A little while back, NVIDIA brought us the news that Mirror's Edge for the PC would feature PhysX support and include some neat effects physics. Effects physics, as you may recall, is the physical simulation of things that don't impact gameplay but simply enhance the visual impact of a game. This can range from particle systems to persistent debris enhanced destructibility or more accurate simulation of fluids, smoke or other volumetric effects. The impact is in immersiveness but it doesn't bring game changing aspects of hardware accelerated physics to the table quite yet.

And we haven't seen anything, until Mirror's Edge, that looked promising in terms of adding anything really compelling to a game. The previous video we posted showed some nice potential, but we still haven't gotten the opportunity to play with it ourselves and really feel the difference. We requested a side-by-side video hoping to get a better handle on what, exactly, is improved in Mirror's Edge. NVIDIA delivered.

Here's the original video of Mirror's Edge we posted.

Here is the side by side video showing better what DICE has added to Mirror's Edge for the PC with PhysX. Please note that the makers of the video (not us) slowed down the game during some effects to better show them off. The slow downs are not performance related issues. Also, the video is best viewed in full screen mode (the button in the bottom right corner).

The effects in there can be simulated on either a CPU or an NVIDIA GPU. The advantage to the GPU is performance and NVIDIA indicates that even an Intel Core i7 processor will have a tough time without GPU support. So these effects aren't anything we've never seen before, but it certainly looks like there is just a lot more of it in Mirror's Edge (and not in that really bad too many particles/too much debris sort of way). The glass breaking itself honestly looks the same (or close enough) to us, but the persistent particles are where it's at. Having a little debris stick around and be affected by the character is a nice touch. The cloth, plastic and tarp effects are what look like the real icing on the cake in the game though. The complete absence of the cloth objects when physics is disabled makes an already sparse looking world look pretty empty by comparison.

We still want to really get our hands on the game to see if it feels worth it, but from this video, we can at least say that there is more positive visual impact in Mirror's Edge than any major title that has used PhysX to date. NVIDIA is really trying to get developers to build something compelling out of PhysX, and Mirror's Edge has potential. We are anxious to see if the follow through is there.

Extending this story is the fact that today NVIDIA is announcing that EA and 2K games have both licensed PhysX and will be working with NVIDIA to include the technology in future titles they publish. All EA and 2K development studios will now have license to develop with PhysX for all platforms. This means Mirror's Edge may not be the only EA title going forward to get the PhysX treatment, and 2K will bring PhysX to the table with Borderlands (which is being developed by Gearbox).

It's no secret that NVIDIA wants effects physics and PhysX specifically to become the next big thing. The fact that this game enables all the effects to be run on any hardware at whatever performance it can manage is a very good move. Only enabling the effects with PhysX hardware present isn't the way to get more developers to adopt the technology. If other publishers and developers start to pick up and extend this technique of including effects physics, we could start seeing physics hardware start to live up to its potential. It may be until we have a physics API that is hardware accelerated on all platforms before we really see ubiquitous use in games, but at least NVIDIA and some game developers our there are doing what they can to move the industry forward in the meantime. That doesn't mean we'll blindly be happy with the way developers use the technology, or that we'll talk about PhysX as a must have feature until there are games that make it true. But moving forward is always a chicken and egg problem and we are happy to see NVIDIA staying behind hardware accelerated physics DICE actually trying to do something interesting with it.
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  • shin0bi272 - Tuesday, December 16, 2008 - link

    check out cryostasis
  • Razorbladehaze - Monday, December 15, 2008 - link

    Hey Anand how about we dump this garbage off the front page as it was the second or third day it was posted. This is senseless Nvidia propaganda posted up for over two weeks. Come on and get back to doing some worthwhile reviews, even if it is some Nvidia hardware, at least it will not appear as obvious propagandizing.

  • SquareOFortune - Monday, December 15, 2008 - link

    Absolutely stunning.

    I'll still buy ATi though. =)
  • shin0bi272 - Tuesday, December 16, 2008 - link

    ahh spoken like a true fanboy :) would you like to buy my ageia physx add-in card? 75 bucks and its yours
  • evangel76 - Sunday, December 14, 2008 - link

    so, where is the specification for the processor? is it a celeron? or a Core i7 ?

    I am 100% positive that the Core i7 would be perfectly smooth, without any issue, and if it is not, well, the software is not optimum.

    a side by side comparaison without the right caviars around it, like the machine config is may be good marketing, but without doubt misleading at best, because not informing the customers of what is compare. I wonder when the consumer association will start jumping on this behavior, they can make quite some money ...

  • shin0bi272 - Sunday, December 14, 2008 - link

    you dont need to know the machine specs just look at the visual differences at the same frame rate (more or less) with physx on and off. Phyx off is plain and boring with simple physx like glass breaking when being shot but the blinds not moving. physx on and the glass breaks and the blinds move and there are tiny dust particles from the motion of it all all while the game stays playing smooth. It doesnt matter what cpu youre running it on because its being done on the video card.
  • frozentundra123456 - Tuesday, December 9, 2008 - link

    The game without physx seems really sparse. Did they make the game look plain so that the physx would look more impressive? It seems to me that modern GPUs are so powerful that they could be used to create the same effects without the physx hardware.
    I also would be concerned about EA and nVidia teaming up to incorporate this technology into games. I am all in favor of encouraging new technology, but if EA designs games primarily for nVidia cards, where does that leave you if you have an AMD video card. Are EA and nVidia trying to control both the software and hardware markets and force everyone else out?
    I can see it now: after installing 3 physx accelerated games, you have to call EA-Vidia customer support for more activations!!!
  • Mirddin - Thursday, December 11, 2008 - link

    Isn't that what game designers do already? Perhaps not intentionally, but when they choose a graphics engine to power their game they already know which companies graphics cards handle that particular engine. As Derek has already said numerous times this will run on any hardware it's just a question of how well. Same with current games, if you mainly play games that historically play better on AMD then you should go with an AMD/ATI card. This just seems to be an added bonus if you get the hardware the software is optimized to run on. If it's actually worth it remains to be seen and also is in your personal preference.
  • East17 - Tuesday, December 9, 2008 - link

    There are NO special effects . The "icing on the cake" cloth / nylon ribbon effects are simply removed from the normal (nonPhysix enhanced) version of the game . There is NO visual difference between the Physix version and the normal version . The materials are simply REMOVED from the normal version of the game . The correct and fair way to compare Physix to nonPhysix enhanced rendering was to LEAVE ALL THE AFFECTED OBJECTS in place to correctly weigh the difference in VISUAL IMPACT and PERFORMANCE IMPACT.

    nVIDIA tried to avoid the original Ageia fiasco where, letting the effects be in both versions of the game, proved that there wasn't much of a performance difference but, on the contrary, the Physix enhanced version was actually SLOWER with the Ageaia card than a PC without the Ageia card.

    I’m totally unimpressed by this river of marketing.
  • SuperGee - Monday, December 15, 2008 - link

    I don't agree. this is a crossplatform game. So the flags arent there in the first place.
    The PC port team got someone from the TWIMTBP devision. And he has the so bright idea to put some flags there.

    Plastic doesn't tear so easy unles its very thin and weakend.
    And safety construction cloths would be to keep things inside. Maybe a pushed guy is to much but it would tear he would hang on it or fall because it stretches.
    And the value for gameplay as use in this game is zero. there is interaction but not gameplay bound. Like if it wasn't there doesn't matter.
    With ot without you run trough or fall trough.

    So nV made theme to go insane with flags.

    I like Ageia island GRAW2 map. killing a foo who runs in to a wooden hut. And saw him down with a M249 With woodenhut.

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