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You can get Nvidia’s “RTX Voice” noise filtering without a pricey RTX card

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Enlarge / Despite the name, you don’t actually need an RTX-branded card like this one to run “RTX Voice” background noise cancellation.

Earlier this month, Nvidia launched RTX Voice, a beta plugin that “leverages NVIDIA RTX GPUs and their AI capabilities to remove distracting background noise from your broadcasts and voice chats,” as Nvidia put it in its announcement. But despite the “RTX” branding, Ars testing confirms that the feature also works perfectly well on older GTX-level graphics cards. And despite that finding, Nvidia’s installer refuses to allow the app on systems with non-RTX cards, unless the user performs some unintended config-file tinkering.

First, the good news: Nvidia’s GTX Voice technology actually works really well. As you can hear in the test sample below, turning on the feature filters out almost all of the mechanical keyboard clicking picked up by a standard webcam microphone. That’s likely to be an especially useful feature for anyone who’s tried typing notes during a Zoom video call or dealt with kids screaming in other rooms during the same.

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An Ars Technica test of Nvidia’s “RTX Voice” beta, running on a GTX 1060 graphics card.

Now for the more questionable news: The “RTX” in “RTX Voice” seems to be a marketing misnomer. We know this only because of an workaround (seemingly first disclosed publicly by a Guru3D forum poster) which tricks the RTX Voice installer into working on a system with an older Nvidia graphics card. The process is as simple as running the installer, editing out a few lines from a temporary configuration file it creates, and then running the installer again without the “constraint” check active.

Ars tested this method with an older gaming rig running a GTX 1060 video card. The successful results on that machine (which you can hear above) were indistinguishable from similar tests run on a more modern system with an RTX 2080.

What’s more, the Windows system monitor only topped out at about 3 percent usage while actively running the RTX Voice noise cancellation on a GTX 1060. That suggests the older CUDA cores on the 1060 (and other older Nvidia cards) are more than enough to handle this feature, and that the more advanced tensor cores in the RTX lineup aren’t absolutely necessary for “RTX Voice.”

More like “GTX Voice”

It’s possible that older Nvidia GPUs may suffer more when running RTX Voice while the GPU is under heavy load from other video processing work. While the low GPU usage numbers in our test suggest any such impact won’t be significant, we haven’t performed comprehensive testing to substantiate this.

That said, it seems odd to completely bar non-RTX users from even trying out the beta on their systems (perhaps with an install-time warning) in order to judge the potential performance impact on their own. Over at Guru3D, users are reporting success running RTX Voice on Nvidia’s 10XX and 16XX series cards, with more mixed results on the 9XX-series.

Nvidia was not able to respond to a request for comment as of press time (and we’ll be sure to update if and when they do). But the company’s announcement earlier this month suggested that the beta feature had been rolled out earlier than expected.

“Like many of you, we’re all trying to adjust to our new normal. Our homes are now a shared office, streaming studio, and gaming den all in one,” staffer “Tim@Nvidia” wrote. “We’ve been silently working away on RTX Voice —our noise-cancelling app—but wanted to get this in your hands as soon as possible via an early-access community beta. The product is still in development, but we hope you find it useful!”

Development beta or not, for now it appears that limiting RTX Voice only to Nvidia’s priciest graphics cards is a move that’s being driven more by marketing than by any technical concerns. But Nvidia could still patch out this workaround at any moment, so if you want to RTX Voice on a GTX card, download the current beta build (V 0.5.12.6) as soon as you can.

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The Callisto Protocol review: A relentless horror spectacle

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Enlarge / Hello, gorgeous.

In the survival-horror genre, building tension and ramping up a sense of dread is the backbone of the experience. As a new sci-fi horror IP coming from the creators of Dead Space, The Callisto Protocol homes in on that creeping sense of unease as it forces you to confront its many grotesque threats head-on. When playing The Callisto Protocol, I always felt on edge, even during moments when I could have let my guard down.

The game takes some strong influences from its spiritual predecessor Dead Space and puts its own spin on a more visceral type of horror experience. That said, The Callisto Protocol‘s influences and genre are abundantly clear, and it occasionally falls back on familiar tropes and some frustrating combat encounters. Still, it maintains its solid, relentless poise as an unnerving yet still thrilling survival-horror game.

Welcome to Black Iron Prison

You play as Jacob Lee (Transformers’ Josh Duhamel), a far-future freelance cargo hauler with a murky past who crash lands on Jupiter’s titular frozen moon. After getting abducted by the ruthless head of security, Captain Ferris (Days Gone’s Sam Witwer), Jacob finds himself trapped in the mysterious and inhumane Black Iron Prison.

Eventually, a mysterious viral outbreak mutates nearly everyone inside, turning them into ravenous monsters called Biophages. Launching an escape with other prisoners, including the enigmatic anti-corporate activist Dani Nakamura (The Boys’ Karen Fukuhara), Jacob delves deep into Black Iron Prison and the moon’s lower depths to uncover what happened and make it out alive.

Right from the start, and despite the grotesque, over-the-top horror setting, there’s a palpable sense of realism to The Callisto Protocol’s story and visuals. This is hard sci-fi through and through, in the vein of Paul W.S. Anderson’s Event Horizon or John Carpenter’s The Thing (or the original Dead Space series, unsurprisingly). The game plays it straight with its unsettling vision of a future gone awry, which provides a rich environment to play in. Aside from rare one-liners, there’s not much levity, which keeps with the game’s bleak narrative and atmosphere.

Remember to breathe.
Enlarge / Remember to breathe.

