GRAW2 Could Rekindle My Enthusiasm for Ageia's PhysX

GRAW2 Could Rekindle My Enthusiasm for Ageia's PhysX

I’ve been a relatively harsh critic of Ageia and its PhysX technology; not because I don’t believe in the concept of hardware-accelerated physics, but because I think Ageia has done a poor job of making a case for its own product. But a hands-on demo of Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 at this weekend’s Showdown LAN 2007 has rekindled my interest.

I found the recent CellFactor: Revolution demo to be a major disappointment because it didn’t offer a compelling reason as to why you should buy one of these cards. Redirecting lava flows to turn my enemies into crispy critters with my character’s “psi power” was fun, but the graphics were pedestrian at best—and the gameplay was utterly banal. GRAW2 is a different matter. Ageia tells me all the physics in the game were created using its PhysX SDK, but only one level (dubbed Ageia Island, appropriately enough) requires a PhysX card—you can’t unlock the level without it. Could this be just a marketing ploy? I guess it’s possible, but I’ve never seen such detailed physics in a game.

My impressions are based a brief demo with pre-release code in Ageia’s booth, but this is the clearly the direction in which Ageia needs to move. Nearly everything in the game environment is destructible, and objects exhibit realistic properties. If the enemy catches you hiding behind a wooden fence, for instance, they can plink away at the boards until your cover is completely destroyed. The guard tower is even more remarkable. You can act with stealth and take out the enemy soldier with a sniper rifle, or you can launch an RPG, blow the entire structure apart, and watch him tumble down to his death. The first time you try this, you’ll undoubtedly get blown away yourself because you’re too busy watching the destruction unfold before you.

The effects are persistent, too. Blow up a hut or take down a tower, and the debris will be there every time you return to that spot in the game. This should help keep the game fresh and new, especially during multiplayer bouts. And as odd as it might sound, the weather effects in GRAW2 are almost as impressive as the explosions. The wind blows so many leaves and other debris around the environment that it sometimes obscure your vision. These are the types of particle effects that I’ve been waiting to see move from Ageia’s lab demos to real-world games.

I want to see hardware-accelerated physics thrive, and I think a dedicated processor is the way to do it. While one level in one game isn’t going to sell the thousands of PhysX cards Ageia needs to move in order to attain critical mass, GRAW2 looks like it will be a crucial step in the right direction. The PC version of the game is scheduled for a July 2007 release.

Here are some screenshots showing the watchtower being demolished.



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It should be noted that the GRAW2 demo recently released features none of these effects, nor are the graphics anything to speak of. The game played and looked pretty much exactly like the original GRAW. Color me not impressed.



Having mechanisms that contribute to maintaining a persistent world are nice. It's a great stride toward realism.

I like the prospect of players creating their own cover with objects or by altering terrain with say, heavy equipment; I've always been keen on the notion of being able to stage some pretty elaborate traps and/or defenses.

Standing on the edge of a precipice in a Gale force wind should incur the obvious penalty via PhysX.

Actual shrapnel damage potential is neat (rather than a calculation based on proximity to blast point). I also like the prospect that if players are too dumb to loot a key off a guard than they could possibly just destroy a door or barricade, or that they could possibly tunnel below some barriers.

I could go on, but you get the idea. As for Ageia and the card, I'm definitely waiting for both quality titles using their product to proliferate the market and the price of the card to fall ( a lot ). I view it in the same category as a good sound card; I'll pay extra for something that gives me solid, tangible improvement to my PC experience, but then there is still a limit to what I'll spend on one component.

Captain Caustic the Underwhelmed



I still can't see spending $200.00 on a Physic's card for one game as of now. Now I know that Ageia has said they have developers that are going to use their SDK, but when that happens and they release a larger number of games that supports the tech , I'd wait and see if the price of the card comes down first, then I'm onboard.



I am having trouble viewing the full images.



More like the script isn't working - thanks for pointing that out. I'll instruct my monkeys to talk to MPC's monkeys and make it work for next time. Lest we have Monkey stew :) I am sure some how its Murphy's fault.



Just to think what it would be like if a game like Half Life-2 were to take advantage of the Ageia PhysX card....



In Supreme Commander, each shot fired, unlike most other games, actually has a trajectory and is tracked through 3D space, which could make a PhysX useful. It's only one game, but it could be a start.



With the Q6600 dropping to 250$ in July, I don't think so :)

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