A lot of us are probably old enough to have been around at the time 3D video game eyewear was born. Led by Nintendo's historic but under-appreciated Virtual Boy portable game system, these peripherals made their way to the gaming market and provided the then relatively small gaming population a curious peek into the world of virtual reality. While a lot of us were undoubtedly amused with this development, a lot of us chose to watch at the sidelines and stick to our regular TVs.
Fast forward to the year 2007: The gaming world has upped its population exponentially and high-definition TVs are the new hot thing in the consumer electronics market. While a lot of us have forgotten personal 3D eyewear, this line of gaming accessories is alive and is in fact improving with the times.
Enter the Headplay Personal Cinema System. This up-and-coming personal 3D display device may be small enough to fit around your head, but it packs some serious technological wallop to match some of today's best output devices. We've tested it before on some of the hottest game consoles, but this time, we're putting it to the ultimate PC stress test. QJ.NET's PC team got together to give Headplay a spin on our gaming PC to see what game genres it works best in.
For this review, we tested Headplay on three titles for three of the PC gaming world's favorite genres. Representing the FPS scene, we chose the smokin' hot EA Games release Crysis. For racing fans, we're putting Sega Rally Revo out for a test drive, and for RPG enthusiasts, we decided to go with old favorite The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. How did Headplay perform in each? We'll get to that in a bit. First, Tim Y. tells us how to set Headplay up on your PC:
Setting Headplay up:
- Plug in the Headplay power adapter into a wall socket (that 's 100 to 240 volts).
- Disconnect the end of your PC's VGA cable connected to your monitor.
- Connect the VGA cable to its slot on the Headplay system's liberator. That's the big black box that comes with the kit.
- Plug the adapter into the Liberator.
- Plug the Headplay cable into the Liberator
- Press the power button on top of the Liberator. You'll know it;s working if the LED turns blue.
- Access the Headplay's options screen. Select VGA. You're now ready to load and play.
We've played Electronic Arts and Crytek's first-person shooter Crysis for the PC again and again, yet our hunger for intense nanosuit-powered action is yet to be quelled. While trying to figure out more ways to enjoy developer Crytek's masterpiece aside from throwing chicken at North Koreans, we gave the Headplay Personal Cinema System a spin.
Without a doubt, Crysis is exactly what it was touted to be. Right off the bat, we were introduced to gorgeous visuals under the night sky. Our man is a U.S. Special Forces operative equipped with a nanosuit that pushes his body past its limits, allowing him to be more powerful or speedy on the fly. Of course, any self-respecting futuristic suit made in year 2020 also has defensive and cloaking abilities.
The game starts off with our hero dropping airborne in a mission to fight North Koreans. With a gadget that slams impressive graphics and lush environments to your face in high resolution, it's easy to be in awe after seeing a healthy Pacific Island covered with greenery when Headplay is strapped on. There's enough time to just relax and enjoy Crysis' mind-blowing backdrops, but you'd want to move to the next objective point and find soldiers to kill to see if firefights look as good. Don't worry, because you'll be rewarded.
Almost everything in Crysis is destructible. Everything. No place is ever safe to hide in, because objects crumble, trees fall, and walls collapse. All this happens in a very convincing way; you won't see rifle shots destroying houses made of stone. It goes without saying that this top-class FPS is a visual treat, so expect things to break down in style.
Combat is made more satisfying thanks to various abilities the nanosuit provides. The possible ways to conquer the battlefield are endless. Cloaking proves to be invaluable, while increasing your run speed to ridiculously fast is very convenient. Another cool addition is the game's weapon customization feature, which allows players to modify their firearms on the go. All it takes is a couple of mouse clicks to add a silencer, flashlight, or other add-ons to your gun.
Similar to Far Cry, Crytek's latest offering is sort of a sandbox shooter: enemies are scattered all over an expansive map, you have your orders and all the different methods to dispatch them. The game does become linear in later levels, when difficulty skyrockets and you're left with limited options of how to do your mission. Freedom is still there, but more than luck is necessary to survive if you choose risky roads and hot zones.
Any first-person shooter fan can be overwhelmed with Crysis. Intense moments come in good doses early on when the fight is just against North Koreans, and the excitement triples after aliens reveal themselves and start big scale invasions. To even the odds, players get to arm themselves with highly customizable assault rifles, shotguns, sub-machine guns, pistols, and more. Many vehicles are also around, whether it be on land or sea.
The audio department guys did their job quite well. Gunfire sounds real, and you'll hear bullets fly from all directions. Crysis won't be earning any awards for its musical score, but composer Inon Zur did a great job. Voice acting is top notch, and in the highest difficulty setting, North Koreans even speak their native tongue to veil their intentions.
For countless times we played Crysis, everything from the first 10 minutes to the end seemed fresh. Using Headplay, it's a brand new world of immersion and nanosuit manipulation. When we thought the trees could never look more real, seeing them through Headplay raised the bar.
