With the exception of setting and types of violence, Call of Duty has had a pretty formulaic design from the beginning: grab a gun, ride the occasional vehicle, and blow sh** up. Whether you were serving as a World War II marine, a modern soldier, or a Black Ops specialist, very little has strayed from this expectation. It's a formula that works!
According to Bobby Kotick, chief executive of Activision Blizzard, the franchise's life-to-date sales have exceeded worldwide theatrical box office receipts for "Harry Potter" and "Star Wars", the two most successful movie franchises of all time.
Activision continues the tradition with Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 which managed to make $500 million in just 24 hours after release. Tested on PC with DDD TriDef and Nvidia 3D Vision solutions, we find out if the game is indeed worth the dough for the stereoscopic 3D gamers amongst us!
Unlike its predecessors, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is a hybrid game featuring two separate story lines in two separate time periods. The main backdrop is happening in the year 2025, and you play David Mason, son of Alex Mason from the original Black Ops game. Your mission is to take down the main protagonist Raul Menendez. As a lead-up to your eventual faceoff with Menendez, you regularly visit the long retired Frank Woods - also from the original Black Ops, who gives you an up close and personal history lesson on who Raul Menendez is, why the dude is so angry, and what needs to be done to set the world straight. It's through this interwoven storytelling that the game presents you with first-person game play in the mid-80's, and futuristic action in 2025.
It's honestly very difficult to give a snapshot description of the story without giving things away, and it's honestly too complicated to describe in point A to B to C form. However, in classic Call of Duty style, you can expect to have glorious battles in countless parts of the world, you will get a wide selection of guns and ammunition to choose from, and there will be the occasional vehicle thrill ride.
Without getting into the story details, I can say that Black Ops 2 made a concerted effort to add more complex elements to the game. It used to be that if you didn't complete critical elements of a mission, you had to repeat things over and over until you got it right. In this case, your success and failure with certain mission parts will determine how the game ends, and there are several possibilities. My advice to you is if you are presented with the opportunity to do things over when needed, take it!
Setting the story aside, they did some innovative things with this COD installment. First, not only did they introduce a future 2025 story arc, they also introduced futuristic weapons and enemies. While I'm certain that some of the style was borrowed from the Crysis franchise, it was cool to see enemy bots, turrets, cloaked soldiers, and hover planes. This was a welcome change from what we've grown accustomed to in the previous Call of Duty entries.
Another innovation were "Strike Missions". While you can play them at a first person level, these are really intended as tactical missions where you command squads remotely, and give play by play instructions that are needed to complete your objectives. While they seemed a bit disconnected and less "story like" than the traditional missions, it was a dramatic change in how COD is played.
Finally, Call of Duty is no longer limited to DirectX 9 graphics cards, and now features DX11 support...FINALLY!
Despite trying new things, Black Ops 2 borrowed some ideas from games past. For example, there is a sequence where you are galloping on a horse in a scene that looked a lot like Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, though I think Uncharted 3 did a better job. There is another battle sequence that takes place on the U.S.S. Barack Obama carrier which is very similar to the final act in the 2007 Crysis game...though I think Crysis was also a bit better in this regard. It's understandable that as games progress, certain techniques and ideas will be copied into other titles, I just would have liked to see something more elaborate in a later version of the same concept.
I have to give Black Ops 2 some originality points for adding new environment interactions. Within each level are cache boxes with special weaponry like cloak suits, Molotov cocktails, and new types of armor. There are also opportunities to hack computers and take over gun turrets and enemy bots - some neat ideas put into action for sure.
Despite these enhancements, what ultimately worked best was the voice acting by James C. Burns who played Frank Woods. He was just such a convincing curmudgeon, I credit his work to being the glue that bound the story together. Raul Menendez (Kamar De Los Reyes) was a close second, though they should have done more with his character. Violence alone isn't responsible for game tension, and I would have liked to see a lot more tension being generated from his character.
While Sam Worthington as Alex Mason was pretty good, he was more effective when he was losing his mind in an interrogation chair in the first Black Ops. Finally, in contrast to the COD veterans, new entries David Mason and his squad-mates didn't have the over the top presence that made the other characters work.
Speaking of story, I find myself harping about this with each new Call of Duty release. I seriously don't understand why the developers think it's necessary to make gamers do twisted things to progress in the game. In Call of Duty Black Ops, they made you force glass in a prisoner's mouth and punch them in the jaw (as part of the game). This time around, you have to choose who gets their head blown off and pull the trigger. I know games like this are all about the violence, and it doesn't bother me when I'm watching others do the acts because I'm not responsible for it. However, when I'm the one who is forced to pull the trigger or do things that really aren't (or shouldn't be) fun to see and do, it takes away from the game. Here I am, playing and enjoying Black Ops 2 for hours at a time, and suddenly I'm asked to do something that makes me feel icky inside. It's just not fun, and I really don't think this has anything to do with why people buy the COD series. I'm not suggesting censorship, I just think it's lousy storytelling and adds nothing to the game.
So hundreds of millions of dollars later, it's time to get down to the real question, how good is Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 in stereoscopic 3D?
ASUS G75VW 3D Laptop 12GB RAM GTX670M Processor Windows 7 64 bit
Technically, Nvidia did a decent job with Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Even though Nvidia sent a spreadsheet of issues with the gun in the game which changed whether your were in single player, multiplayer, or zombie mode - there isn't anything about the implementation that is obviously wrong - but I will recheck when I get home.
The biggest gripe I have is that the game is in dire need of some out of screen effects, and the scenery just looks too bland otherwise. I mean, there are scenes where you are walking through lush jungles, and not a single branch pierces the display. I really think there was a missed opportunity here.
So COD Black Ops 2 is technically OK in 3D, but it's not as visually explosive as it should be.
ASUS G75VW 3D Laptop 12GB RAM GTX670M Processor Windows 7 64 bit
I'm on the go, and while I briefly tested the game on my AMD system at home, the attached screenshots were played in anaglyph mode on my 3D laptop computer (though the screenshots were recorded with complete left/right views).
While certain aspects are a little rough around the edges, this really is the best implementation of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 in stereoscopic 3D despite what the GG3D score tells us. When gaming, those lush jungles suddenly have twigs and grass piercing through your screen, faces and weapons protrude, and it's just a lot more fun.
With the DDD drivers, you can achieve a combined depth and pop-out experience, nearly all the special effects remain active, and you can even customize your gun's location in 3D space to make for a more comfortable 3D experience.
I've attached my DDD profile with the GameGrade3D submission at the end of this article, and advanced users can duplicate the results by going in to the advanced profile settings and turning "gun detection" on. This is necessary so you can have a combined depth and pop-out experience, and maintain the ability to adjust the 3D around the gun as a separate element.
There are tradeoffs of the gun looking as though it's going through a wall sometimes, but it's a minor setback. Also remember to turn off the auto-convergence features in the DDD drivers to maximize performance and comfort. You will also need to turn off the antialiasing in the advanced game settings. If you are comfortable with it, I highly recommend the dominant eye crosshair instead of the lasersight.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 continues the COD tradition of first person action all over the world. With the addition of "strike missions" and more detailed tabulation of successes and failures, COD is becoming a a bit more complex, and it works! Unfortunately, their tradition also includes increasing doses of twisted violence that add nothing to an otherwise fun game.
While Nvidia had the technical success with Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, DDD TriDef had the superior 3D gaming experience. DDD's profile offers a stronger sense of depth, the availability of convergence settings make for a more interesting visual experience, and the game is just a lot more fun to play with the DDD drivers than it was with Nvidia's.