The three-dimensional craze isn't going to stop any time soon as Activision announced that Call of Duty: Black Ops will be 3D compatible on every system (Xbox 360, PS3 and PC with the proper NVIDIA chipset) when it launches on November 9.
I got the chance to swing by the W Hotel in San Francisco last week to check out Black Ops in 3D. While I'm not a huge fan of having to wear glasses to get the 3D effect, there's no denying that Call of Duty uses the technology as well as any other game I've seen.
An Activision representative showed me two campaign levels in full 3D glory: WMD (a level that we've been seeing since E3) and Numbers (something brand new). If you haven't seen WMD, then you probably haven't seen much from Black Ops at all. It features the SR-71 spy plane and a bit of recon elements as you direct troops from above, but the benefits of 3D didn't make themselves known until later in the level when the player-controlled character landed on the ground. There were two instances that really wowed me when it came to showcasing 3D. The first was when the scoped crossbow made its first appearance. The effect of the scope was so awesomely pronounced that I felt like I could actually look see inside of it when the gun was in the standard "fire from the hip" position. The glass was noticeably recessed from the metal encasing of the scope and the depth was a cool showcase.
The other instance occurred during explosions. Particle effects really do jump off the screen given the right situation. Sparks and bits of shrapnel looked great in my time with the game and given how many explosions there are throughout any Call of Duty game, I'd say that's a pretty important effect to get right. Thankfully Treyarch seems to have done exactly that.
Now, I could go into a lot of detail about the new level called Numbers, but I won't. I don't want to spoil any of the story for you diehard fans out there. So instead what I'll do is give you a teaser of the tone that Black Ops is trying to set. The beginning of Numbers opens with an interrogation. More accurately, it begins with a player-controlled interrogation. As you beat on your prisoner trying to pry information out of him, your character notices a glass window to his left. An on-screen prompt appears so you can interact with the panes, which I immediately assumed would allow your character to smash the prisoner's head through the glass. Not so. Instead, pressing the left trigger allows your character to punch the glass himself and remove a single shard. "Maybe he's going to cut the captured soldier ever-so-slowly", I thought. No, instead he inserts the shard into the poor bastard's mouth and proceeds to bludgeon either side of his face as the razor sharp object slices the inside of his mouth causing him to shriek in pain. It was gruesomely awesome and set the stage nicely for the rest of Black Ops' intensity.
Finally, I was shown a mode called Combat Training. Essentially it allows you to build your multiplayer experience points without heading to the rigors of true online play. Combat Training employs bots rather than real people as your competition and allows you to tweak the AI of the opposition. Having trouble prestiging for the third time? Hop into Combat Training, set the AI to easy and go on as many killing sprees as possible. Oh, and in case you're wondering, Combat Training (along with every other mode in Black Ops) runs just fine in three dimensions.
The few detractors I found with the 3D visuals had to with the overall quality of the images on-screen. Since images need to be rendered twice when you have 3D turned on (you can turn it on or off at any time during gameplay) the developers at Treyarch had to scale the visuals back a bit in terms of overall quality. Thankfully the framerate was always sturdy despite the almost constant frenetic action. The other downside to the 3D capability was that some background images seem to distort to looking like the screen sans glasses (despite them being firmly affixed to my face), but that will hopefully be remedied by the time Call of Duty: Black Ops hits shelves.
Call of Duty: Black Ops was my first experience playing a AAA title using the 3D capabilities of an Xbox 360. I saw no qualitative differences in comparison to the PlayStation 3's 3D abilities, but neither a PS3 nor a properly-equipped PC were available for my demo. Call of Duty: Black Ops launches on November 9 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. Stay tuned to IGN for move coverage leading up to launch.
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