A year has passed since Nvidia announced plans to port the PhysX programming interface to its CUDA architecture, and it's been about six months since we last spent quality time looking at the fruits of its labor. Industry support for Nvidia's PhysX has been slow to grow, but after a highly visible recommitment to the endeavor at last month's Consumer Electronics Show, Nvidia has made it clear that PhysX will remain a key selling point for its graphics cards. And thanks to EA DICE's million-seller Mirror's Edge, Nvidia arguably has its highest-profile title yet with support for GPU-accelerated PhysX. I'd say we're about due for another look at the technology.
We've spent a lot of time talking about Mirror's Edge. If you've missed our other coverage, Cyril got the hype train rolling when the game was first announced, after which Geoff got his hands on the Xbox 360 version and shared his thoughts on the experience. Most recently, Cyril played through the PC release and had a blast—so much fun, in fact, that he was compelled to discuss the game again in our latest podcast. And after all of that, we're still not done talking about it.
I won't discuss the premise or merits of the gameplay in too much depth—you can check out some of our earlier coverage for that. Suffice to say, Mirror's Edge is a first-person 3D platformer with a small dose of combat to mix things up a bit. As in any good platformer, this game's environments present as much danger as the bad guys that inhabit them. The majority of your time is spent exploring your surroundings and figuring out how best to navigate them. Combined with the first-person parkour aspect, it becomes apparent very quickly that the set pieces are what drive gameplay.
Mirror's Edge was initially going to be a simultaneous cross-platform release for the 2008 holiday season, but the PC version was delayed, perhaps partly to incorporate PhysX effects. Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 owners got their hands on the game first, but like most Windows releases, Mirror's Edge PC also brings sharper visuals and more flexible controls.
So, what does PhysX bring to the table in Mirror's Edge? The designers at EA DICE took full advantage of the PhysX API throughout the single-player campaign, utilizing the extra horsepower of GPU-accelerated physics to drive a number of visual effects in the game world. Here's what you can look forward to:
Of course, all of these promises raise a couple of questions: are the visual improvements noticeable and are they worth the performance trade-off? That's what we aim to find out.
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