Eyes-on in LA – Call of Duty: Black Ops goes 3D in all formats

Tuesday, 5th October 2010 13:13 GMT By Justin Kranzl


When Treyarch ushered us into their Los Angeles studios to showcase their latest surprise – support for stereoscopic 3D in Call of Duty: Black Ops – it seemed too good to be true. Black Ops’ 3D mode will be a selectable option turned off or on at the main menu. PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 will all support the feature, and it won’t be bundled as part of a limited edition or DLC package – it’s shipping with the game as a standard feature. Continuing the “all silver lining, no cloud” theme is the framerate hit the game takes, which on the levels we were shown, appeared to be negligible.

There’s a caveat to this good news. Short of playing the entire game through in 3D mode – every multiplayer map, every single player level – we can’t know for certain if Treyarch has managed to essentially double the visual rendering load for Black Ops and still retained that silky, 60fps-or-close-enough framerate that is the hallmark of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 CoD games. Treyarch head Mark Lamia is confident the team has. Showcasing a limited selection of levels from the game – as well as what had to be a CPU taxing round of multiplayer skirmish against AI bots – the game engine’s performance was rock solid. No dips in framerate, and a level of visual fidelity in line with what Treyarch has shown previously – only this time, it’s in stereoscopic 3D. Expectations of a low rez, stuttering mess were quickly abolished as the same scenes we’d seen at previous demonstrations were ran through in 3D smoothly and with no fuss.

Treyarch claims to have tested the 3D mode on virtually every stereoscopic 3D screen/active shutter product on sale at present, with the exception of a Sharp model that literally went on sale a week ago. Lamia claims the experience remains consistent regardless of which product they tried. As for concerns about side effects of prolonged exposure to the 3D effect – headaches and nausea amongst them, Lamia concedes not every gamer will be able to use the tech, but also points to a staffer who says he’s been racking up eight hours a day in 3D mode playtesting “for the past few months”. Not the most scientific example, but his point is clear: you may not need that sick bucket after all.

Lamia admits 3D TV support is an easier prospect for most game developers than say, film makers (“we already make games in 3D…all we’re doing is enabling stereoscopic 3D”), but it’s no light undertaking to throw in a feature like this at short notice. He insists the mode wasn’t initially part of the game’s scope, but rather a side project that blossomed into relevance at some undisclosed stage in development. It certainly has been a well-kept secret. When asked what the response from Microsoft’s seemingly 3D-averse Xbox team has been, Lamia almost succeeds in keeping a smirk off his face as he states they found out about it “quite recently”.

In full effect

When switched on, the 3D mode itself is hard to miss. All user interface elements – your HUD, notifications, awards – all come to the forefront. Your weapon model – and we’re can’t recall seeing better models on any platform than the ones we saw in 3D mode – points “into” the field of view. Zooming or looking down the sights blurs the weapon detail in the foreground while leaving the remainder of the screen crisply rendered. At one stage in the “WMD” level, we’re lying prone with the crossbow weapon equipped. Here a depth of field effect – and your cover – tightened points of focus and blurred the foreground. Standing up with the weapon cast the entire scene into sharp relief. Touches like this suggest the Treyarch team has been thinking carefully about ways to do more than just float squad name tags along a z-axis.

Character models – obviously already rendered in 3D – now have the illusion of more weight and heft to them. They look the same, but their motion has more spatial relevance, if that makes sense. So too it seems the effect will put the nail in the coffin of the “smeared-texture-on-a-wall-as-object” era. It’s ridiculously easy to discern which objects in-game have three rendered dimensions now, even at range. We couldn’t see any examples of Treyarch’s level design falling into that trap, however it was noted that wall detail that would affect its contour– like cracks – are now rendered via normal maps. No word on bullet marks, but don’t expect real-time, persistent terrain deformation just yet.

Combat plays out like the standard, non-3D mode version does. Any expectation that your crosshair floating in space might mess with your aim is for naught. The horizontal angle of convergence between the weapon model and crosshair is negligible, meaning that where the crosshair is, the bullets follow without concerns of objects approaching at odd angles.

Cut-scenes too enjoy more life. There’s a little uncanny valley tug-of-war going on here – we found the depth offered by 3D mode was allowing us to disregard elements that normally stood out. When a properly animated and rendered face is conversing with your character in 3D space, quibbles like non-animated hair tend to fade into the background, figuratively speaking.

Three’s the charm?

There’s not much doubt Treyarch will have selected the levels which show the technology in its best light, however there was no really telling giveaways that a nasty, stuttering framerate surprise was lying in wait at retail launch. We saw plenty of gunfire and particles flying about in the demonstrations Treyarch undertook, and no shortage of character models on screen. In short, we were shown levels and gameplay that were “typical Call of Duty” renditions – in line with the action one expects from the series.

