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Digital Foundry examines the impact of 3D in Call of Duty: Black Ops


Most players have yet to meet or don the required specs necessary to enjoy Call of Duty: Black Ops in 3D. The intended-to-immerse visual effect doesn't come for free, after all -- not even for the game itself. Joystiq came away impressed with developer Treyarch's implementation of the technology across three different platforms, but our commentary lacked the technical foundation you'll find in Eurogamer and Digital Foundry's latest minute inquiry.

According to Richard Leadbetter's thorough analysis (which also pits the Xbox 360 version against the PS3 rendition), Black Ops takes a significant performance hit when played in 3D on consoles. "Away from individual perceptions and back to the cold hard realities of performance and controller response, there's little doubt that 3D impacts the core experience of playing Black Ops. What you gain (or don't gain, depending on the individual's viewpoint) from the 3D effect you lose in terms of controller response and frame-rate," Leadbetter wrote, noting the severity of the drawbacks in a franchise praised for its smooth framerate and quick controls. "On both versions of the game there's often a sense that you're wading through treacle, almost as if you're battling the control scheme to get some semblance of the response you get from playing in 2D." (Note: Black Ops does not, as far as we know, include a level set in a malfunctioning sugar refinery.)

Despite the PlayStation 3 making a hard push for 3D adoption -- next year's Killzone 3 being one of the standout titles -- Leadbetter concluded that playability on Sony's console suffered the most. "We've logged the PS3 game running as low as 20FPS - and that's just in the very first street battle in the initial Cuba level."

This lack of parity between versions is a problem unique to 3D games -- film studios need only be concerned with how well a film plays with the audience, and not how well the audience plays it. However, as new technology gains wider acceptance, the tradeoffs should become less costly. We're bound to lose a few on the frontline first.

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