For PC players it could be said that Call of Duty: Black Ops started with a sputter and a gasp, but has managed to hold us with the continued promises of auto-patch improvements in lag and server search ability. The first five days of sales triggered buyers to plink down $650 million! PC World magazine recently reported that players have fired more than 138 billion shots thus far!
My personal perspective in playing COD: Black Ops from day one is that it is a worthwhile progression from COD 4 Modern Warefare. From a Christian gamer's perspective it has considerably less profanity and vulgarity that spoiled the Word at War and Modern Warefare 2 releases. Those were dark days for Christian gamers and even just those who wanted the fun of online gaming without the unpleasantness of the "F-Bomb" and all manner of gratuitous profanity. A look through almost any gaming discussion forum would find any complaints of such things met with general insults and the ever-present, "It adds to the realism of the game!" Realism in the game? Come on folks, it is just that isn't it? A game. The realism standard is almost universally met by increased graphics, weaponry and online multiplayer interaction. Even single player story lines can be compelling without the multi-syllabic profanity that has indeed spoiled other games.
Developers didn't seem to care about complaints of profanity, or even the complaints of PC gamers in general. The industry had no problem holding back information about its dedicated servers and other details up to the release dates, while at the same time pushing pre-sales of the trusted Call of Duty franchise. The lack of dedicated servers seemed like a test shot over the bow of the target demographic: Could the industry just do what it wanted without losing the bottom line or the faithfulness of the market?
We at CGO sat out MW2 and Battlefield 2 Bad Company when there was no way around the profanity and due to the lack of dedicated servers in MW2. So we waited, and took a chance, on Black Ops that we would be pleasantly surprised or that our smart gaming admins would provide us with a solution to any issues. We prayed about it too.
So just when I was about to throw the entire gaming "industry" under the bus when it came to the vulgarity and profanity that seemed to be the new status quo in warfare gaming, out came Adam Biessener's Call of Duty: Black Ops review in the December Game Informer magazine. In rating Black Ops a solid 9 out of 10, he commended the Call of Duty franchise's status as the "top of the visual heap" when it comes to graphics and frame rate - something hard to argue against. What stood out in Biessener's review was that, for the first time in a recognized industry media-leading magazine, the media took the developers to task. Biessener writes, "The campaign puts players neck deep in the close-up brutality of combat. Limbs shatter disgustingly as bullets rip apart flesh and bone. Gore flies in all directions as combatants are popped like meat balloons by the vicious weaponry o fthe '60s. ... Everyone should make thier own judgment on what they are comfortable with, but Black Ops crossed my personal line in its bloody depictions of violence, particlarly the torture sequence. ... Call me a wuss if you want, but the realistic gore is distasteful in the absence of a discussion of what should be a careful decision to employ lethal force."
Biessener notes the bad, but also points out the good in Black Ops - the multiplayer game. "None of this carries over to online play, where the faster pace fosters a certain detachment from the violence. For my money, Treyarch has crafted the finest Call of Duty multiplayer game to date." Agreed. He notes what most of us who have played Black Ops in the past few weeks might already know - the maps are fantastic, huge and detailed. The game play is responsive and engrossing. The perk system, game currency, and customization are all well-designed and should keep players interested in much the same way that COD 4 Modern Warefare has over the last few years.
From my perspective, I agree with much of what Biessener writes in his review. A few improvements could be made. First, ranked servers to host more than 18 players at a time would be good, but with the lag issues we've seen, I'm afraid that adding more than 18 players would create more lag. Our server admins are begging for better admin control to include: 1) Ability to see text from Rcon, 2) Ability to unban players, and, 3) Automatic word/text/tag filters.
So we continue to pray about a video game here at Christian Gamers Online. We pray that it provides a forum in which to minister. We pray the game will improve. And we pray that the game will remain a tool for the ministry, as opposed to a ministry driven by the game.