Call of Duty: Black Ops In 3D Improves Look, But Is Not Must-See TV

Over the last two weeks, Mike McWhertor and I were each given a hands-off demonstration of Call of Duty: Black Ops running in 3D. He saw it in Los Angeles. I saw it in New York. We've compared notes.

For background, the news that November's Black Ops will run in 3D on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC was made official this morning. For the consoles, gamers will need to own 3D TVs. For PC, an Nvidia set-up will be required. You can get all the details in our Black Ops 3D news story.

Here, you can find out what we thought of it — and what we thought of two Black Ops levels, one of which we've never seen before.



Call of Duty: Black Ops In 3D Improves Look, But Is Not Must-See TV

Mike,

I saw Call of Duty: Black Ops in 3D last week, and I was told that 3D in CoD was no mere visual effect. There would be gameplay implications.

There were implications for the bridge of my nose, which tingled while I watched a Black Ops developer play through a pair of the game's levels. My nose hadn't tingled when I'd seen the game sans 3D glasses. For physical side effects, that wasn't so bad.

I didn't get to play either of the single-player levels they showed but I'm guessing that the 3D doesn't impact gameplay significantly after all. How could it? It adds a lot of impressive depth to the game's action, but a feature like this that is viewable only on 3D-enabled TVs probably shouldn't have a gameplay effect. Most of us would miss out.

It seems that you get a better sense of the depth of the barrel of your gun, as the 3D effects make the weaponry seem to extend deep into the TV. I thought the objects you walk past might seem to drift through your peripheral vision, but they don't, because first-person games such as Black Ops don't even show the crates you're walking past once you've gotten close to them. You're already seeing past them — unless you are using iron sights, then you do get some of this peripheral-objects-in-3D effect. I didn't notice anything popping out at me from the screen. Did you?

The aspect I liked the most was how the heads-up display — the icons in the corners that show your ammo and your compass position — now appear to be on a plane that is closer to you than everything else, which makes it easier to sort of see through them and focus on the gameplay in the world of the game.

What did you like about it? Did your nose tingle too?

-Stephen



Stephen,

The only physical sensation I experienced while being shown Call of Duty: Black Ops in stereoscopic 3D was a slightl queasiness. Yes, I did become a little motion sick while watching Treyarch employees play the single-player level "WMD" and the snowy multiplayer map known as "Summit." That nauseating experience was something new for me, but I saw that clear disorientation as something of a positive.

No, I don't enjoy feeling nauseated, but I was entertained by Call of Duty: Black Ops in 3D. I remember the stomach upset percolating just as our heroes were repelling down the side of an icy cliff, just before they crashed feet first through a window, as seen in one of the big Black Ops trailers. That vertiginous feeling seemed like a kind of happy byproduct of Treyarch's work in getting stereoscopic 3D up and running in Black Ops. Treyarch head Mark Lamia told me that the feature was something they'd been R&Ding for a while, but he swears that they didn't build any new assets or make key changes to the game after integrating 3D. All they did was tweak the sensation of depth.

I'll agree with you about the sense of depth in relation to the game's guns. The 3D effect not only gave them more prominence onscreen, it made me better appreciate the modeling, the textures, the ever-present firepower. Those guns are very pretty, very shiny. Perhaps some of that's due to watching someone else play the game, absorbing the entirety of the screen, not just what's in my sights at the end of the barrel. I was focused on the whole, not just my target.

But I'll disagree with you about Black Ops' heads-up display. My eyes wanted to adjust too much when looking from my reticule to the map or the score in a multiplayer match.

And maybe you'll think I'm crazy, given my stomach churning experience and problems with the HUD, but 3D TVs might have their killer app in Black Ops. Especially now that it's coming to both high-def consoles. Agree?

- Mike



Call of Duty: Black Ops In 3D Improves Look, But Is Not Must-See TV

Mike,

Sorry you didn't feel well playing the game. Too bad the Black Ops deluxe edition isn't packaged with one of those air sickness bags, huh?

