much more life-like and accurate. You can plainly see if the pitch is going to be a ball, or if it’s something you want to swing at. Another instance where the 3D really stands out is with player profiles, stat, and score tickers. They definitely appear to just ‘pop’ out of the screen at you.

The second you’ll want to show off if you so choose to pick up a 3D set, would be Motorstorm: Pacific Rift. Again, the level of depth added by 3D is stunning, and at the same time very helpful in your race to victory. That layer of depth helps you judge turns and just how far (or close) your opponents are. Mud splatter slings toward the screen with unprecedented realism, and when you crash… let’s just say you might find yourself attempting brutal, high-speed collisions on purpose just to see vehicle parts strewn about in glorious 3D. As good as Motorstorm: Pacific Rift is in 3D, it isn’t even half as good as what little we played of Motorstorm: Apocalypse. Bodies of pedestrians flipping over your hood, towering skyscrapers crumbling as you zoom by at death-defying speeds. Motorstorm: Apocalypse is going to be one of Sony’s killer apps for 3D gaming on the PlayStation 3 in the near future.

Another reference game for 3D would be WipEout HD. Although, this seemed to have the smoothest and most fitting 3D effects, it also was the one that seemed to have strained our eyes a bit. However, that may have been due to the lightning fast speeds coupled with the bright colors and deadly twisting turns. Needless to say, this game could give you a headache even without 3D enabled, especially thanks to its mind-numbing difficulty. The games menu really stands out, as does the vehicle select screen. The hovering ships give the feel that they’re actually hovering above the track, much more pronounced than in regular 2D viewing. The added depth again helps you to judge your turns, although it’s not quite as effective as it is with Motorstorm. I guess it boils down to if you’re a fan of WipEout games as to how much you’ll find pleasure in the 3D effect. I for one am not the biggest of fans, so the 3D may have been impressive, my experience with the game in 3D was only slightly improved over my normal enjoyment levels – which is not very much. That sentiment leads me to the next game we tried…

Next up is the PSN-exclusive, physics demonstration that is PAIN. PAIN always came off a bit juvenile for me, so for all you sophisticated potential 3DTV owners, this may not be your cup-of-tea. The 3D effect was less pronounced in PAIN than any other game we played. Of course – as with all 3D games – there was certainly an added level of depth, but it just didn’t have much of an impact (pun-intended) as other games. 3D was only available to certain modes within PAIN, specifically the mime/clown-toss, and the bowling modes. Maybe if the 3D was applied throughout the entire game, we could have had a better experience with it. Overall, 3D felt extremely tacked on, and was by far the least impressive out of all the titles we demoed.

Now, it’s time for Super Stardust HD. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the game, it’s essentially the title that led the charge with PS3 trophies and because of that and the game’s undeniable charm, it will forever have a place in our hearts. The game itself is perfect for 3D. You’re ship stays stationary while you rotate whatever planet you’re on in order to dodge incoming space rock and enemies all while trying to snag power-ups and shoot one of your 3 available weapons to save yourself from destruction. Bits of intergalactic rock fly about with every shot. Your weapon and the enemies you are trying to take out seem to jump out at you. One specific effect that caught my eye – when particularly large rocks plummet toward the planet, the 3D depth effect is in full force. Even though you’re goal is to avoid crashing into said rocks or enemies, by far the most impressive 3D effect is when you crash – shrapnel and space particles rush out at you intensely, albeit briefly.

Last up is Tumble. It’s the only 3D capable PlayStation Move game available on the PlayStation Move demo disc that’s packed into every PlayStation Move Starter Bundle at the Move’s upcoming September 19 launch. At heart the game is a glorified tech demo turned puzzle game. Despite this, it’s a real blast to play, and even though the demo offers only a peek into what the full game promises, it’s was enough to test it out with 3D. More than any other game, the 3D depth here is the most noticeable particularly because you use the PlayStation Move in a 3D plane to manipulate blocks by moving the controller in, out, up, down and side-to side. Different sections of the demo have you building towers with the blocks and others have you slapping explosive mines over jenga-styled towers, detonating the mines to blow the tower apart. The added 3D effect made building sound structures all the more simple, as you’re able to accurately judge depth thanks to the 3D. Tumble may be the real show stopper the PS3 has to offer in terms of 3D gaming this year, however you’ll need PlayStation Move and the demo or full game to experience it.

After a good week playing these games on and off, we’re confident that we’ve come up with all the main points that the current 3D offering has to offer. Now that you’ve read what we have to say on the subject, it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth your money. Our opinion is that 3D gaming certainly is worth the investment, particularly for entertainment fans. Although the current line-up of 3D capable games is not going to blow your mind, it’s varied and still growing. However, in the coming months leading into next year, we guarantee that 3D is going to become increasingly more important to the PlayStation 3 gamer as Sony is clearly pushing the format with ferocity. With first-party titles such as Killzone 3, The Fight: Lights Out, and Motorstorm: Apocalypse arriving as the first built for 3D games, the budding format will have truly blossomed and anyone with a 3DTV will be the envy of your social group. That is until they realize just how much it adds to the gameplay and visual experience, then they’ll buy their own set. 3D gaming is here folks, and it isn’t going anywhere. So if you’re planning on buying a new TV anytime soon, start saving your pennies and make sure it’s a 3DTV. Once you see it and experience it first hand, you’ll agree… it’s certainly something special.