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Gran Turismo 5 deserves to be savoured. It took a long time coming, but now it's here it can be enjoyed in 3D glory. What's most impressive though is the amount of restraint shown. It cleverly applies 3D depth only when it makes a different to the driving experience.
3D is starting to make as much headway into games as it has in films. One of the biggest games to get the Stereoscopic 3D treatment is Gran Turismo 5 on the PS3.
The 3D option for Gran Turismo 5 is buried away in the hardware preferences and a couple of scrolls to the right, and does not look like it is expecting many people to look for it. It's a little odd for such a high profile game, particularly as other games detect a 3D TV automatically and prompt for its use on startup.
Once you have found the 3D option there are a couple of parameters that can be tweaked. Parallax, which sets the strength of the 3D effect from 1 to 10 and Convergence which sets the distance of the Convergence Point of the left and right eye image from 0.00 to 1.00 on 0.01 increments. Then it's on to the racing.
The most obvious and convincing use of 3D is from the internal driving view. In regular 2D mode this seems to use up valuable screen real estate but in 3D it really comes into its own as it adds depth to the output.
3D games design has to consider the amount of relief to deliver and how these layers will affect gameplay. This depth can be both into the screen (behind the traditional flat plane of the screen) or brought out in front of the usual plane of view - what has been coined the eye popping effect.
Gran Turismo 5's 3D places you in the cockpit of the car with the road disappearing into distance. The track and scenery gain added momentum and distance by being framed by the dashboard in the foreground. The rear view mirror provides a convincing look back with a differing reflected depth which adds to the experience.
Remaining artificial readouts not catered for in the render are projected as a HUD on the screen - lap counter, tyre heat and lap times. These sit neatly on the surface plane of the television and again work well being both easy to read and unobtrusive.
In 3D it is quite different.
As you spend most of the time focusing through the windscreen and down the road this HUD plane placement has the effect of making the details almost disappear. When playing in 2D they form part of your peripheral vision. In 3D it is quite different. In fact it's a real effort to draw your focus back look at this information without taking your eyes from the road.
This is both good and bad. Sure, you are losing quick access to this information but this leaves you to focus on what's happening on the track in front of you. If it is too much of a problem you can even tone this placement down or increase it with the parallax setting. I found the lower setting too subtle for driving and the 10 setting pushed things too much and caused more image ghosting and crosstalk. A setting of 4 seemed about right on a 42" plasma.
Out on the track the 3D is a bit more subtle. It is not being used as a gimmick to throw things at you, but as a way to see and feel that breaking point. It also enhances the perception of speed as the track side and other cars are hurtling past your actual peripheral vision.
I was impressed at the restraint here.
I was impressed at the restraint here. The lack of 3D trickery not only makes for a more comfortable 3D experience but also means it is possible to have a longer gaming session without too many adverse affects.
Add rain and wind screen into the scenario and the cockpit view is even more impressive. The hypnotic effect of the wipers and the multiple depth planes of the raindrops is more than a little distracting though and not something I feel the need to take on too often.
I also found wearing the Shuttered Glasses has an almost haptic feedback feeling of being encased in something, in this case a car or a driving helmet. I wasn't expecting this. It may just be part of the novelty of the glasses but I did wonder if some third party peripheral maker would create some sort of crash helmet add on.
All this realism means it is not necessarily the most comfortable of experiences to play - and not should it be. I do not usually get motion sickness from games, but here I found myself needing to take a break now and again. This may be seen as a negative, but in a game where I am hurtling at 180 miles an hour through the wooded track of the Nordschleife it is good to feel some physical effects.
There are obviously some aspects of racing the even Gran Turismo can't provide yet - smells, emotions and that gathered community buzz. While it has a high degree of scientific modelling, the way the cars slide, suspension rolls and struggling to get traction it can't provide the G force of acceleration or the vertical motions of riding the bumps. But it does enough to evoke these things in anyone who has experienced them in real life.
Having been on track days and rally days and experienced the paddock feel and smell of real motor racing I found my brain simply filled in the gaps. The slightly disorientated adrenalin rush and real physical affect of speed is not exactly the same as the 3D induced nausea, but it is close.
Another nice touch is Gran Turismo 5' use of the Playstation Eye for face recognition. In Arcade mode this tries to track your face and adjust the view in the cockpit accordingly. The camera has to be very close to get a good view of your face and track it. In the setup options I thought I would try whilst wearing the 3D glasses but this seemed to confuse the head tracking. Altering a few settings and tolerances made it respond a little but I don't think they are really very compatible.
Driving games and the perception of corners and depth at speed seem ideal for the technology.
I found Gran Turismo very enjoyable in 3D. Perhaps the biggest testament is that the 3D melts away (apart from the rain drops) into a very playable enhancement. Driving games and the perception of corners and depth at speed seem ideal for the technology.
The combination of restrained application and expert technical delivery make Gran Turismo 5 3D a driver's experience. Other games may pull off more 3D tricks to impress your friends and family with but this actually puts the tech to good use in the game proper.
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