Treyarch released last month Call of Duty: Black Ops, the latest in the much-hyped “Call of Duty” game lineup. Black Ops made headlines when, within 24 hours of going on sale, it managed to sell some 7 million copies in the US and the UK. However, all is not well in the land of Call of Duty, while this game has received rave reviews from a number of gaming sites, including Game Spot and Metacritic. But reviewers at Amazon seem to get it right, with a thus-far average rating of only 1.8/5 stars. The reasons? Many.
I’ve personally been a fan of the Call of Duty series for quite some time, as the games tend to be well-developed and well-written on both the technical and storyline aspects. But Black Ops falls far, far short of the mark and in many ways is a step back from what we’ve come to expect of its predecessors. On many different fronts, Black Ops fails to deliver — consistently failing to impress and, perhaps most disturbingly, almost as if it was intentionally made this way.
Problems with the Plot and Design
The very first question you find yourself asking when you start playing Black Ops is “What the hell is going on?” While this works well for many other games where you learn as you go along, and the thrill is in discovering the game and its universe, this is not the case with Black Ops. Instead, a number of factors collude to make it near impossible to actually feel like you are in the game, constantly being reminded that you’re playing a PC game, reminded of the device(s) between you and the storyline, and the limitations of the hardware you’re using to play the role of the gung-ho warrior on his journeys.
To start with, the audio quality during all the cut-scenes is, for lack of a better word, crap. While your character is strapped down to a chair, a distant and unclear voice begins interrogating. Unfortunately, Treyarch thought it would be nice to add severe static and garble effects to the interrogators voice. The words are unclear, the ideas are lost, and the general effect is nothing short of confusion and active bewilderment. Most ridiculously of all, no one at Treyarch bothered to add subtitles — something so basic, simple, and effective that you have to wonder whose bright idea it was to not put them, and what where they thinking at the time. Sure, it’s a neat effect to make the interrogator all the more mysterious… but if it means the player will end up frustrated and angry at the game, well, let’s just say that’s not a good idea.
Black Ops is, by design, disjointed. It’s based around the flashbacks of the main character as he recalls past missions and adventures across the world. Unfortunately, Treyarch could not and did not pull this off with the same finesse that others *cough* Ubisoft *cough* have in the past. Mission transitions are abrupt and sudden, the gamer is not given a chance to be sufficiently immersed in the gameplay and storyline before being roughly and crudely jerked out of the flashback, back to the garbled voice, dimly-lit scenes, and confusing activities. Disjointed isn’t necessarily bad; assuming it’s done right, it can probably make for an interesting game. But “done right” and “Black Ops” do not go too well together in a sentence, and the disjointed plot winds up leaving the game with an unfinished, amateurish feel instead.
Aaaand now to discuss the actual gameplay and missions. You’d think that, with the Call of Duty series’ impressive performances and showings in the past, the actual gameplay might paint a prettier scene. But, of course, you would be quite wrong. It could not be more obvious that Black Ops is just an attempt to milk the Call of Duty cash cow for all its worth, without even the slightest attempts to hide it under the guise of an interesting story or well-designed missions/levels. While previous CoD offerings were enjoyable and interesting to play with spacious and well-made maps, Black Ops is nothing of that sort:
Imagine a long, dark corridor. Good guys on one end, bad guys on the other. Along the corridor are desks/junk/debrise/cover arranged in a pattern – first one on the right, and a few feet down, another on the left. Got that picture in your head? That’s pretty much every level of CoD Black Ops right there. Extremely redundant. Very boring. And very badly designed. Your job is to simply start off at one end of the long, rectangular map and make your way to the other side. Every few feet there’s something you can use to take cover, and you just need to clear the way through.
Perhaps most insultingly of all though is the game’s AI engine, which feels like something out of the 90s. I’m used to playing all FPS games on the “Legendary” setting. The good ones truly evolve into something interesting, difficult, and intellectually challenging where you need to use strategy and reflexes to best a quicker, smarter, more powerful, and more resilient enemy; all the while balancing your own set of handicaps to speed, accuracy, and health regeneration. On the other hand, Black Ops feels like a cheat – the already badly designed maps and checkpoints (a checkpoint at the end of every corridor) become even more blindingly obvious, as the games incredibly dumb AI kicks in…
Unlike most FPS games, Black Ops does not have a finite number of “baddies” whose asses need kicking. Instead, so long as you are barricaded behind any particular cover along the corridor in any of the levels, the bad guys will keep coming. Sort of like “Space Invaders,” if you get the drift. It doesn’t matter how many of them you shoot, so long as you don’t cover more ground and push forward, the enemy will keep coming. The fact that your teammates are useless aside, the game quickly gets incredibly tedious and boring as you realize that no thought went into to the design of the levels. Play it on the hardest difficulty and try to use strategy — you’ll realize the futility of it all soon enough. If you want to play by strategy instead of luck and are prepared to take your time advancing in order to do the job right, think again. Black Ops does not give you this option, forcing you to push forward in order to end the level. You cannot, I repeat, you cannot use strategy to kill the enemy from afar, because unless you push forward, the enemy will keep re-spawning right where you killed them.