As a cinematic, story-driven game, The Callisto Protocol keeps its pace and structure tight, focusing on Jacob’s ordeal as he’s ferried to different encounters and events in a mostly linear fashion. Aside from chapter breaks and more in-depth cinematics, you’re always viewing events from Jacob’s perspective. The performances from the main cast do an effective job of selling the plot’s sense of urgency and dark tone. While the story largely keeps its twists subdued and doesn’t venture far from its initial premise by the end of its 12-plus-hour campaign, it still succeeds as a solid vehicle for an intense and brutal horror game.

What truly sells The Callisto Protocol and its setting are the fantastic visuals and sound design. The presentation is incredibly effective at establishing mood, with small details combining together into the most impressive and effective survival-horror tapestry I’ve seen in a long time. This is especially evident in the gruesome design of the Biophages, as well as the numerous, wince-inducing death scenes.

When the visuals and sound design all work in concert, it creates a stark sense of dread and unease that sticks with you to the end. One section had me explore the depths of the prison while the power was fluctuating, creating moments of darkness for the enemies to move around unseen. Just trying to keep track of where these monsters were put me on edge. It was an unnerving section that really showcased the craft of the game’s impressive presentation.

While Black Iron Prison is slightly similar to the USG Ishimura from Dead Space, the setting comes into its own once the game’s scope expands, showcasing fantastic views of the outside frozen lunarscape and the darker depths of Callisto. The game’s linear progression and tight pacing cut down on backtracking. That said, there are still moments where you can venture off and explore hidden rooms, mainly to uncover some intriguing clues and audio logs about Black Iron Prison history and what came before.

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The Mandalorian season 3 has been delayed—but only a little

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Enlarge / A promotional image for the third season of The Mandalorian.

After months of silence about it, Disney has finally revealed the premiere date of the third season of its first live-action Star Wars TV series, The Mandalorian. The new season will premiere on March 1, 2023.

That’s just a little bit later than what Disney said to expect the last time it made an announcement; the release window was announced to be February 2023 in a tweet in May.

Minor premiere date slipping aside, it’s been quite a time since the previous season in either case. The second season premiered back in October 2020. That said, it wouldn’t be accurate to say that it’s been more than two years since we last spent time with the show’s two central characters, Mando and Grogu.

That’s because both appeared prominently in The Book of Boba Fett, a limited series that ran from December 2021 through February 2022. In fact, they were so prominent in part of that show that we called it The Mandalorian season 2.5 when we reviewed it.

Expect them to be the main focus of The Mandalorian season three when it premieres March 1, though; that point is driven home by the promotional image shown above and by the plot threads that carry over from The Book of Boba Fett and prior seasons of The Mandalorian.

The Mandalorian received generally positive reviews when it premiered—a stark contrast to the divided responses to most of the recent Star Wars movies. Thus far, the various TV series have been helmed by a different creative team than the movies. Accomplished director Jon Favreau and Star Wars animated series veteran Dave Filoni seem to have done a better job satisfying fans than some of the other directors, producers, and writers of the films.

Disney sought to spin off several additional live-action Star Wars shows from the series, several of which stem from characters who had guest roles in the second season, including the first live-action rendition of Ahsoka Tano from the popular Clone Wars animated series.

Not all of Disney’s now-numerous live-action Star Wars series are Mandalorian spinoffs, though. Earlier this year, Disney+ ran a limited series focused on Obi-Wan Kenobi that took place between the prequel films and the original trilogy. The same goes for the thriller Andor, which just finished its first season to widespread critical acclaim.

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Nintendo apologizes for Pokémon performance problems, promises “improvements”

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Enlarge / Portrait of the author learning that some of the Pokémon Scarlet and Violet performance problems might be fixed.

Andrew Cunningham

Our review of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet mentioned some of the game’s pervasive performance issues, and we weren’t the only ones. Even more mainstream outlets like The Guardian and CNN noted the games’ performance problems. Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry team, known for its in-depth analyses of game performance, called the games “comprehensive technical failures,” also calling attention to their blurry and poorly tiled textures and “low-geometry” environments.

Players have noticed plenty of other problems, too; these include a bug that allowed players to run twice as fast by connecting two controllers to the Switch, bizarre animations and clipping problems, Pokémon that blast off into the sky like Team Rocket, and some evidence that online battles were using the same probability seed for every match, making it easier for attentive players to make low-accuracy moves hit 100 percent of the time. I captured a screenshot of a Hoppip that was casting three shadows simultaneously (though it’s possible the Paldea region has three suns that I just don’t know about).

I'm no scientist, but I don't think this is how lighting works.
Enlarge / I’m no scientist, but I don’t think this is how lighting works.

Andrew Cunningham

Nintendo released a 1.1.0 update for both Pokémon games today that includes “select bug fixes” (though the company didn’t specify which). But alongside that mostly routine post-launch update came a less-routine acknowledgment of the performance problems and a suggestion that the company would provide fixes.

“We are aware that players may encounter issues that affect the games’ performance. Our goal is always to give players a positive experience with our games, and we apologize for the inconvenience,” the statement reads. “We take the feedback from players seriously and are working on improvements to the games.”

Notably, “tak[ing] feedback from players seriously” and “working on improvements” don’t amount to a promise that every single dropped frame and ugly texture is going to be fixed. But like Sword and Shield, Scarlet and Violet will likely enjoy a decent amount of post-release support, including functional updates like Pokémon Home compatibility and substantial new DLC content. This should hopefully justify the time and money needed to make noticeable performance improvements, even though the games as they currently exist have still managed to be the fastest-selling titles Nintendo has ever released.

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