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Tuesday 14 August 2007

Seeing the benefits of Physx [Brit]

On a quick PC World stop last night to grab a new mousemat, I grabbed a copy of GRAW2 (therefore enabling me to play with m'clan colleagues as war is waged against Mexicans various). As I trawled through the harshly lit emporium I remembered the whole Ageia Physx shambles that both GRAW and GRAW2 make use of and thought "what the hell, lets see if these cowboys have any".

Phenomenally they did and even more unbelievably, for £75 which is cheaper than Overclockers. So I grabbed one. (Interestingly, the PC World website lists the same card for £79.97 not including delivery at £4.99).

Installation was of course a breezy 2 minute affair - indeed, downloading and installing the upgraded drivers took longer. Expecting great things, I fired up GRAW2 and in a fit of pique (and figuring my aging 256MB Radeon X8500 would breath slightly easier from a dedicated physics card) shoved the video quality up a few notches; negotiating the usual ramshackle Ubi approach to multiplayer lobby interfaces, I joined a server and started blasting.

The results of this card are immediate and impressive, and frankly, give those with them installed a slight edge by dint of the added effects which help reveal if not the location of, the direction an enemy is firing at you from.

Of course, it also looks very pretty and therefore the game experience is more engrossing; grenades and the resulting explosions are extremely powerful and impressive, ricochets, debris, smoke, and yes even the humble tumbleweed all behave differently or at least appear to - net net, for £75 GRAW and GRAW2 actually become GRAW+ and GRAW2+.

Interestingly Unreal Tournament 3 is also taking advantage of both the software and hardware Physx components which means at least one of the two games competing for Game of the Year 2007 will benefit from a (in the grand scheme of things) fairly trivial investment cash wise. Of course, as I now launch headlong into my new rig build (codename PE0N) and upgrade my graphics card to an uber NVidia doo-da, I expect things to come together quite nicely and hopefully future proof my GFX capabilities for at least 18 months.

I'll grab some screenies later and chuck them up, the difference really does need to be seen as its quite the turn on.


  1. Excellent news! Looks like Team Fortress 2 also takes advantage of the Physx hardware. W00t!


  2. The thing about these cards, and I hate to piss on anyone's chips here, is that anything that is presently done on them can be just as easily done on your CPU. Particularly since games sit there not using one of your CPUs as it is. Furthermore, the chip on the card is pretty low-tech in terms of fabrication technology and is something of a computational joke when it comes to - for example - a video card.

    So when, or even if, it should be necessary to use physics acceleration hardware, it's probably better off handled by the monstrous mass of programmable computing power sat on a graphics card. In the fullness of time it'll probably become a dedicated part of the chip on a graphics card.

    However right here and now they're a bit of a con. There's no reason why GRAW/GRAW2 can't provide the same physics without the hardware by just hammering a core of your CPU. In my view, the 70 notes one costs is better spent actually boosting memory, CPU or class of graphics card in a PC upgrade rather than one of these cards.


  3. The other problem is one of chicken and eggism. Physx does add things to some games, but for now it's slight eye candy, a few more bits of debris here, some flappy flags there. It doesn't add anything to the gameplay. Until everyone has a physx card, developers wont write gameplay that depends on the card being present. So it's kind of doomed really.

    Looks pretty though, some of the shots of upcoming games do lookswish with it enabled, but I'm not sure more realistic flags is worth the pricetag.