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Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 - AGEIA PhysX PPU Update

Author: Ryan Shrout
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AGEIA
Tagged:

AGEIA Island - Potential?

While the extra effects in the normal GRAW 2 game play might seem nice, they aren't going to sell any cards, and AGEIA knows it.  The goal with "AGEIA Island", a level that is only accessible once you have their PhysX hardware installed in your system, is to show gamers and developers the potentially dramatic shift in gaming that will follow higher level physics processing.


When playing through AGEIA Island you definitely can tell that this is different than what we were showing you on the previous page.  Particles are everywhere, but pretty much everything on the island (though that isn't TOO much) is destructible or at least interacts with you.













AGEIA Island - Click to Enlarge


AGEIA Island - Click to Enlarge


Right after being dropped off by a helicopter on the stage, you'll find a conveniently placed fuel/gas tank around some other explosive items and a destructible wooden fence.  Gee...what's a player to do?  Shoot it and you are greeted with one of the best looking explosion animations I have seen in any game.  What's better, this is completely physics drive as you can see by the different outcomes that occur with different angles, etc.













AGEIA Island - Click to Enlarge


AGEIA Island - Click to Enlarge













AGEIA Island - Click to Enlarge


AGEIA Island - Click to Enlarge













AGEIA Island - Click to Enlarge


AGEIA Island - Click to Enlarge


In that series of screens I give you a look at what the total effect is like: a large fireball explosion followed by flying debris and then followed by a slowly fading dust cloud. 


The only negative I found in this particular effect and interaction is that the bad guys seemed invulnerable to it -- several times enemies would be standing very close when I shot up the tanks but still remain behind afterwards to take more pot shots at me.













AGEIA Island - Click to Enlarge


AGEIA Island - Click to Enlarge


These trees are another interaction unique to the AGEIA Island level of GRAW 2; you can see in the first image that they are being affected by the wind pretty dramatically indicating that at least the major parts of the limbs of the tree are independent in the physics engine.  You can also shoot the trees, causing them to crack and fall to the ground.  One problem -- no matter WHERE you shoot the trees, they always break in the same location about a quarter of the way from the top. 













AGEIA Island - Click to Enlarge


AGEIA Island - Click to Enlarge


The main point of the AGEIA Island mission is to blow up stuff -- now tell me THAT isn't a setup from the start??  You are given some C4 and asked nicely to place it some fuel tanks that happen to be sitting near some wooden shanties. 













AGEIA Island - Click to Enlarge


AGEIA Island - Click to Enlarge


The explosion animation again appears to be great and is leaps above what the standard game play in GRAW 2 offers.  And as you might have guessed, the wooden structure is demolished impressively as well.













AGEIA Island - Click to Enlarge


AGEIA Island - Click to Enlarge


This shot on the right shows another wooden structure that can be destroyed on AGEIA Island - a lookout tower.  Sort of like the trees throughout the level, the towers COMPLETELY collapse in the same manner when any grenade goes off near it.  The animation on this one is more hokey looking to the point where I question the amount of time put into it.  Of course, blowing one up with a sniper at the top is STILL a satisfying endeavor.













AGEIA Island - Click to Enlarge


AGEIA Island - Click to Enlarge


You do also come across some small shelters that use cloth simulations on them -- something that AGEIA has been pushing as difficult to do on the CPU.  You can of course interact with them, but only by shooting them.  Walking into them with character didn't seem to have any effect or move the fabric differently than the wind was.  By shooting it though you could tear it, and as you see in the second photo, put very angular-shaped holes in the ceiling cloth. 


The AGEIA Island level is definitely a big step up in terms of physical world interactions than the rest of GRAW 2 and a big step towards the way AGEIA envisions games going forward.  But, as I have already mentioned, because developers like GRIN can't afford to cut out gamers without AGEIA PhysX hardware, the big changes to game play like we are seeing here are going to continue to be relegated to "add-ons" and "bonus levels".


Final Thoughts


The AGEIA PhysX changes in the base Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 game are minimal over the first version of the game and would also be considered minimal when comparing to non-PhysX game play in GRAW 2.  While somewhat of a disappointment, it is really not that surprising for reasons we have discussed above and in numerous other articles on PC Perspective.  Gamers that have PhysX cards are going to get some slight effects additions and changes but overall, the game remains much the same.


The AGEIA Island level is a different story as our screenshots and descriptions above attest to.  The level of interactivity with the world increased dramatically when the developers could assume that the user was going to have PhysX hardware on their system and didn't have to worry about backwards compatibility.  Even though some of the new animations and interactions were cheesy (like the tree that always breaks in the same location), the feel of the level made the game much different and I could see how expanding on it could create something truly innovative.



While that's well and good for AGEIA, unfortunately, GRAW 2 isn't going to draw the HUGE crowd that the company needs for their PhysX hardware to really take off.  At E3 in 2006, Epic's Mark Rein mentioned specifically that their upcoming Unreal Tournament title was going to use AGEIA's software technology for in-game physics and also include "a few" additional levels that only AGEIA PhysX users would be able to play.  That sounds very similar to the approach that GRIN and Ubisoft took with the GRAW 2 title -- we can only hope that Epic takes it another step forward and creates something mind-blowing.


As for AGEIA, again we have to give a "wait and see" verdict on their product.  I know you have all been in the "waiting" mode FOREVER, but trust me, I am sure AGEIA is more disappointed by it that all of us.  For their product to succeed, they need to convince developers to take advantage of it, and then DEPEND on them to implement in a timely manner.  Whether or not anything will help AGEIA now is difficult to say with any amount of certainty, but the delays have already cost AGEIA dearly by letting the likes of ATI/AMD and NVIDIA steal some PR thunder with their own supposed physics acceleration options. 


The move towards more physical reality in games is going to continue to chug forward; the only question that remains is who will be at the helm and who will be mopping up the poop deck.



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