I felt way better, physically, playing Black Ops than I did some less-polished 3D games at a Sony PlayStation 3 showcase in New York this past summer. I credit that to how far along Black Ops seems to be in all regards. The levels I saw seemed finished. The Sony summer showcase had gotten me worried about viewing angles. I remember stepping to the side of MotorStorm: Apocalypse and noticing that I lost the sensation of 3D pretty easily. Maybe it was the way that game was tuned or the TV, but I had no such problem with Black Ops, which had 3D depth even when I stepped to the side of the Samsung 3D TV on which it was running and looked at it from just about a 90-degree angle.

I don't think this is a killer-app for 3D TVs, though, because I just don't see any game making a 3D TV purchase worthwhile. Yes, this game runs at 720p in 3D with a frame-rate that won't always hit 60fps (it's only locked at 60 for non-3D, they told me), but this 3D doesn't transform the way you play the game.

All of my skepticism about how relevant 3D is to the gamer aside, the best thing 3D technology gets from Call of Duty: Black Ops is how appealing the game can be for spectators. In 3D or out, this is one watchable video game. The WMD level we were both shown, which starts with the player piloting in SR-71 Blackbird into the upper reaches of the atmosphere is lovely and exciting. They've modified the level since I saw it last: now the player oscillates multiple times from controlling the pilot to being a soldier on the ground; the aerial play involving tracking troop movement on the ground, the ground gameplay consisting of a bunch of quick skirmishes before finally sticking to a hell of an exciting sequence on foot.

And I didn't even get into Numbers, the other level they showed. (No pictures to share of that one, sadly.) I didn't know Black Ops had dual-wielding (two barrels to see in 3D) nor was I expecting that thing with the shard of glass. Nasty!

How were you feeling about those levels, 3D or otherwise? And are you going to buy a 3D TV this fall because of this? I'm passing.

-Stephen



Stephen,

Don't worry. I've recovered from the momentary discomfort of seeing Call of Duty: Black Ops in 3D. An air sickness bag might be a great special edition add-on, especially for that SR-71 level. That was a great illustration of the effectiveness and subtlety of the team's 3D implementation. Seeing the plane's control panel with noticeable, but measured 3D special effects was a nice touch.

The SR-71 Blackbird level certainly stood out as more memorable—thanks to its mix of high-flying espionage and on-foot action sequences—than the other level we were shown. The Black Ops level set in Kowloon, which was undeniably visually rich, felt a little more plain, a bit more expected of the Call of Duty brand. I remember it most for what appears to be the option to actively engage in the torture of a prisoner during an interrogation. Have we ever done that before? Regardless, the series' trademark chase sequences, which that Kowloon-based level appears it may eventually devolve into, should benefit from the option to play it in 3D. The firefight sequences, especially while looking down iron sights in 3D, certainly feels more lifelike with that simulated depth. (I also liked walking into a room that had a wall filled with guns for the player to choose from. That should make Black Ops players feel powerful.)

What didn't stand out to me was the option to dual wield in Call of Duty: Black Ops, as we could equip pistols, sub machine guns and shotguns akimbo in Modern Warfare 2, often to the dismay of others in that game's multiplayer.

I'll concede that I may have thought too ambitiously about Black Ops as a "killer app" for 3D televisions. I certainly won't be dropping the cash on a new set just to play Treyarch's game while wearing special glasses. But would you agree that it's at least a key component in the much-needed content offerings for 3D TV owners? We already have Blu-ray movies, ESPN, and pornography in 3D. Surely a blockbuster like Call of Duty is a big piece in the purchasing decision puzzle.

Or maybe I'm just trying to make the argument that I will need a 3D TV demo unit in my home to properly assess everything Call of Duty: Black Ops has to offer. I don't think Crecente will let us justify one otherwise.

- Mike



And that's that, folks. We don't see Black Ops as the killer app that will force you to buy a 3D TV, but it's no joke either. Think of it as a luxury.