Verdict: Controlled Yes on COD: Black Ops II

The victory for GamerDude is a bittersweet one (my WordPress friend, Bitter Ben would argue there’s no other kind of sweetness) — I’ve

Keep your cool while playing, ebayUK

Contolled playing, ebayUK

given him permission to play Call of Duty: Black Ops II, if he plays within the following parameters:

1. blood, gore, & language controls on, and

2. no online multiplayer gameplay

Of course, I believe this is a massive step for me in my relationship with video games, but in the time I’ve taken to reach a verdict on this game, the creators of COD: Black Ops II have released one DLC — a map: Revolution — last month. Further, this review/MOMmentary is being published the weekend before a gaming platform-wide release of the second DLC: Uprising (which includes a zombie setting called “Mob of the Dead”). Turns out, keeping up with this franchise is a full-time job.

A little background about COD: Black Ops II

It was released for PS3, Xbox 360, and Microsoft Windows November 2012, and it’s the first game in the COD franchise that features branching storylines influenced by players’ choices — these storylines/choices are called “Strike Force missions”. It’s also the first COD game to use futuristic warfare technology.

The game narrative is complex and compelling — in its single player mode, the campaign showcases two connecting storylines with Black Ops protagonist Alex Mason starring in the first section of the game and his son, David, in the second half. The game spans from 1986 to 1989 (the final years of the first Cold War) and then in 2025 — the onset of a second Cold War (this is where we see futuristic weapons and action). Soldiers in the game are tasked with — among other duties — preventing a terrorist attack.

Zombies

According to Patricia Hernandez (Kotaku), Zombie mode is a bit of a letdown. In her review of zombie mode for Kotaku, Hernandez writes:

There are three game types: the story-based “Tranzit,” the classic “Survival,” and, less excitingly, the maliciously spirited “Grief.” All overtly have the same premise: using teamwork, survive/kill the zombies.

Zombie mode is also very violent. Like, in a gratuitous way. I’ve banned it in our house because I haven’t found any evidence of zombie mode/maps being anything other than gross — and not in a cool, Super Meatboy way!

Violence and Gore (and Language — Oh My!)

COD: Black Ops II is a violent FPS (first person shooter) game, with and without the use of control settings. This review, and my verdict, have taken about two weeks longer than I’d hoped because of my inherent discomfort with the genre. That said, my decision to allow GamerDude to play the game is rooted in my the ability to control the level of gore, violence, and objectionable language in the game. With the content controls on, the screen literally goes black in places — to his frustration and my satisfaction. Also, in at least one instance, I’ve seen a cutscene that was appallingly horrific in the uncontrolled game — a man being burned alive — edited in the gore control mode.  The effect: a cutscene free of graphic visual and sound effects (preferable).

I’ve watched GamerDude play COD: Black Ops II — avec content controls — and, while it’s still intensely violent, the strategy, narrative, and decision-making aspects of the game really shine in this mode (as opposed to being outshone by violent, gory, and profane content). These are factors that contributed to my decision to allow the game in my home.

Closing

The ESRB rates the game Mature for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes, and Use of Drugs. The first four themes are controllable and the last two are (virtually) unavoidable. It should be noted that the suggestive themes entail your player entering a nightclub with exotic dancers — in silhouette — and it’s not a primary aspect of the game action or narrative. Regarding the use of drugs in the game, it’s limited to a mission set in a cocaine bunker. To complete the game players need to complete these missions, but if you don’t want to experience these worlds, you can avoid the missions.

I also want to add that the musical score for COD: Black Ops II is stunning. Composed by Jack Wall and Trent Reznor, it’s a powerful combination of classical and contemporary music that serves to enhance the gameplay and enrich what’s already a detail-rich world. Despite the fact that FPS isn’t my bag, I dig the task responsibility of watching GamerDude play this game.

VERDICT: RECOMMEND — with content controls ON — FOR SOME 12 YEARS PLUS

 

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Response to The Double Parent

In the comments section of yesterday’s Uniting the generations through COD The Double Parent asked:

I started writing a response in the comments, and then I realized that it was becoming a blog post. So here’s my response:

Personally, the shoot’em up style FPS games continue to make me uncomfortable. That said, I’m packing less testosterone than a lot of FPS fans. My intent isn’t to reinforce gender stereotypes re: boys are more aggressive than girls (or snakes, snails & puppy dog tails, which, as a little girl I always thought seemed much better than sugar, spice & all things nice!). But generally speaking, boys find violent and physical  play to be more cathartic — even therapeutic — than girls.

I used to be very strict with the no-violent-video-games rule in my house and you know what? At that time, my son was getting into playground fights at school. I allow some violent games now, and he hasn’t been in a playground fight in over two years.

Admittedly, there are a lot of factors that contributed to the playground fights, as well as to his current success in regulating and managing himself when he sees injustices on the playground — his MO has always been “defender of social justice”; fighting for what’s fair for himself and others. But he tells me that after a crappy and/or frustrating day, he finds respite in his violent video games. It’s a zone of total fantasy where he can take a break from civil society and be pure id for a spot of time.  And I don’t have a difficult time getting him to stop playing when I ask him to stop.

I think it’s also important to emphasize that violent video games represent a fraction of Gamer Boy’s collection of video games. He’s also quite outdoorsy and sporty.

The Verdict

Between us, I’m leaning toward a yes and I’ll elaborate on that in an actual review. I plan on keeping this from Gamer Boy though, otherwise I’ll never hear the end of it!

Uniting the generations through Call of Duty

Gamer Boy has been after me for ages to let him buy & play Call of Duty franchise games. Specifically, he wants to play COD: Black Ops. So I’ve been info gathering and reviewing the game for him (& you!). In my searches I found this wonderful video, posted just two months ago on YouTube by a teen — it’s an edited video of him playing COD: Black Ops with his 84-year-old grandfather. They’re both having so much fun together. And I know the point of the video is to view the older man’s reactions to playing, but I loved the interplay between the two. If you haven’t seen it — watch here:

UPDATE:

The boys (brothers) who made the video of their grandfather playing video games with them seem very sweet and well-mannered to boot. I found this thank you video from one of the boys — posted after their video went viral. To his mother and father; nice work! (I’ll bet he sends thank you cards too!)