3D console gaming on test: COD Black Ops

The more we played Black Ops in 3D, the more we started to feel convinced that it's not just enough for a game to be available in a 3D render; the gameplay itself should also ideally be tweaked to suit 3D play.

If this proves true of all games, it could be a real problem for 3D, since it could make the cost of making 3D games substantially higher.

There are two other more technical issues you should be aware of when playing Black Ops in 3D on the Xbox 360.

First, the picture is noticeably less detailed and sharp than in 2D. The game requires you to set your console into 720p mode rather than 1080 'full HD' before the 3D output will work. Then, crucially, it outputs the left and right images needed to create the 3D image onscreen simultaneously, which inevitably means you're going to suffer reduced resolution as effectively two images share one set of pixels.

Crosstalk noise

The other big problem is crosstalk noise. This, actually, isn't as much to do with the game's production as the ability of current 3D screens to keep up with the extremely rapid frame rate required by full HD 3D.

The glasses you wear with 3D TVs use a shutter system to alternate full HD images between each eye so fast that you get a 3D effect tin HD, but if a screen can't refresh its pictures fast enough it can result in double ghosting over parts of the picture.

This is crosstalk, and it really can be extremely distracting, making the picture look unfocussed and causing your eyes to feel fatigued very quickly.

In fact, with the two LCD TVs we played Black Ops in 3D on, Samsung's 46C8000 and LG's 47LX6900, the crosstalk issues both hindered our gaming abilities and made playing for more than half an hour at a time really tiring. Oh well - we guess that's one way of curing our Black Ops addiction.

Happily the crosstalk issues were much reduced when we played the game on a plasma 3D TV - Panasonic's P42VT20 - reaffirming our growing sense that right now, at least, plasma is the only technology capable of delivering a truly convincing 3D picture. Even on the P42VT20, though, crosstalk appears just often enough to make us suspect that many people will go back to their pristine 2D pictures instead.

Black Ops 3D on PS3

On paper, at least, the PS3's 3D performance should fare better. For instead of putting both left and right stereoscopic images on screen at the same time, the PS3 makes use of its high-capacity HDMI 1.4 connection (vs 1.3 on the Xbox 360) to present its 3D pictures 'stacked' vertically, delivering a tidy 720p HD frame to each eye.

Oddly, though, we didn't really feel that this potential jump in detail or sharpness materialised. In fact, if anything the 3D PS3 Black Ops looked a touch softer than the Xbox one.

In any case, though, this was rendered a more or less moot point by the fact that the PS3 seems to struggle with its 3D load; gameplay feels rather slow, making the controls slightly unresponsive and generally reducing our usual sense of COD adrenaline.

The only thing in the PS3's favour is that for some reason its pictures suffer a touch less with crosstalk.

No killer app

The bottom line with all this is, as you've probably guessed: Black Ops in 3D isn't exactly the 3D 'killer app' we'd hoped it might be. The developers have played it a touch too safe when adding depth to the image, meaning that 'going 3D' doesn't add as great a sense of depth to proceedings as expected.

Much more troubling, though, are the technical issues with both the 3D screen hardware currently available, and the two games consoles (resolution and crosstalk with the Xbox, sluggishness and softness with the PS3).

These concerns actually make you feel more detached from the game rather than more immersed in it, as well as making you feel at more of a gaming disadvantage. In other words, our 3D experience of Black Ops was more or less the exact opposite of what we'd hoped we'd find.

Here's hoping the upcoming launch of Gran Turismo 5 in 3D turns out to be a rather more successful poster boy for the supposed 3D revolution, otherwise our already nagging doubts about the public's appetite for 3D will really start to take hold...