Guest Article | Call of Duty: Black Ops 3D Impressions

Purchased Call of Duty: Black Ops for the PS3 yesterday and I have some impressions I would like to share. Early October it was announced that the game would support stereoscopic 3D across all HD platforms and that news sealed the deal for today’s purchase.

I have now spent some time with both the singleplayer and zombie mode. The 3DTV I have tested this with is a 60″ Bravia LX900 which is Sony’s top of the line model.

I was initially a bit disappointed to see that the 3D feature was nowhere to be seen on the game cover on my way home. Surely this was destined to be the largest stereoscopic gaming release so far but there’s no way to tell that from boxart.

Booting up Black Ops prompts the usual 3D health warning before proceeding with a few 2D videos and logos. Eventually you end up in the main menu which is a claustrophobic interrogation room running in realtime graphics and displaying in stereoscopic tree-dee. Opening up the settings menu brings forth a 2D plane which is clearly hovering in front of the background though not outside the actual TV screen.

The opening scene of the game shows a bunch of undercover black ops resting their laurels at some tropical bar. With these characters sitting close to the screen the sense of depth is clearly present. What’s also clear is that the game runs at 30fps and not it’s trademark 60fps, which is a shame. It’s hard to judge if the resolution has changed as this was already a sub-HD game in 2D (meaning the pixelcount per frame is less than 1280×720) though at 60fps however (and in 3D technically) the pixel through-output per second was always quite excellent which compensated for this.

Not many seconds into the first level all hell breaks loose and you end up fighting troops of soldiers, detonating red exploding barrels and following a set path. It’s disappointing to see though that all this madness is still more or less displayed in flat 2D. To experience objects in 3D depth they have to be really close to the camera view as everything five meters or further away in front of you lost to flatness. As we know, the game is totally devoid of depth and convergence controls. Not having these controls is a huge omission and especially so when the default effect is weak. The only two options (reachable from the main menu) are 3D On/Off and Crosshair On/Off. That’s it.

Again, all objects just mere meters in front of you have no real depth to them. It’s actually pretty hard to see depth in objects that are pressed up to the camera as well. I was speculating about it using a cheap solution for 3D where a 2D image is replicated in both both views with slight offset (left and right eye) but that is not the case. Closing either eye it’s clear that it’s two distinct angles that is actually being rendered. The problem however is that the offset of these angles is so tight that the sense of 3D is almost completely lost even though the engine is putting in the honest work needed for such visuals. This makes the omission of a depth slider even more baffling and we can only hope that it’s patched in at a later date. I booted up MotorStorm 3D Rift straight after Black Ops and there’s a world of difference between these titles.

It’s not all completely lost though. The gun is clearly trailing from the screen edge and into the scenery, though I’ve seen better results in practically every other 3D shooter (using Nvidia 3D on a desktop PC). At various in-game cutscenes where characters comes real close to the camera the stereoscopic visuals really stand out.

Call of Duty Black Ops could rise to become an okay 3D game with a patch adding various controls. The engine is already doing the hard work needed for such visuals running at an okay framerate and we only need simple sliders to tweak this into something useful. Today though (as of PS3 patch 1.02) we do not have these options and the results are disappointing. 

I recommend you play this one in 2D at ~60fps for now. As for 3D my highest recommendations today goes to Tumble, SSHD, MotorStorm 3D Rift and the non-gaming PS3 app PlayMemories. All of them truly stunning. Looking forward to other big 3D highlights coming before Christmas which include Need for Speed, Tron and not least Gran Turismo 5.

Waggler’s Note: Many thanks to my old friend Wollan for sharing his impressions here on iWaggle3D. Looking forward for more. In the meantime, kind readers, you might want to check this Digital Foundry’s article for a more technical analysis of Black Ops’ 3D mode.   

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