Reviewed: February 9, 1999
Type: 3D Stereo Glasses
What's in the box
So what exactly is a Wicked3D EyeSCREAM? I asked myself that very question when I was asked to review this mysterious product. I usually keep up with all the latest developments in the gaming industry, but this one managed to slip by. Wicked3D EyeSCREAM is simply a pair of plastic glasses with LCD Shutters over each eye. These shutters open and close essentially blocking the view in each eye for milliseconds which is long enough to generate the illusion of a 3D image when combined with the appropriate software. That's the simple explanation. If you want all the fine details there is a much more detailed description of the technology at Wicked3D's site.
Suffice to say, this technology works! I've dabbled in the 3D and VR goggle scene before. I tried the Virtual I/O Glasses that came out about 5 years ago and the VFX VR headset soon after that, and while those products introduced some interesting concepts, like head-movement control, they all suffered from low resolution. At the time you could only play games using these VR devices at 320x400. Compared to a 17" or 21" monitor at 640x480 (or higher) resolution, there was no contest. These devices also had two tiny TV's mounted about 1" from your eyeball, which caused fatigue after an hour or so, not to mention they were heavy and uncomfortable.
Metabyte has conquered all these problems with a pair of light-weight (as light as my normal glasses) glasses that you can comfortably wear for hours on end, and your only limitation in resolution is what your video card and monitor will display.
So how clear and real is this 3D? First let me say that these glasses use the same LCD technology that they are using in the 3D SONY IMAX in New York City. Sure, this is a toned-down version of the technology, but the clarity of these glasses surprised even a skeptic like myself. I was amazed the first time I entered the 3D Calibration mode and my monitor appeared to stretch back almost to the wall 30" behind the surface of my 21" monitor. Then the letters that make up the word METABYTE started spinning around and they appeared to leave the surface of the glass and float right in front of my nose as they all joined to form the company logo which spun and rotated around the screen. It was unnerving and extremely cool.
But let's back up about 15 minutes. Yes, 15 minutes is all it took for me to install the hardware and drivers for this rig. Chances are it won't even take you that long since I was also installing the Wicked3D 12mb Voodoo2 card. However, you are not required to use Metabyte's Voodoo2 card with the EyeSCREAM. That's part of the beauty of this product - it will work with ANY Voodoo2 card you already own. But in order to completely evaluate this product, I tested it with their own brand of Voodoo2 as well as my own existing Diamond Monster Voodoo2 cards.
So I pulled out my existing pair of Monster cards and installed the 12mb Wicked3D Voodoo2 card. What was really nice (and surprising) was that the installation manual actually gave instructions for replacing your existing 3D card. Finally, somebody had the foresight to realize that you may already have existing hardware in your machine that needs to be removed, and they tell you exactly how to do it. I've done this enough times that I know the routine by heart, but for the non-techie, these instructions would be invaluable.
The card installed and detected perfectly although the actual driver installation deviates from any other installation I have ever seen. You actually "ignore" the initial attempt to install drivers, which creates an entry in your Device Hardware with a yellow exclamation mark. Then you run the SETUP.EXE from the CD (or in this case the newer version of the drivers I had just downloaded from their web site) which detects the card, reboots your machine, and makes everything work. It all turns out great in the end, but you really have to trust "the system".
The actual glasses are even easier to install. If you aren't swapping Voodoo2 cards then you won't even have to open your computer. There is a 2"x4" pass-through device that plugs into your Video-Out and your monitor plugs into that. This device also has a power cable that runs to a small power-cube that plugs into any AC outlet. Another wire runs to the transmitter device, which sits on top of your monitor or wherever you want as long as you have a direct line of site to where you will be sitting. Little flip-down feet allow you to tilt/aim the transmitter down in case the top of your monitor is higher than your head.
Additional drivers must now be installed. These drivers will actually rename the entries in your Device Hardware, so if you previously had Diamond Monster 3D Accelerator, that will now be changed to something like Wicked3D RC1 EyeSCREAM. Don't worry; your Voodoo2 is still working perfectly. This is only a superficial change; however, the next time you open your Display Properties you will now have a new option tab called EyeSCREAM which will let you go into the detailed setup of your glasses.
EyeSCREAM supports over 200 games and setting up the 3D effects is really easy. The way the EyeSCREAM works is that you set it up to intercept Direct3D, Glide and OpenGL signals. Then the Wicked3D drivers kick in and create stereo images using the natural interlacing of your monitor so every other frame is meant for each of your eyes. The LCD shutters in the glasses flash several times a seconds and direct the image to the correct eye giving you 3D or stereo vision.
You need to go through the configuration screens and toggle the option which "forces selected video mode" and uses the EyeSCREAM drivers in the games. You can independently choose resolutions modes and refresh rates for Glide, OpenGL, and Direct3D, but you must also check the option to "force" the driver override to get the 3D effects. You will also need to check the option under Glide to use the EyeSCREAM Glide Wrapper. Remember that EyeSCREAM can only intercept and replace Voodoo2 signals, so it won't work with TNT, Riva or other non-Voodoo2 cards.
You are almost ready to play a game. Actually you could try and start a game but you would get a message saying something about a "Bad or Missing STEREO.CFG file". I've read and reread the manuals and PDF files and can find no mention anywhere of a STEREO.CFG file. But with a little searching you can go to your installation directory on your hard drive and find a ZIP file that contains numerous STEREO.CFG files for most of the games supported by the EyeSCREAM. Simply unzip the appropriate STEREO.CFG file to the installed game directory and NOW you are ready to play in 3D.
