Sunday, November 21, 2010

Black Ops for PC - First Impression

I bought Call of Duty: Black Ops on Friday.  I've been wanting to play the game since it came out and I couldn't wait to try it.  I found a web site (cannot recall just now) that let me see if my computer could even run the game.  According to the site, my computer could run it, but with several warnings: Processor was on the slow side and my RAM was a bit lower than they liked.

My system is roughly 5-6 years old.  It is a Pentium D 840 (or something along those lines - 2.8 Ghz) with 1.5 GB of RAM.  I actually thought I had 3GB of RAM, so somewhere in the past years, I must have played swapsies with various computers I had worked on.  Ah well.  I have twin Geforce 8600GT's in SLI mode.  If this is too techie, don't worry, I'm almost done with this part.  I installed the game (more on that in a bit), and fired it up.  LAG city.  I was bummed.  It is "semi-playable" on my rig, but that is being taken care of soon.  As it turns out, I had a mileage check from work that more than covered the cost upgrading the CPU on my motherboard.  I'll be kickin' it with 3.2 Ghz before long.  And for those that are rolling their eyes or are pounding their fists, let me say that I can do this upgrade for about a Benjamin.  Well within my budget, this upgrade will buy me several more years before I have to do a total replacement.  I am also moving over to a Radeon HD 5770* video card.  The video card is something I've been wanting to do for a while now and this presented a perfect opportunity.  Once my new hardware is in place, I will follow this post up with a "second look" for Black Ops.

Let's get down to business... I hate STEAM.  I thought I was okay with it when they solved the issue with my father's game (previously posted), but I've since gone back to my original feelings - I hate it.  STEAM requires the user to connect to the Internet for registration of new software.  That in itself is not bad.  But, then afterward, the STEAM engine needed and update.  Once the game was installed, the GAME needed an update!  Believe it or not, I actually chronicled this:

9:39pm - Begin installation, update steam (and find the stupid login info)
9:53pm - Enter product code after steam updates
9:54pm - Begin installation of actual game
10:16p - Launch game, game needs update, steam reports "Ready to play in 48 minutes" Say what!?
10:40p - Update finished, Ready to Play. Okay, not quite 48 minutes.

As you can see, from the time I put the DVD into the computer, it took AN HOUR before I could even play the game.  I assume XBox, Playstation, Wii, etc players do have this problem.  They can just drop the disc and go.  Yeesh.

Okay, let me say that I know the box says the game is rated "M" for 17+ age group.  But, the language in this game is ROUGH!  Even on the "moderate" setting, some of the scenes play the VERY foul language.  Do *NOT* play this game with youngins around (or kill the speakers!).

The lag was so bad, the game was unplayable in any realistic sense.  I got out of the game, set Avast! anti-virus to "Silent/Game Mode" and killed several running processes (Adobe, Java, iPod service, etc).  I went back into the game and dumbed down all the settings - 800x600, no effects, low quality, etc.  At that point, the game was playable and still didn't look too bad either.

You start out as a guy in an electric chair.  You are being interrogated, including a little shock therapy for good measure.  As you are being quizzed, you are taken back (in flashback memories) to various scenarios that you then get to play out.  After the mission ends, you come out of your daze back into 'the present' for more questions, shocks and then flashback to another memory-induced mission.  There was a Castro mission, a Vietnam mission, and a few others I can't recall.  I am in the Vietnam mission, but cannot continue because the lag has gotten horrendous.  If you've played the game, it's where you are in the trenches and must blow up the tanks with detonators.  The lag is so bad that during the melee where you have to "press the 'F' key repeatedly," I had to play through sevral times because the key presses were not registering fast enough.

Aside from the technical issues, I find myself torn about this game.  The missions you play through are great fun!  They represent what Call of Duty showcases in each of their first-person shooters - goals, objectives, run-and-gun (at least for the parts I have done) with some puzzle-solving thrown in.  On the downside, the whole "flashback" scenario is tedious for me.  Frankly, in the scheme of the "story," I'd rather just play through the missions and forget all the dumb interrogation and dialog junk.  I may be the only person on the planet that feels that way.  Each mission is a different period of time, and they are only 'connected' by the fact the main character is 'remembering' what happened.  UGH.  No thanks.  It's not even a problem of disjointedness (which there is that, but still), but rather that I just don't care.  I have zero vested interest in the main character's plight.  Nothing in the game has made me 'buy into' the premise.  I'm sure the designers thought they were doing a cool, great storyline.  Instead, it comes off as if each mission was coded by a different group of people and then someone said, "Hey, none of this goes together! We need a story here!"  BBBZZZTT... Thank you for playing.

I'll let you know how my experience goes once the new hardware is in place, and maybe things will "jeehaw" better when I'm not fighting lag.  As for now, though, I give the missions an 8 and the story a 3.  I give it a 3 because at least you can look around while seated, and rumor is you can break out of the straps and find a 'secret' computer to enter codes.  We'll see.

*I had previously reported a Radeon 7550, but that was a typo.

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