Gran Turismo 5 3D impressions

So finally Gran Turismo 5 released after years of waiting. I’ve been with the series since the original (EU) launch back in 1998, and GT5 is clearly the biggest jump since the debut. 

Everything has seemingly been rebuilt from the ground up, a platform for the next iterations to expand upon like GT1 served GT2, 3 and 4. There’s plenty of new features like Dynamic damage that is not based on pre-defined damage modeling, a rich online mode with a large community focus and dynamic weather, these are some of the highlights. The aim of this article though is to simply focus on one feature and that is the addition of an extra dimension thanks to Stereoscopic 3D.

The test bed is a Bravia LX900 60″ 3DTV. So far most of the PS3 titles supporting the third dimension prompt the 2D/3D question at the outset but GT5 has this as a permanent toggle in the options. The first time you boot GT5 this will be default to off though your TV will most likely inform that it has sensed a 3D capable source due to a test signal. You will find the 3D settings at a slightly odd location which is all the way to the right of the DualShock controller setup section. There you will also find the head tracking options for the PS Eye which works well assuming you’re not many meters from the TV and with the lights turned on.

In the 3D menu sections there exists 3D on/off that determines what mode the game should boot to in the future. There are also two different sliders. One for Parallax (3D strength, the distance between the left and right camera) and one for Convergence (the point where the right and left images cross, this determines if objects come out of the screen and more, this adjusts the angle of the left and right camera). This is the first PS3 game I’ve witnessed offering the Convergence option so that was a pleasant discovery. It goes from 0.00 to 1.00 so there’s a hundred degrees of adjustment here.
Parallax goes from 1 to 10.

3D settings are very individual as there are people who can’t wake up in the morning without suffering from vertigo and 3D sickness but in my experience with Gran Turismo 5 you go in deep or you don’t go in at all. The 3D aspect truly starts to shine at high Convergence settings though you should follow suit with the Parallax or else you will end up with a very narrow tunnel view. I mentioned that 3D setting can be very individual but I would still like to detail my current adjustment so you get a sense of how far out you probably should be aiming for. 

By default, GT5 has Parallax set at 3 and Convergence at 0.00. In my opinion there is no point playing the game in 3D with these values (it also makes me wonder if Polyphony actually demoed the game with these settings). It is very flat and there are crosstalking issues. 

My personal adjustment are Parallax at 9 and Convergence at 0.90. That’s pretty much at the opposite side of the spectrum. Crosstalking issues (meaning image objects displaying twice on the screen) also seem to vanish at higher settings though not completely. It seems like the crosstalking happens mostly at the depth of the convergence point and affects very bright objects (series of street lamps, certain racing strips). It’s vague though and not a big issue. Whatever values you end up choosing you should probably keep the Parallax and Convergence within two-three points of each other to avoid a warped screen space.

The menus in 3D mode are actually perfectly in 2D. There is no difference from how it looks on a standard TV. The exception is of course the actual 3D objects. Know the combustion engine displayed on the main menu? The mechanical parts actually come out of the screen. Most cars and such are shown with inwards depth.

One of the first things I noticed while playing the game in 3D was the crispness of the image. It’s a bit harder to determine resolution in 3D than in it is in 2D since there’s so much more visual data for your eyes to process (depth) but I’m pretty convinced that we are looking at true unscaled 1280×720 resolution per eye. Or something very close to that. Reports around the web seem to indicate that this is actually, truly, the case. If so my hat is off to Polyphony. All high-end titles with 3D support so far released on consoles (which excludes budget titles with a narrower scope) suffer from severe resolution downgrades to be able to cope with extra processing needed to render the scene twice. In 3D, Gran Turismo 5 does not run at a perfect 60fps all the time, but the fact that they have been able to render at HD resolution at good framerates is a great achievement. Adjustments have surely been made to effects and maybe assets but it’s not visible while gaming, besides the slightly lower framerate.

Let’s speak about the framerate then. It’s good! Not perfect but good. It also varies between viewpoints. Driving from a third person view and from a bumper view on a sunny track the framerate stays at 60fps. If you get six or more cars close to the screen (most likely higher LOD models) then the framerate goes down to about 50fps (I base this on pure eyesight). One thing to note though is that the framerate fluctuation doesn’t cause screen tearing in the 3D mode (though I have observed that playing the game in 2D) so it’s possible that V-sync might actually be enabled. Playing from the cockpit however and the framerate seems to drop another ten fps from whatever it was running in the other viewpoints. With a good amount of cars close in front it seems like it’s hovering around 40fps in that view. The very worst case scenario I have seen was during a turn in Eigher Northwind with about ten cars in view with heavy rain and fog, PS Eye headtracking and cockpit view which slowed the game down to around 15-20fps for two-three seconds. Rewatching that moment from third person replay mode actually brought the framerate down to about 5! These are very rare occurences however and are not representative of how the 3D mode fares overall. 
Framerate is not perfect but it runs at a very good pace, about 60-50fps from most views and 50-40 in cockpit in native 720p 3D. The bumper cam really shows how ridiculously big my TV is and the framerate is optimal but still I prefer to play from the cockpit view simply because I find it more entertaining.

The cockpit view is actually the source for the most impressive 3D experience I have ever had bare none. First of all is the crazy attention to detail. The wheel is distanced from the dashboard. Every conture of every component like the aircondition, the display, the top of the dashboard, the mirror and more is immediately noticable. You can feel and sense all these shapes orient themselves around the moving camera. It’s very nice to see the shadows (ecspecially the frequent ones caused by street lamps during night) glide across this architecture. Most of these details are lost on the default 3D settings as there’s barely some distance between the wheel and the windshield so I urge you to use higher settings as mentioned earlier.
Speaking of the windshield, the moment which truly and absolutely floored me was (as you might expect) when the rain hits. Seeing that fully dynamic water play around… there almost aren’t enough superlatives. I actually cursed out loud spontaneously the first time. It absolutely slayed me. Put a person in front of this and it would sell them immediately.

The 3D effect from the other viewpoints is pretty powerful as well. In third person view the back end of the car practically sticks out of the monitor. In bumper view the sense of speed is immense, the image huge and other cars feels like intimidating and heavy objects.

My conclusion is that, with the right settings, Gran Turismo 5 is the finest 3D game yet released for the system and a poster child for the technology.

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