As if CoD Black Ops was not already a world of hurt due to the painfully stupid gameplay problems described above, the game is also plagued with a number of technical issues that make it impossible to even pretend to enjoy it:
- No multitasking support. If you get bored of the silly levels and badly designed gameplay and want to alt-tab to your web browser or music player, the game will hang, HANG, HANG when you go back. Apparently someone at Treyarch forgot that the PC version means there will be other programs running in the background, unlike on an XBOX or PS3.
- (Comparatively) bad graphics. It’s 2011 and we’ve come to expect more than what Black Ops is giving. The graphics on Black Ops are not noticeably better than what we had back in ’07, except that for some reason you get worse frame rates for equal graphics. Other games over the past 3 years have shown much better rendering and performance – I guess the recycling of the CoD engine over all these years without any real improvements is at last showing.
- No support for DVORAK. Even the simplest and silliest of full-screen games recognize and support the DVORAK keymap these days, but again, looks like Treyarch forgot that the PC is not an XBOX.
- Terribly designed and misthought-out UI for the main software. The initial menus were designed to be “cute” in that they appear from a first-person POV: you “look” at what you want and “click” to choose. Except Treyarch completely blew this one, even disregarding the fact that it’s hard to use and unintuitive, Treyarch gets a complete “fail” here when selecting certain menu options takes you back to a normal (read: sane) menu; flipping between menu entries requires you to repeatedly switch between FPS and normal mouse modes. Quite stupid, really.
All things considered, this game is definitely one of the worst that I have played in recent memory. Perhaps the fact that it was so heavily hyped beforehand is to blame, maybe if it came from an indie developer I’d have been more accepting of its shortcomings. But for a sequel to such an excellent series, one had higher expectations than what was delivered.
Final score: 4/10
I completed the single player a month ago and haven’t touched the game eversince. The game has no replaying appeal.
you guys are all haters so go shove it up your butt ok black ops is the best one yet. also there is a zombie mode dumb ass
dante…you’re a bright one, aren’t you?
Played most of the CoD games to date, but thought Modern Warfare was the best…replayed it several times. Loved MW2 gameplay, but thought that some of the plot elements were just stupid…some of it was simply random and completely unnecessary. Replayed only once.
Black Ops? Yikes. Literally hated it. So bad, in fact, that I didn’t bother finishing it, much less replay it. The bad parts? Too numerous to mention. They need to return to what made CoD MW great, or not plan on selling as many games in the future.
Note to publishers: Americans like heroes and people with character and integrity…consider returning to that theme. Even special operation forces can do their job within the bounds of a code.
Biased? Yes. I am a former Army officer…
Fully agreed with you, I’ve started to play this game late, in 2011 already, but I can see that they doesn’t fixed the AI problem of Modern Warfare 2.
Our teammates always let the enemies pass to kill us, you’ve not mentioned those times that your teammate push you off an object (protection) to the middle of the fireline, this happens for the first time while you’re escaping the Vorkuta prison, when you cover your buddies pushing that thing to cover, they eventually push you. -_-
other things that suck about game dev trends
not providing a stand alone (srimmaging) option
not providing for LAN play
I buy the game… I don’t want to spend $XX/monthly forever playing on their game servers.. sure they’d like that but that’s not cost pleasing to me
“not providing for LAN play” yeah thats because you should play COD on their game servers and pay, even if you only want to play with your friends in your flat (like LAN-party)
That is the reason why I no longer play that game.
“You can not, I repeat, you can not use strategy to kill the enemy from afar, because unless you push forward, the enemy wants to keep re-spawning right where you killed them.”
/golfclap Congratz, you published a complete opinion that is based on whining. Unfortunately for you, Treyarch will most likely not change anything based on a rediculously small percentage of Black Ops players crying. Half of the issues you listed complete idiocy, and the ones about the campaign have me confused. You are upset with Black Ops campaign…if you want a decent campaign, buy something else. Call of Duty games are designed for the 10+ million who want online play. Albeit, single player is a plus for them, it won’t make or break it for them. And you can keep complaining, they astonishing 2 billion in sales and hundreds of millions about to come from their DLCs, they could care less whether you approve. Bottom line, your whining is that of a 10 year old who wasn’t allowed his special edition Halo controller when he went to buy Black Ops. It’s the best designed AND supported of any CoD yet, and you can suck it.