So how does it look? Pretty darn amazing. Of the 200+ games supported, I had over half, and so far I've played about 30 of them. Here are some results:
I was speechless the first time I fired up Quake 2 and saw the pistol hovering in mid-air. I shot that first window and glass flew out at me as if my monitor had just broke. Enemy fire came at me from down the halls and left the surface of my monitor only to pass by my peripheral vision. When I got hit, the blood appeared to be coming from MY body and spurting back into the screen.
Naturally I fired up all my other Quake-based games like SiN, Half-Life, and Hexen 2 and all were substantially enhanced, almost to the point where I am seriously considering replaying them. The combination of Aureal's A3D 2.0 and the EyeSCREAM glasses puts Half-Life in the true Virtual Reality category now. Jedi Knight and Mysteries of the Sith also benefit from the glasses as does SHOGO and Blood.
I must make special mention that the one drawback of the EyeSCREAM is that your old 2D crosshairs in these 3D action games no longer work correctly. But Metabyte has taken this minor setback and turned it into an opportunity to provide us with the first 3D laser-targeting site. Your crosshair is now a red dot that actually changes sizes based on the distance to the target. With such pinpoint accuracy you may never miss a frag again.
DethKarz is unbelievable. The tracks really do hover in mid-air now, and when your car leaves the track you feel like you are free falling. Powerslide is now a total mind-trip, and Need for Speed 3 has an all-new realism factor never present before. Grand Prix Legends outshines then all though. The ultimate racing simulation just got better. With cars and tracks popping out in stunning 3D, this is the closest to 1967 you will ever get without a time machine.
There are dozens of other games I am dying to try and new ones coming out that I can't wait for. I can only imagine seeing Lara Croft in all her 3D glory (I may have to sit back from the monitor for that one). So with all these fabulous results and the easy hardware installation you are probably wondering "what's the downside?"
Well for starters, using the EyeSCREAM with a single Voodoo2 card will yield less than ideal results. At 800x600 you are going to get some fuzzy (even interlaced) graphics. On my initial tests with the single Wicked3D Voodoo2 card all of the games appeared to have a thin black line running between each row of pixels; very similar to the interlacing scheme companies use when showing full-screen intro movies. This problem immediately vanishes with the addition of a second Voodoo2 card running in SLI mode. Kick the resolution up to 1024x768 and you have crystal clear 3D stereovision. I'm not saying you won't enjoy the 3D effects with a single Voodoo2 card, but in this case, two is definitely better than one.
Comfort is another issue. While there is absolutely no eyestrain (and I've had these things on for 3-hour periods), the bridge of your nose may start to hurt after awhile. The battery (which is good for 200 hours of gaming) sits right in the center of the glasses putting all of what little weight there is right on your nose. You can wear the EyeSCREAM over regular glasses, which I did the first few nights. It works, but the glasses are then out far enough that the frames become visible and distracting. I had much better results after I put in my contacts.
The actual LCD shutters can be adjusted in or out to accommodate people with narrow or wide eye separation. Oh, and did I mention they are WIRELESS! Yep, sit back (up to 20') from your monitor with no annoying wires or cables. And get this - the glasses only turn on when you put them on, so you won't accidentally drain the battery when you aren't using them. This is truly a high tech, and well designed, professional product.
I've suffered no ill effects from long term or extended periods of use. I admit I did stumble after taking them off and getting out of my chair the very first night. Apparently reality was just too 2-dimensional for me after wearing the EyeSCREAM glasses. Your biggest risk in wearing these is the embarrassment if you forget to take them off. They aren't exactly Ray Bans, and they will make you look like the "Geek of the Week", so close the blinds and lock your door if you want to protect your "image."
As I stated earlier, you are not required to use the Wicked3D Voodoo2 card with the EyeSCREAM glasses. The Wicked3D Voodoo2 box states that the card is "WickedVision Ready" but upon close examination of the card itself, it appeared identical to my Diamond Monster cards; right down to the Silicon Graphics chips and card layout. I saw no performance difference in using the Wicked3D card vs. the Diamond, and the EyeSCREAM worked perfectly on my Monster cards. If you already have Voodoo2 in your system then get the EyeSCREAM and have some 3D fun. If you are looking to get a Voodoo2 setup I think the 12mb Wicked3D Voodoo2 is a fine card at a great price ($149), but please research it further as I am not reviewing or recommending Voodoo2 cards in this review outside of their use with the EyeSCREAM glasses.
No matter which Voodoo2 card you choose you will certainly benefit from the Re2Flex System that comes on the CD with your EyeSCREAM. In fact, this software is so hot that even if you decide not to get the EyeSCREAM glasses I would encourage you to buy just the CD (only $29). Using the Re2Flex software you can now drive your existing Voodoo2 cards to ultra-high resolutions. How does 1024x672 sound for a single card, or 1024x1024 for a pair of cards running in SLI mode. Even if your games don't offer these choices, the drivers will "force" the video mode and it will still work for most of the games out there. You will also get stunning refresh rates up to 160Hz if your monitor can handle it.
Until a few weeks ago I had never heard of Metabyte or Wicked3D. Now that I have, I will be keeping an eye on them for future products. They offer a very high quality product at a great price. While the EyeSCREAM is admittedly a novelty item and not something the casual gamer may be interested in; hardcore 3D shooter addicts, desktop racecar drivers, and other serious gamers will want to add this inexpensive ($129) device to their hardware collection. Metabyte's claim that the EyeSCREAM is the highest quality 3D-stereovision product available on the consumer market cannot be disputed. If you don't believe me, go get a pair and try them for yourself. Of course, you may not believe your eyes.