Hands-Off with Call of Duty: Black Ops in 3D

By now, you’ve probably heard that Call of Duty: Black Ops has made the transition to 3D. If not, consider this your newsbreak. Activision’s biggest franchise will be playable in full stereoscopic 3D when it launches on November 9


, and they’re touring the demo to prove it. I got to see the 3D in action at Sony’s Holiday preview event here in Toronto, and I’m happy to say that the game has made the trip intact.

Getting into the details, an Activision representative informed us that the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC versions of Black Ops would all support 3D, even if he wasn’t sure how that was possible on the 360. The 3D can be toggled on or off and demands the usual 3D screen and shuttered glasses.

There don’t appear to be any problems with the enhanced graphics. Treyarch does most of their modeling in 3D, so they already had all of the raw material needed to make the conversion. Once they figured out the technology, updating the game proved to be relatively simple. They were able to put everything together in time for launch, and the finished product looks good.

That’s really all that can be said. Since the 3D is an 11


hour addition, Treyarch was understandably afraid to do anything that might adversely impact their game’s performance. As a result, the 3D is a purely aesthetic makeover. The game plays exactly the same regardless of the number of dimensions, and there are no gameplay or cut scene gimmicks thrown in to abuse the technology.

With that in mind, the 3D visuals are hardly revolutionary, as the cityscapes and building interiors don’t look significantly better than they would in 2D. The outdoor landscapes are bit more impressive – some of the vistas are legitimately gorgeous and the extra depth makes rappelling down a snowy mountainside feel like an actual journey over a cliff – but it’s not reason enough to invest in a new TV.

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Turning to the game itself, Activision’s rep walked us through parts of two missions before playing a brief three-minute death match with some bots, and the look-but-don’t-touch demo began with some pseudo-RTS gameplay that felt a little out of place in Call of Duty. Controlling a pilot flying high overhead, the rep used a positioning satellite, a green screen, and a radio to point-and-click a four-man squad through a zero-visibility Soviet winter environment.

The mechanics seem fine, but the top-down objectives demanded no skill or strategy. The game gave explicit instructions to guide the troops into pre-set encounters, at which point the camera would zoom down to the soldiers’ perspective for the ‘real’ first person action.

The token attempts at novelty can’t hide the fact that Black Ops offers little beyond the standard FPS fare gussied up with a few new multiplayer features – you can now send an exploding RC car at your opponents – and the expected Call of Duty brutality. We got to see our Black Ops team force an informant to swallow a piece of glass, and while that’s certainly visceral, it’s not any more unsettling than the stunts that Call of Duty has attempted in the past.

So – graphics aside – Black Ops is essentially more of the same. If you like Modern Warfare, you’ll probably like the follow up, and you’ll get a kick out of seeing Call of Duty in 3D. The effect is all upside and it’s a nice bonus if you can afford it. Still, you’re not missing much if you opt for a more traditional 2D experience.