Call of Duty: Black Ops - A Look in 3D

While Call of Duty: Black Ops broke the mold (for the franchise) by offering an option to play in 3D on console, the PC versions of past Call of Duty games already had that capability. With the necessary PC tech freshly in my hands, I wanted to offer my brief impressions of the game from the 3D perspective.

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Two renders running side-by-side are actually placed on top of each other during gameplay, which gives a depth effect when using LC shutter glasses.

NVidia rates games for their 3D compatibility as 3D Vision Ready, excellent, good, fair, poor, or not recommended. While the differences between the levels are not clearly defined, more issues crop up—like some objects incorrectly rendering using nVidia's dual image processing—as the ratings go down. Call of Duty: Black Ops carries an "Excellent" rating for nVidia's 3D Vision glasses.

The chief problem I found playing Call of Duty: Black Ops in 3D was specific to certain weapons. Some weapons—particularly those with iron sights—worked extremely well, giving a very realistic sense of depth as I aimed down the sights (ADS). Scoped weapons, however, were much more difficult to accurately aim until I manually adjusted how much depth I could get out of the game. In later levels, using a sniper rifle actually worked better when I closed one eye, as though I was actually looking into a scope—which I found to be pretty awesome.

For the most part, aiming and attacking enemies was a lot of fun in 3D. You really get a sense of their distance in relation to your position and using ADS I felt like my accuracy had improved.

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Adjusting depth really messes with the M72 LAW launcher.

The nVidia glasses come with a small receiver and on the back is a wheel you can use to adjust the 3D effect. Essentially, it adjusts the perceived depth of field by taking the two images that are rendered on top of each other—one for the left eye, one for the right—and pushing them further apart (more depth) or closer together (less). At the default 35 percent, the effect was pretty impressive at first. After a while, once I adjusted to the image, I decided to increase the depth. Dialing it up about halfway to 100% ended up being the most comfortable, so I locked it in. Later, I ran into an issue.

During an early mission in the game's campaign, I came to a point where I had to grab a rocket launcher and take out three tanks. I found that my comfort zone would not align the sights of the weapon at all, in either eye. Because of this perspective shift, I started to see a ton of ghosting everywhere as my eyes tried to focus on the image. The only way to center the aim was to knock back the depth setting to its absolute minimum setting.


Eventually, my eyes started to get a little sore. I believe the issue is tied more to the game's constant handling of the camera to showcase specific moments. Things shake your perspective a lot, leading to some blurry vision—and my eyesight is perfect (at least clinically). Compared to other FPS titles, the single-player of Black Ops is a little like a bad MTV Music Video in the way the camera is constantly on the move, worried I'd get distracted by something else.

To compare, I played Battlefield: Bad Company 2, which is rated as 3D Vision Ready. With the depth set to a comfortable level—again, about half of 100 percent—I had very little issue and my eyes didn't hurt over time. There's still plenty of action on the screen, but it's all framed in a manageable (non-sugar rush) way.

Also, and this I think goes without saying, the performance of any game utilizing the 3D tech will run a little slower than normal. During the first level of Black Ops, there were two specific points where my framerate really dropped. Again, this might be as a result of Black Ops, which has had its share of problems.

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Most weapons can handle depth adjustment on the fly.

3D certainly adds an impressive layer to Black Ops, but the game itself runs through the gauntlet a little too hard, which put strain on my eyes. When the game isn't grabbing the camera and throwing it in a washing machine for kicks, it looks great and there isn't any discomfort. But the game still works fine without the tech and it didn't blow me away as "the must" way to play Black Ops. It's great if you have the hardware to use it, but it's an expensive upgrade for most.

On Monday, our last feature will explore the 3D effect in multiplayer. Here is where we'll get a great chance to see if the tech makes a difference. By playing a set of games against online opponents both with and without the tech, my goal is to compare my level of accuracy, kill/death ratio, and overall score.

>Disclosure: For the purposes of covering 3D gaming on PC, nVidia licensed Shacknews an ASUS 3D Monitor (VG236), EVGA GTX 480, and a nVidia 3D Vision set.