While there’s been the odd optimistic rumour and rumble about 3D support in Black Ops, not many would have taken Treyarch to task if it hadn’t eventuated. 3D TVs and monitors are still relative newcomers on store shelves, and even Sony’s 3D FPS flagship Killzone 3 won’t be putting out a 3D mode until next year, something Lamia made veiled reference to in his presentation. Further Lamia claims the impetus and responsibility for including the mode was entirely Treyarch’s. Apart from the prospect of breaking fresh ground, if the 3D mode works throughout the entire Black Ops game as well as it did in our demonstration, it will won’t do Treyarch’s fortunes and profile within Activision any harm.



  1. xino

    3D!? seriously?
    for Xbox 360?

    #1 4 years ago
  2. Freek

    Avatar was on Xbox 360 and in 3D aswell as some Xbox Live arcade game.
    MS doesn’t really care for 3D but that hasn’t stopped developers.

    #2 4 years ago
  3. T_L_T

    Wasn’t bothered about this game before but now…

    …still not bothered.

    #3 4 years ago
  4. James Mac

    It’s happened before Avatar and Batman: Arkham Asylum were both in 3D on 360.

    Just because Microsoft isn’t trying to sell televisions doesn’t mean the Xbox can’t do it.

    #4 4 years ago
  5. Razor

    But Sony told me only the PS3 can do 3D!?

    #5 4 years ago
  6. FASFAi

    wii and x360 cant do 3d becausa of the dvd

    #6 4 years ago
  7. mojo

    “Apart from the prospect of breaking fresh ground, if the 3D mode works throughout the entire Black Ops game as well as it did in our demonstration, it will won’t do Treyarch’s fortunes and profile within Activision any harm.”

    maybe they have now “earned the right to do a new IP”?

    #7 4 years ago
  8. Patrick Garratt

    Microsoft showed 360 3D stuff behind closed doors at E3.

    #8 4 years ago
  9. James Mac

    @6 Que?

    #9 4 years ago
  10. Razor

    Can you tell us what they showed Pat?

    I don’t recall reading about it.

    #10 4 years ago
  11. Patrick Garratt

    It was just movies. Aaron Greenberg told me in an interview:

    #11 4 years ago
  12. Patrick Garratt

    I didn’t see it, for the record.

    #12 4 years ago
  13. Michael O’Connor

    @7 If your believed them, you’re the bigger sucker here.

    Crysis 2 will also have 3D on all formats.

    #13 4 years ago
  14. James Mac

    It’s just about being able to render the image twice and display both images at the same time.

    Digital Foundry did a piece about it not too long ago.

    #14 4 years ago
  15. albo88

    thing a but it for a moment
    it have nothing to do with DVD or blu ray
    what inters Microsoft have in 3D gaming? none well we cant say the same abut the Sony as far as they sell TV;s is all abut making money from what they can

    #15 4 years ago
  16. loki

    cheap 3d? No thx

    #16 4 years ago
  17. PwnedHaxor

    Lol, Wish Zombie Mode is also in 3D xD

    #17 4 years ago
  18. DrDamn

    Batman wasn’t stereoscopic 3D.

    Technically the 360 can’t currently output a 3D signal. It can squash the 3D into a standard signal and then you can get your TV to interpret it as 3D – but it’s not a recognised 3D signal as such.

    So this begs the question what resolution is the output? I would guess there is some resolution hit but that is countered to an extent by the 3D effect.

    #18 4 years ago
  19. back_up

    you don’t give us a 3d tv

    #19 4 years ago
  20. spiderLAW

    I dont have my 3D TV yet. Shoot.

    #20 4 years ago
  21. Crysis

    I’m interested in 3D tvs, but until there’s enough content & i can purchase one for less than $700, i have no reason to buy one, could always purchase a compatible monitor, graphics card & 3d kit for 1/5th off the regular 3dtv

    #21 4 years ago
  22. onlineatron

    Will someone explain to me how the 360 can do 3D.

    The PS3 required a firmware update to access 3D, will the 360 have to do the same or is it purely on the dev side?

    Also, 3D + Motorstorm: Apocalypse = WOW

    #22 4 years ago
  23. Lord Gremlin

    Graphics are confirmed to be shit then. 3D requires twice as much rendering, and since it’s supposed to run on 360… Expect shitty graphics.

    #23 4 years ago
  24. Kuwabara

    xbox 360 will never have 3d. It needs a software update for it and wont get 1.

    #24 4 years ago
  25. El_MUERkO

    #24 if all it needs is a software update then why not?

    #25 4 years ago
  26. EscoBlades

    Who gives a crap?

