With this week's "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" release, dedicated gamers have yet another solid first-person shooter for the holiday season. And if they have the gear, gamers can play the long-awaited sequel entirely in 3D, on both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. (The original "Black Ops" supported 3D on PS 3 only.)
"Black Ops II" joins a stable of solid 3D games for consoles as well as mobile players. Sony is pushing 3D technology the furthest, with a wide assortment of games for the 3D format. These include its "HD Collection" titles, such as "Ratchet and Clank" and "God of War" ($30 each), as well as "Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception" and "Gran Turismo 5" (each $20).
But if you don't have and can't afford a high-end TV, you can also enjoy 3D gaming on the cheap with a handheld device.
The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (not the Wii U or original Wii, sorry) support 3D games when paired with 3D-capable TVs using either passive (inexpensive glasses) or active (expensive electronic glasses) technology. Passive seems to be more comfortable, as you do without the constant flickering of active shutter-glasses, but you lose some of the screen resolution in the bargain.
No matter which type of TV you have, " Black Ops II," is astounding. In one level, you free fall through a sea of aircraft and missiles, and the way items come zooming at you is wondrous, especially on a larger television screen. A run through a war-ravaged Los Angeles is fun to watch, too, especially as freeways come crumbling down all around you.
If you're just getting into 3D, we recommend, along with "Black Ops II," the game, "Batman: Arkham City" ($40), which supports 3D on both console systems. It shows great detail on the city streets and in Batman's actions, without too much distraction. 3D games often cause some blurring when you look down the scope of the gun to target an enemy. This rarely happens with "Black Ops II," however, and is minimal with "Arkham City." (By comparison, "Killzone 3" is a bit tricky with 3D turned on to fullest effect, since there's so much happening on the battlefield.)
Driving games look phenomenal in the format as well. The first stop for drivers should be "Gran Turismo 5: XL Edition," available at a mere $20. In 3D, you feel like you're actually zooming down these roads, riding behind the steering wheel.
For 3D displays, bigger is definitely better, especially for "Black Ops II." We saw great results with LG's passive technology (which isn't as much of a strain on the eyes) and provides a crisp display. We played "Black Ops II" using the 55" ($2099) LG 55G2 LCD display, and its performance was remarkable, even when the action went over the top. Smaller, less-expensive models are just as good in terms of quality, if not size. The LG 47LM6700 47" 3D TV ($1599) and the LG 42" 42LM5800 ($799) are quite sufficient.
If you're more on a budget, or want to take your 3D action on the go, turn to Nintendo's 3DS XL system ($170). It features a nearly 5-inch (diagonal) 3D screen up top and a 4-inch touch-screen on the bottom, and feels much more comfortable than the original 3DS model. A word of warning, though — some games can be disorienting in the format.
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For instance, we downloaded the "3D Classic: Xevious" game ($7) from the eShop. While Xevious faithfully replicates the original 1980's arcade classic, the 3D effect is overwhelming, as we continuously had to shift our vision from the ground targets below to what was attacking us from up above. However, other games, like Nintendo's brilliant "Super Mario 3D Land" ($40), worked just fine, and added some surprising depth to the plumber's world. One level in particular, which leads Mario down a constantly dwindling set of steps to an awaiting flag, dazzled.
Over the last couple of years, 3D has played a major role in gaming, with continuous support from Sony across a number of their PS3 releases. But with "Black Ops II," Sony appears to be reaching out to a much bigger audience – and it's never too late to jump on board. "Avatar" isn't the only wondrous thing to look at on a 3D display nowadays.