NVIDIA showed off three upcoming games that take advantage of GeForce 256's unique features. These were Evolva - from Interplay, Halo - from Bungie, and Experience - from The Whole Experience. The games shown were not pre rendered movies, but were actually being played in real time! Sorry, despite my best efforts I was unable to swipe the alpha software =)
Evolva has the player leading a group of what looks like space cadets through an alien world populated by an assortment of nasties. The game must have been chosen because of how detailed the models of the space cadets looked, as well as the monsters. This became quite apparent when NVIDIA switched the game into wire frame mode. Even the blood spatter from combat splashed around as polygons.
Halo was the one game out of the three shown that left the room breathless. It showed off some impressive lighting effects, including soft looking shadows, and an astonishing amount of detail in all of the models. The game basically looks like a third person version of Tribes, but with much more exquisite detail. Halo has larger outdoor areas, and more expansive indoor areas, along with a lot of vehicle use. At the show was the jeep like vehicle with a top mounted gun - this particular car certainly looked like it was comparable in detail the the Porsche or firetruck. The gun on top had fine details as did the chassis of the jeep. You could see the shocks on the undercarriage of the vehicle, and distinct tire treads on the wheels. Driving around the field with the jeep kicked up dirt from the ground.
That sound you heard is your jaw hitting the floor
It is safe to say that Halo's in game graphics engine is almost on a par with some of the best CG movies from Squaresoft (Final Fantasy series). With real time graphics like that, who needs prerendered cut scenes? The kicker was when the NVIDIA guys ran their character up to the top of a ridge, overlooking the setting sun on a large lake. The room oohed and aahed at how realistically the light played off the rippling surface of the water. Now that was a lifelike picture that even the G400 tech demos couldn't touch. Regrettably, Bungie isn't releasing many screenshots of the game, and the photos I tried to take of the screen didn't come out. You'll have to content yourself with the older shot above. Check out the detail in the sky and the realistic smoke trail from the SAM launch. There's just one word that describes Halo - INSANE.
Experience is a game that looked impressive from the start (first shown at the GDC in March) and has continued to improve and astonish over the past several months. They didn't disappoint at the GeForce 256 press conference either. The lush forest scenes that the NVIDIA team walked through were nothing short of exhilarating, as you can see for yourself in the screenshots. Though leafless, the barren trees look a lot more realistic with smaller branches and twigs that spread out from the trunk like fractals.
Damned impressive foliage
Amidst the dozens of slides that NVIDIA showed - there was one Quake 3 benchmark. No mention was made of what exactly the test system was, only that it was compared to the TNT2 Ultra. At "16x12x16" (which we assume means 1600x1200x16bit color), GeForce 256 gets 33.1 frames per second while the TNT2 Ultra is about half as fast at 17.5 frames per second. Why such a modest increase? Well, Quake 3 isn't a high poly game, so it's not going to show the kind of dramatic increase over the TNT2 Ultra as it would if it was tweaked with tons of polys. The fill rate alone is what's really driving these numbers - meanwhile, the powerful geometry engine on the GeForce256 is probably trying to stifle a yawn.