I understand your point of view Eddie, the multiplayer of this game are awesome, and many people are playing without any complain, but for me, as an countryside brazilian resident, we don’t have any ISP good enough to play online these kind of games, this issue don’t interfere on my opinion, cause I know COD Black Ops is amazing at online gaming.
But, about the campaign, I’ve finished, even on veteran, but you must agree that the AI was awfully programmed, there are so many mistakes that make the AI so stupid, like in other games, such as PES 2011 (worstiest AI in the whole fucking world), Medal of Honor (2011), etc.
But instead of only complain, complain, complain and complain, I’ve put my point of view, clearly, instead of that cry baby thing.
Treyarch did well at the storyline, it was amazing, I’ve finished and felt satisfacted, the weapons are amazing, the quality of sound are ounstanding, graphics are brilliant, I was impressed that my old HD4850/Core2Quad Q9300 with only 3GB DDR 667 can run the game on the max graphical settings without slowdowns and something else, this means that the game was very well programmed, but as I said, the game lacks of an better AI.
I am a huge fan of the Call Of Duty series and wanted to comment to say that Black Ops for me is by far one of the better games of the lot. I have had every single COD game out and the one I really dislike is world at war that is lacking decent guns and the levels are pretty boring too.
The online game play on Black Ops is great. I love the kill streak rewards and the weapons are quality and also the zombies are so much fun. To be honest I have not played the campaign mode yet so I cant really comment on that but the online game play is awesome. I am now third prestige and I only ever play free for all so becoming a bit of a dab hand at it now. There are a few issues with connections for me, I think that has something to do with where I live thou to be fair.
Cant wait for the next one…………
@Geoff, Reinaldo, Eddie
This goes to show that foreigners don’t understand good programming practices not in place. COD:Black Ops is THE worst designed game. Its a a direct copy from someone else’s hard work and as it was stated above. A milking of the cash cow. I can’t blame you specifically for being the problem as there is 7 million+ fools who bought the game without seeing or asking a few other people how the game was before buying it. The Single player storyline is garbage. It does not flow with how the past story lines go… It is simply convoluted propaganda. If you can’t see this your pretty dumb and it shows really well like your buttcrack hanging out of baggy pants cause you can’t dress properly either. Also if you haven’t notice Treyarch can’t pull there own weight when it comes to serve management. They dont have the brain power to realise that if 7 million people are online at once and connecting to there servers they can’t support the baud rate coming downstream. Simply put the first few weeks it was impossible to have a good game without A.) getting kicked from the server(bad connection) B.) Server Overload(Can’t connect?!?!) C.) Now that is a few months into it. IT STILL HAS CONNECTION PROBLEMS! They dont know you how split the payload by restricting to a certain amount of people and then redirect to another server that can support the next load or proxy support allowing you to play with people that have a better connection for your area instead of playing someone in Brazil when you are in the USA. It just does not work well with large baud rates unless you are on a Fiber Optic line. Oh hell no! Its not about the customer is about making money and screw the rest. Your SO DAMN HARD HEADED YOU CAN’T SEE THE TRUTH BEHIND IT ALL!?!
I bet your into the crowd that calls each other Nigga too. Either use of the word is provacative and offensive to both party’s being both words(Nigga and Nigger) and should be refrained from and heavily looked down upon. To think you would stay away from the ‘N’ word. If history ever taught you anything it was that you should not learn from the past for fear of repeating it. Nigga still relates to nigger in the fact that black people take it as a honor in a sort that they have earned the right to call themselves a another convoluted version of the word. The smart ones stay away from such words as it is confusing as why you would want to degrade who you are when you are trying to build yourself up and not beat yourself down after all of that. I believe with your comments you are part of the same fools online who I hear all the time saying “Nigga” or the other and come to posts like this because you truly represent the real meaning of nigger. A true ignored son of bitch!
Odd… all the Black Ops haters? Just don’t play it then. there are 100’s of thousands of people I can play with that love it. It has a arcad quality that many gamers love, not everybody cares to mouse and click a game. People don’t like change. MW2 had the easy kill streaks and the noob tubers,i’ll admit, black Ops hasn’t humored those elements at all. It’s true, when you first start into the multi-player you get the crude kicked out of you, maybe that is why you guys don’t like it? but play it a while and you’ll get better, that said, the people that play it still won’t care if you like it or not.