It's important to note that everyone of us who got hooked to Crysis and were to eager to take a shot with Headplay are very familiar with the keyboard and mouse. Those who haven't memorized the controls should map hotkeys to their bidding, since some functions like night vision could be hard to reach at default settings. Good thing is, Crysis isn't exactly hard to play. The middle mouse button gives easy access to nanosuit powers, and it's also easy to navigate yourself to weapon customization from there.
Epic it may be, but Crysis is still not free from blemishes. Enemy AI usually keeps us on our toes, but there were some instances when soldiers ignored our presence while their allied vehicles kept on spraying lead. Apart from minor graphical glitches like rare clipping, Crysis looks amazingly perfect. This great package, however, cannot be opened by dated gaming machines. Crysis is very demanding, so you'll need at least a mid-end PC to play in minimum settings.
In conclusion, Crysis is the closest to heaven PC gamers will get. It's the ultimate display of how far technology has brought us in terms of graphical power, and a promising revelation that future titles will look even more fantastic. Without sacrificing game design efforts, Crytek chiseled Crysis to perfection. Experiencing it with Headplay is advised.
By: Nicolo S.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
So, what's it like using this system for my Oblivion session? It works surprisingly well. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion's land mass lends itself to a lush green (or if it's a dungeon, dreary gray) environment that's just waiting to keep you immersed for several hours on end. Because Headplay locks out your outside environment, it keeps your gaming experience focused and unmolested. That goes double for the dungeons. Those tight spaces feel all the more claustrophobic, and the city's sewers all the more cavernous. All that's left to add is the smell of the dirty water and dead rats for the total sewer experience.
Environments aside, there's also the matter of your actual gameplay. Headplay's interface has a slight problem with overall brightness, which leaves some of the areas looking dimmer than they actually are. This could be problematic for those who prefer bow combat - poor lighting conditions can really kill your effective range. It's not that big a problem once the action's up close, however, so you really just have to be a little more careful as you travel. It also helps to keep that torch or a proper spell ready for use, which brings us to our next topic.
You'll want to make some preparations to keep the game running smooth. Since Headplay blocks out your outside view, you'll want to spend time mapping out your hotkeys. There's nothing quite as embarrassing (and painful) as facing down a berserk axe-wielding orc, only to realize what should have been a sword in your hand is useless mortar and pestle. Once you've gotten those key jotted down, though, it's cakewalk.
Headplay grants a couple of interesting (If unexpected) quirks when youÂ’re using it for your adventures in the land of Cyrodiil. For one, itÂ’s heavy enough that after a couple of hours, itÂ’ll feel like youÂ’re really wearing your characterÂ’s Great Helm. Remember to stretch those necks, guys.
The rig isnÂ’t a completely form-fitting to your face either. While this really merits as a letdown, it also means that you've got room to peer down and make sure you're pressing the right key commands, or grab to occasional treat. More seriously, however, is the matter of focusing each eyepiece. Given I wear glasses, Headplay's lens didn't have the settings I needed to keep the images from blurring. Overall, Headplay is a visually enhancing and experience-reinventing piece of hardware, though it does have limitations which may take some getting used to.
By: Tim Y.
Sega Rally Revo
Yours truly took Sega Rally Revo, a recent release from Sega, for a spin with the Headplay Personal Cinema System. With Ceasar S.' Steering Wheel of Utmost Righteousness, I plunged myself into the Headplay experience for some next-gen, virtual reality driving. This was after warning my colleagues that if they heard something exploding in the game room, it was just my brain exploding from the back of my head due to its inability to absorb all the awesome stuff.
After a bit of fiddling with the Headplay Personal Cinema System's lenses and a tightening of the strap, I was able to get a good view of everything, and for the most part, it does make you feel like you're in the game. Add to this the ridiculously-exciting in-car view of Sega Rally Revo (which can get a bit hectic as your car swerves through the game's more difficult tracks), and you've got yourself a keeper. The display is bright and not blinding, the feel of the Headplay Personal Cinema System isn't too heavy and there's not much strain on your eyes. Overall, if you want a bit more edge to your graphics-heavy games, then the Headplay Personal Cinema System is a good bet.
However, there are a few issues you have to contend with. First is that it takes quite a bit of tinkering for the lenses to fit you just right so that you don't get any blind spots or double vision. There's also the deal with the outline of the display box still visible, making it feel like you're playing a game in the back of the theater. This is a step up from playing on a TV or monitor screen, but it's still not quite there in terms of total game immersion. And one tends to get motion-sick - quite a bit - if you play for long periods of time. Then again, that might be taken as a sign that Headplay makes driving games realistic enough to actually make you car sick.
Is Headplay Personal Cinema System worth it, then? My short answer would be yes. My long answer would be that if you really want to get more out of your games, then the Headplay Personal Cinema System is wort a try. Just be sure pace yourself to get the best experience possible each time.
By: Ryan C.
The Bottom Line
Headplay isn't necessarily an essential part of the average person's gaming needs. Most people will do with the average TV or PC monitor. However, those looking to breathe new life into old games or to get the most out of the current releases should try this one by all means. In our experience, it worked pretty well with the FPS and racing genres, while RPGs may need a bit more work to get everything nailed down. In the very least, Headplay is a nice peripheral that keeps the VR days alive and fighting.