    #26 4 years ago
  27. DrDamn

    See my comment above. All the current crop of TVs can support a number of different signals and formats. All the 360 needs to do is stick the left eye on the top half of it’s output and right eye on the bottom half and the TV will do the rest (alternatively left and right).

    The advantage the PS3 has now is that it can support a proper frame packed format which puts two full 720p images together – though they may be internally rendered at a lower resolution. In addition to this the TV and PS3 understands what it is chucking out is a 3D signal so adaptation in other areas can be made. For example bring up the guide when the 360 is playing a 3D game currently and it looks a mess – you’d need to manually turn off 3D with your tv remote. On a PS3 when you bring up the XMB this is adapted properly and can still be used as normal.

    MS could well release a firmware update to change things – but possibly can’t due to technical reasons or sees this current halfway house of 3D support as sufficient for now.

    #27 4 years ago
  28. Blerk

    Blimey, someone who knows what the hell they’re talking about. That’ll never catch on. :-D

    #28 4 years ago
  29. Gadzooks!


    There have already been stereoscopic 3D games on the 360 and PS3 (Avatar and Invincible Tiger). No update was necessary as it can all work in a standard framebuffer.

    The main reason for the firmware update is to allow 3D blurays, which need a vast amount of bandwidth.

    Now, where is that ignorant little wanker Erthazus? Need to cram another portion of humble pie in his big fat mouth.

    #29 4 years ago
  30. Massiveslag

    Ooh, a lot of Sony fanboys having a bit of a squeaky bum moment in here. :D :D :D

    #30 4 years ago
  31. ThePlatypus

    Silly question: Is this the 3D anyone can see like the AA GOTY edition or is it the 3D for only people who have 3D TV’s?

    #31 4 years ago
  32. spiderLAW

    I just think they dont understand the differences in the 3D tech of each console. Sony likes to make it seem that the PS3 is the only console capable of it. Thats not true at all. IPS3 is the only system that is using the techniques like DrDamn described. 360 can do 3D too, and with a firmware update i would assume it could do it the same way that PS3 is. Either way, its good to see that all formats are getting equal support.

    I thought AA GOTY edition required a 3D TV too. I thought that was the first game meant for the new 3D firmware Update that the PS3 had during Spring/Summer this year.

    #32 4 years ago
  33. DrDamn

    This would be a 3DTV stereoscopic 3D. AA GoTY came with basic filter glasses.

    There were 2 3D updates for the PS3. One was 3D games – for the advantages listed above (full 720p frame packed resolution supported and out of game XMB support whilst in 3D). The second was for 3D Bluray. Whilst games might not always be rendered initially at 720p the frame packed format is more flexible than fitting the signal into a standard framebuffer and produces better results.

    #33 4 years ago
  34. cookiejar

    Microsoft got bitten on the ass with HD-DVD over Blu-ray, its no wonder they’re quiet about 3D. Good choice to fence sit it some might say, but I reckon 3D will do alright in gaming. Its just another feature, init.

    #34 4 years ago
  35. Gadzooks!


    From what i gather there is a big question mark over the ability to firmware update the 360s hdmi output.

    Its largely irrelevant though, as these consoles are very very unlikely to be able to output more than a 1080p framebuffer. They can barely manage 720p30. ;)

    #35 4 years ago
  36. spiderLAW

    Thats right. I remember that about the HDMI thing.

    And true true about the framebuffer as well.

    Either way, if it works without hindering gameplay, consider me sold on the tech as an option :P

    #36 4 years ago
  37. LOLshock94

    seriously who gives a shit about 3d all together

    #37 4 years ago
  38. Callum

    LOL @30!! squeeky bum moment. Thats funny as hell man.

    Whats the article about? *reads*

    Oh, 3D aye? I’d love to see an open source library for c++ developers. Would be a cool portfolio piece mebe.

    #38 4 years ago
  39. Firebat

    Gotta love Sony fanboys huh… From one that owns ALL three systems and love each and every one of them for different reasons… Here is my call…

    Anyone who can say that one system has 1000% graphics better than the other WHILE playing a game and not just looking at screenshots is a liar or ” a fanboy” OF EITHER system…

    Rendered 720p in both eyes and etc…. WHILE wearing the glasses will not look all that fantastic. I have an older 720p Epson projector that projects the image on my wall about 11 feet wide… (which is actually way to big for the space). WHile movies look great and gaming is well… you can imagine the advantage in Halo or COD MP… 3D is always at least for a while gonna be just as lame as it has always been… Do you really wanna sit there for hours on end with those stupid glasses on…

    All this being said, I will probably do ALL of this and rate my own conclusion… But for me it’s just nice too see the technology grow and quite frankly.. most of it is getting pretty cool… Except those gay wands from PS3… But you can only say that if you own them… :-)

    #39 4 years ago

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