There are tons of games I don’t like(like the boring battlefield) They slip from my memory and are forgotten. You Black Ops haters just can’t get over it..seems like a personal issue to me. If you don’t like it, just don’t play it and move on. Very trendy to dislike something so popular and a little lame.
Just noticed the comment above. wow,crazy projecting rant much? the guys you call out and and accuse of racist remarks didn’t say anything like that…you did. so you are in fact what you accuse them of. you bring up the “baggy pants” thing, that in itself indicates what you have on your’ mind. that was a bad, rambling post that has more to do with your’ state of mind than what was actually being discussed. this is your’ brain on drugs.
What is bad about CoD Black Ops?
Everything the game is not useful for anything (including a Frisbee for my mutt).
What is bad about CoD Franchise?
Terribly thought out franchise no one wants to play a game where they get shot in the general area and die. I played one of those POS games and I lie to you not someone shot the walls all around me and I died like wtf? No thanks those games are terrible.
Get skill and play the Gears franchise… then we will see if you are skilled at shooting games.
I don’t mean to spam, but another thing is it is the SAME EXACT GAME over and over just different guns?
Hell with Gears it is only shotguns, but that just means you have to get into the shit to get work done.
And for all you people crying “awww gears connections suck!!” I lag constantly, but somehow I end up with 20+ kills a game. Get skill. >:|
I had the game for a while but only my girlfriends son played it, I picked it up today and played multi-player for a bit. Lets just say I had enough, lol. I could play COD4 for hours on end. I tired to like it but I failed, lol
but anybody notice how buggy it is? the fire effects look horrible and seem to graphically glitch. going from scope to normal glitches somewhat most of the time. The color scheme is way to saturated which makes shooting enemies from afar very annoying to say the lest. I do like the Vietnam era look which gives a futuristic dystopian feel.
but I wont be playing anymore unlesa the kids ask me to play zombies with’em cause they need another player then I guess I’m stuck, 😛
I can’t really undestand all the critics against the game. Yes it is short, but i’ve got great pleasure within the 12 or 14 hours of playing it. And this is, for me the utmost important purpose of a computer game: Making you having fun, even for a few hours.
dont get me wrong, i like black ops but has anyone noticed that the enemy can knife you somewhere that you never were? its kinda annoying
you know I have played black ops and got to sixth restige and notcing the graphics and color is just too much and the storyline it is ok.. but the multiplayer is just terrible so many glitches the fire graphic is cool though put looks like they just copyied it and looks like when you go around you will just see white, and then the CoD points it is cool but it gets annoying because you have to buy every single thing and the emblem creator is cool, but a bad idea because some guys can get a little detailed on their emblems and big ducati I agree that MW2 has a lot of noob tubers actually every single match I go into I know there is going to be noob tubers and people using commando pro but when I made that big mistake by buying black ops I wish I can still get my money back.
You failed to mention the one thing that makes the cod games so much fun and popular all around the world…THE MULTIPLAYER. I’ve had black ops for about 10 months now and have put hundreds of hours of gameplay on it, and have only played about 1 of those hours in the campaign.. the online portion is just so much fun there’s no point in playing anything else. And after you’ve played with other people or your friends you’ll never want to fight ai bad guys again. The guns are fun and responsive, the kill streaks are cool, the perks are an awesome way to make your character unique to your fighting style. The semtex grenades, the ballistic knives, the tomahawk, the crossbow, what’s not to like? Get online and pay a few matches of team deathmatch with your friends, you might have a different opinion.
I googled “COD BLACK OPS storyline sucks” and got this page.
I’ve played every single COD except “Big Red One” and that was only cause it was made for consoles only. And for many of them, I have played the singleplayer no less than 50 times. (MW1 – at least 100x, MW2 – 10x) Black Ops is the most boring, tedious one I have ever played, right behind World at War, which I played twice. Treyarch is just horrible at making COD games. That stupid fragmented storyline; I was left scratching my head at the end of the game, wondering wtf. They basically needed to jam together 20 unrelated missions, so they shoved it into this format of flashbacks. The other games made you care about the characters (Price, Soap, even Gaz). I couldn’t care less about Reznov or Mason. What a waste of $40.
I’ve played all the CoD games and pretty much loved the lot until I came to Black Ops.
I fully agree with all the points in the article but the one that really irritates me is the AI. Your team mates will stand right behind you and then just watch an enemy in front of them shoot you in the back. Sometimes they keep jumping in front of you so you can’t shoot. I’ve never wanted to kill my (virtual) team mates before but I really wish I could have killed Woods myself.