Game Review: Call of Duty Black Ops

Published on Nov 13, 2010 Games Call of duty, Review « Prev Next »


I really do enjoy the Call of Duty franchise..  It started out as a PC shooter back in 2003 and was pretty much heralded as the game to be or beat..  They continued with expansion after expansion and broadened their horizons to other machines.   At this point the franchise spans something like 15 to 20 titles on 5 or 6 different platforms earning more than $3 billion dollars world wide, and even includes it’s own line of action figures..    However their latest offering is down right bad and they should hang their head a little..

More over, for a game that started on the PC one would think they would give it more love than they do.. At this point the PC version of the latest game is completely unplayable by a large portion of the market, myself included and some how that seems okay to them.

It really seems the zero day patch system that just about all software manufacturers use is starting to get out of hand..  Whats that you ask?   Well it goes something like this;  Marketing and business have the game release date firmly set because that’s what they have promised share holders.    This is a firm date and it can’t move.   Period.

Product architects and management continue to shoe-horn in last minute features that they think would be cool or because users want them or because they fit some “vision”, and expect that date they set above to not slip at all..    So it’s up to the developers to squeeze out the product in a completely unreasonable amount of time..

Prior to that magical date, there is another magical date when the product goes gold.. At gold (or dcut or whatever they call it) they cut a copy of the program and send it to test.  If it passes the most basic of verification tests they go on and send it to print where it gets put to disks and / or packaged up to be shipped to the user.

Test continues to file defects and report problems to the developers and the developers are still working to fix those bugs..  But everyone knows that the software is full of bugs when it first goes gold and gets shipped to the customer..  Management and Marketing accepts this as “how it is”, and usually fails to tell the shareholders it works this way..  So they are fully aware of how broken the product is, in order to meet that magical ship date..

They are just hoping like hell that once the game is installed it will automatically download the latest patch (the zero day patch) which will fix all the bugs that the game shipped with..

But that begs the question;  What happens when you willingly and knowingly ship a broken product hoping for that zero day patch, but that zero day patch isn’t ready in time?  Or the zero day patch doesn’t do anything to address the issues people are seeing?

This is whats going on with black ops..  There was a zero day patch (shocker) and it didn’t do anything that I can tell, or at the very best brought it from a completely broken state to now just an unreasonably broken state for a game we paid $60 in order to play..

The real pisser is that companies know that we have zero recourse..  We have no way to get that money back..  I paid for a game, and it doesn’t work.. and I have no recourse..   Imagine if you purchased a toaster from walmart and it just didn’t do anything.. you could take it back, and have a reasonable expectation of getting your money back.   Not here;  And they know it..  They bank on it..

Bottom line is the game is broken for a large number of folks and they don’t care.. One of the devs via his twitter account stated as much..  Instead talking about the 85k people playing right at that moment..

As of Nov 2009 the call of duty franchise sold more than 55 million units, and they think just because a paltry 85k can play the game it’s okay?   Plus they have no idea how well those 85k are able to play.. I can play the game for a few minutes here and there, but it crashes or lags to a stop..etc.. Sure I was playing it but it wasn’t playable.. Am I one of those 85k they are so proud of?

Single player gets laggy and stuttery while playing it but usually it’s still somewhat playable, frustrating as hell, but playable.. where as multiplayer is so bad it’s completely not worth trying to play..

I was able to get the game to play once I turned all graphics to the minimum settings, lowered the screen resolution to something ridiculously low, and played it in a window..  THEN it’s “playable” (I use the term loosely)..  My CPU is still hammered though..  My GPU is bored when I do this.. It almost acts like they aren’t using GPU acceleration maybe?   I really don’t know..

The game is unreasonably broken..  It’s 100% CPU bound in that they did virtually zero optimization on the code or left the debug code going or aren’t using GPU acceleration or something..  My quad core pegs all 4 cores to 100% while playing and my machine while older is no slouch..

It often loses save games just out of the blue.. I got half way through the game, went to get something to eat.. came back to continue after having continued before only to have a “New Campaign” option.. My resume game options were all gone..  So great.. I got half way through to have to go half way through again?!  Fuck that..  This is the point when I started to fight with multiplayer..

The servers list is completely broken in multiplayer in that it often doesn’t update.. or refuses to stop updating once it starts.. or you can’t connect to a server at all.. or it doesn’t even try to connect..

Once connected it stutters to a stop constantly.. Not network lag either this is an internal lockup of some sort.. My ping usually doesn’t go above 50..  DirectX crashes, random crashes to desktop, jerky stuttery video.. etc..  It’s just unplayable and not fun..

It’s also pretty clear to me that even though they list a minimum spec computer that can run the game, they never actually tried that themselves as a lot of folks on the forums who don’t have the latest Intel i7 QuadCore Super Rig simply can’t play it..

Ultimately, I’m severely disappointed..  I really expected a hell of a lot more out of them..

I can play COD:World at War on max graphics using my one graphics card to span 3 monitors and it works fine.. Yet this game wont work at all on the same PC?   It’s not my machine..

And by their responses, I guess COD is no longer the franchise for me..  I can’t recommend this game at all.. It gets zero stars and isn’t worth your money, your time, or your frustration..

*EDIT:  Okay so on a whim I completely reinstalled windows from the ground up the same day that they released a new patch for the game..  Now the game is playable..  I can’t actually say if it was due to the windows reinstall, the patch or both.. *

*I have been playing a lot of multiplayer and I can say its not bad but still has a lot of issues which makes me think the original issue was the game not my machine..  I still get a lot of stuttering with the game as well as the crashes..  The server list is still completely borked, and server hangups/crashes seem constant too which tells me the game still needs more patching before it’s good to go.. *

*I’d still recommend waiting.. *