By Neil Schneider
Call of Duty 2 was my first “show-off” game when I bought a pair of LCD Shutter Glasses off eBay. In this memorable World War II first person shooter, my favorite scene was when you are riding in a tank, and you could literally see how far your enemies were compared to the scratchy glass of the binoculars you were looking through. Amazing!
Imagine me running to the living room, dragging my wife to the computer, practically forcing the glasses on her face, and yelling “Check this out! Check this out!” This is how Call of Duty 2 is etched into my stereoscopic brain! The game just rocked!
Fast forward a few years, and Activision has another hit on their hands with Call of Duty (5): World at War.
Still taking place in WWII, this time you are participating in two different campaigns. On the American side, you play a just released POW named Private Miller, who has to fight alongside his squadron against the Japanese to escape Makin Island and in a separate effort to assault the Japanese-held island of Peleliu.
The Soviet campaign begins during the Battle of Stalingrad. You are Dimitri Pentrenko, and you have had the misfortune of waking up surrounded by corpses who were the victims of a Nazi ambush. It is here that you meet Sergeant Reznov, who has vowed revenge on the Germans and their leader, General Amsel. Similar to the American campaign, you fast forward to the Battle of the Seelow, and the real action begins.
Game-play is very similar to most of the Call of Duty series. You don’t have life points in the traditional sense. If you get hurt and the screen flashes red, you can duck away for a bit to lick your wounds and get back into the fight. You also have the benefit of a helpful squad that will provide fire support and fend off your enemies during the game.
However, you can’t just shoot your enemies from a distance, clear the area, and move forward. You need to reach specific strategy points or the enemy will just keep coming. Also, you’re the leader here, so your squad won’t move ahead without you.
Call of Duty 5 is not an earth shattering improvement over Call of Duty 2. The fact is, COD2 was visually excellent, and games made later, do not necessary mean better. I’d say the biggest changes are the story structure, some Hollywood glitz provided by Kiefer Sutherland, Aaron Stanford, and Gary Oldman who helped with the voice-overs, and a somewhat more diverse selection of weapons to choose from.
However, the game takes you to a wide range of fighting locations, and there were some sequences which were very memorable. For example, the flame throwers and fire effects were a lot of fun. There is a part in the game where you have to “smoke out” your enemy by clearing a path through the mortar pits. It’s fun to blast your flamethrower around, though I think Ubisoft’s FarCry 2 did a much better job with flames that looked more realistic and fluid.
In each Call of Duty title, there is usually a fantasy ride sequence where you get to ride a car, a tank, or a plane. There are two sequences like this in COD5. First time around it’s a flying member of the Hellcats, and you are one of the gunners on a PBY Catalina – also known as a patrol bomber. In this mission you have to take out a series of destroyers from above, and then rescue American sailors from a destroyed ship fleet.
The second joy ride was a Russian tank armed with a flame thrower. It’s a third person view, so it wasn’t as much fun as the Call of Duty 2 version, but you get to blow and burn a lot of stuff up – no complaints! I would have liked to see more missions like these because they are a lot of fun and add a new dynamic to the game.
Unfortunately, there were some problems with the story that could have been handled better. First, there is a sequence in the Soviet campaign where your leader gives you a choice. You can either shoot a group of Nazis execution style, or you can watch the surrounding Russian soldiers throw their Molotov cocktails at the group so they can be burned alive. Wait a few seconds too long, and you see the group burned alive. For me, it took the enjoyment away from the game, and made me feel put off.
I’m no fan of Nazis! I can spend my whole day taking out video game Nazis. There just wasn’t anything in the game that would have made me feel better about this scene, like my leader getting arrested for war crimes or at least some attempt to show the difference between right and wrong. It’s a video game, after all – and you can be as young as 17 to play it legally.
I also had trouble with the way Activision associated the conclusion of the game with Veterans Day. I’m sure they had the best of intentions, and I do think of video games as an art form – it just didn’t work for me.
However, there were some welcome bonuses. First, COD5’s multiplayer game is fantastic! It has the standard modes including deathmatch, team deathmatch, point capture, capture the flag, and more. However, what makes this extra fun is as you earn experience points, you get better weapons. You can even sic ravenous dogs on each other, call in spy planes, and more. It is regrettable that I did not have time to play this more than I did, because it was a pleasant surprise to the game.
