Ageia PPU First Look

We’ve all been waiting for the day that Ageia would release their PPU cards. Finally, they have. Did they live up to the hype? Did they revolutionize gaming? We’ll see what’s under the hood of these premium cards in just a bit.

Ageia was kind enough to send me their 256MB Asus card; BFG makes the 128MB version. The Asus card has a bigger cooler on it and looks pretty nice while the BFG card has a northbridge type cooler on it with an LED in the middle of the fan. At the GDC we were given a chance to see the card in action with CellFactor. The game was absolutely stunning and so fast paced it’s hard to keep track of what’s going on. All of the objects in the game can be tossed around and used as weapons.

CellFactor:

When Ageia sent out the cards they gave us a CellFactor demo that we saw at the GDC. I was a bit disappointed to see the same level again and was further disappointed at the performance. The PPU definitely does its job at allowing the game to calculate thousand of objects seamlessly, but the game runs poorly on a mid-high end machine.

With the following setup the game was run at 800x600 with HDR and shadows off, as well as the texture detail down to about 30/100.

• AMD X2 3800+
• 2GB PC3200C2 RAM
• BFG 6800 GT OC

The graphics card took a heavy beating and overclocking it didn’t help much. Throughout the demo the FPS were around 20-30 peaking at 40. The good news is that when moving around the objects in the game or causing a huge explosion caused almost no slowdown. It’s apparent that the game just isn’t optimized yet and hopefully we’ll see some new levels so we can get some more tests in.

When we received our cards we were supposed to get two titles that take advantage of the PPU, but those never came. It’s again disappointing to see this powerful card and yet nothing to do with it. Rise of Nations, Bet on Soldier, and Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter all utilize the PPU in various ways. It is said that Rise of Nations shows off the most with the card and it is the one game I am looking forward to.

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter:

With GRAW on the shelves we were able to further test the cards if we had a copy. I had the chance to test GRAW with and without the PPU and the results are disturbing. GRAW is by far the worst game I’ve ever played. The performance to visuals ratio is amazing low and unbalanced. With or without the PPU, there was no difference. This game ran slower than a one legged butt kicker. With the PPU in you get a few extra bits and pieces flying about when you shoot your gun or toss a grenade, nothing fancy. The explosions are nice and all but when viewed at a whopping 15 FPS, even at the lowest settings possible, it can only impress so much. Ageia takes no blame on this one at all, I am amazed that they even allowed the game to be released with their name attached to it, it runs so bad. Online play was worse and shows how poorly optimized this pile is. I feel bad for Ageia, because people will play GRAW expecting such an amazing title but will be shown a game with graphics from 2001 and performance of Doom 3 running on a GeForce 2.

I await some more titles to test the card with because right now there’s little to say that hasn’t been said before. Ageia should have waited a bit longer before releasing the card because with titles like GRAW on the shelves it only means bad press. The PPU can and will revolutionize gaming, but it’s going to take some time before that happens.

I am very disappointed with the lack of titles and demos to play with. At E3 2005 and this year’s GDC we saw a ton of demos and some awesome CellFactor action, but with the cards in hand we have nothing. I tested CellFactor with another reviewer and we both shared the same view. With so much potential and so much money put into this project, one would think Ageia and publishers would dish out some nice titles for review.

Once the titles start flowing the doubt and disappointment will go away. I have a lot of faith in Ageia and back them 100%. It’s a shame to see CellFactor run the way it did and it pains me even more that my new 7900 GT was DOA, so it’s going to be a bit before I can give CellFactor another go.

Conclusion:

Well, there you have it. Not a whole lot to go on because we have nothing to benchmark the card with. If I were in the market for one of these cards I’d hold off a bit until the titles start to flow. CellFactor really is a great game and genuinely shows off what the PPU can do, but it really needs to be optimized if there’s any hope for it. Ageia should get as far away as possible from GRAW because it’s a disgrace to PC gaming and they should definitely get as many developers as they can on this hardware because it really has potential.

I’ll be back with a more in-depth look once the titles that support the card are out.



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