Also, once you finish the game, there is a special Nazi Zombi mode! You can’t go wrong with Nazi zombies.
The iZ3D testing machine is based on the following specs:
AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition Quad Core Processor 2.5Ghz
Patriot Extreme Viper PC2-8500 4GB RAM
AMD 4850 GPU
Vista 32 Bit
iZ3D 22” Monitor
iZ3D 1.10 Beta 3 Drivers
Call of Duty: World at War can be played with all settings on full. There are no visual anomalies with the exception of shadows occasionally leaving a dark film on the left eye. This is rare, but it happens, and is most likely associated with the dynamic shadows in the game.
COD5 is easily able to achieve a combined depth and pop-out experience, and only requires you to individually change your stereoscopic 3D settings for the Hellcats and Russian Tank levels.
Unfortunately, we still have to give iZ3D a very low grade for this game because the performance is unbelievably slow. No matter what settings I used or how low my resolution was, the moment complex fire appeared on the screen, the frames per second dropped to a painful 12 FPS.
This is clearly a driver optimization issue, because in multiplayer mode, the game is very playable in S-3D, even when there are flames smoldering on the screen.
Our NVIDIA solution is based on the following specifications:
AMD Athlon 64X2 AM2, 4400+ 2.3Ghz
PC2-5300 4GB RAM
NVIDIA 8800GTS 512
Vista 32 Bit
Zalman Interlaced 22” Monitor
NVIDIA 182.07 Stereo Drivers
MTBS is still awaiting the promised samples from NVIDIA for their GeForce 3D Vision solution. These tests are based on their 182.07 Stereo Drivers for the Zalman interlaced 3D monitor. While the visual expectations are the same, we anticipate gaming performance to be slower on GeForce 3D Vision because that is a full resolution solution versus Zalman’s half resolution interlaced technology. However, this is UNTESTED! We will not make untested claims, and this is just an educated guess.
While NVIDIA has been very public about their expectations that their drivers are superior by default because of their intimate GPU access, Call of Duty: World at War is not a working example of this.
First, as confirmed by NVIDIA’s recommendations, players are required to reduce game settings to avoid as many anomalies as possible. In Windows Vista, you must follow these steps:
1. Edit the “config.cfg” file in the following Vista directory:
2. In the config.cfg, make the following changes:
seta r_glow_allowed “0”
seta r_dof_enable “0”
3. Do the same for the file named “config_mp.cfg” if you plan on playing in multiplayer.
If you can’t find the folders, make sure Vista is set up so you can see “hidden folders”.
Even with these graphics settings reductions, you will find sequences where haze and distortion effects ruin and interfere with the stereoscopic 3D effect.
Another trade-off is the zoom scopes. If you are working to achieve a combined depth and pop-out experience, the guns will double to the point of interfering with your line of sight. It’s a real problem.
Here is the worst part. We confess to having low performing computer equipment relative to our iZ3D solution, so a frames per second comparison would be meaningless. However, we were amazed to learn that the behavior between the two solutions was identical. When there were complex fire effects on the screen, COD5 was reduced to a crawl in S-3D mode just like iZ3D. And similar to iZ3D, the multiplayer component was equally playable in S-3D mode even with our mid-range NVIDIA equipment. I think this brings NVIDIA’s claims in doubt – at least for this title.
Call of Duty: World at War is a promising update to the franchise’s roots in WWII FPS combat. Unfortunately, the stereoscopic 3D gaming experience left too much to be desired by all parties. iZ3D had all the visual benefits, but none of the performance flare. NVIDIA’s offering had the potential of both performance and visual compatibility, but only a serious driver update will bring this game to playable status.
The multiplayer game is COD5’s saving grace for the stereoscopic 3D gamer, and it may be worth the purchase price for this reason. Or, if you can tolerate putting the 3D glasses down for a few hours, Call of Duty World at War will still be fun the old fashioned way. That said, it’s a bittersweet outcome, and the race is on for the driver developers to give the true 3D experience Call of Duty: World at War deserves.
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Stereoscopic Effectiveness NVIDIA:
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