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Technical problems make this game fall flat.
on November 10, 2010
Want to know the word that sums this game up in a nutshell? I'll give it to you: Stutter.
I have a fairly midrange system consisting of an AMD X2 7750BE, Radeon 4850, and 4 gigs of RAM. Since my PC exceeds the recommended system requirements, one would assume that I would be able to run the game. Not a chance. Both the singleplayer and multiplayer aspects of the game are COMPLETELY DOMINATED by stutter, regardless of the fact that I've either turned down or turned off every imaginable graphics setting to alleviate the problem.
Confused about what stutter is? Imagine watching a movie and having it freeze for a half second every three seconds. The movie plays as smooth as silk; it just freezes a little every three seconds. Would be frustrating, wouldn't it? You'd probably get a headache around five minutes; maybe leave the movie after ten, wouldn't you? Well, imagine purchasing this game and playing it. That's what's gonna happen to you. Constant, constant stuttering to the point you want to wring the neck of whoever was in charge of QA at Treyarch.
Really, it's obvious that the team at Treyarch does not care about the PC demographic, because I find it hard to believe that such a fundamental problem would get past quality control. Maybe they don't even have quality control for their PC ports.
Think it's just me and every other idiot writing a 1-star review? Google "black ops stutter". You'll stand corrected.
I already bought the game, and now I'm...meh, "paying" for it. Don't be an idiot like me. Be an informed and smart consumer; do not purchase this game unless you enjoy playing half-baked, stutter-strewn videogames that don't deserve to be put on the market.
EDIT ON 11/14/2010
OK, I've bumped this game up to three stars from one because, as other people have noted both in comments and other reviews, Treyarch released a patch on Thursday that DID fix the stuttering problem.
And because the stuttering was fixed, I have had the opportunity to play through both multilplayer and singleplayer and can safely say that there is a phenomenal game that is buried underneath a myriad of technical problems (more, unfortunately, on that later). I don't want to dedicate a large portion of this edit to a review of everything the game has gotten right simply because such reviews already exist. I will say this though: This game has either met or exceeded the standards set by past shining entries of the Call of Duty franchise from a cinematic, gameplay, and narrative perspective.
However, from a technical standpoint, the game is still an utter failure. While playing through singleplayer, I made it a point to enable a value in my configuration file that allowed me to measure the amount of Frames Per Second (fps) my computer was rendering. For the people that don't know what fps is, fps is a measurement of how smoothly the game is running (laymen's explanation). A low fps means that the game will run more choppy, whereas a high fps means that the game will run more smoother. Anything below 30 is considered unplayable, anything around 30 is considered barely playable, and anything near or above to 60 is considered quite smooth.
With those definitions in mind, throughout the entire singleplayer campaign, my fps never exceeded 60, and it often dropped below 30, particularly when it mattered most: in firefights and heavy action sequences. If I were to give a range, it would be about 25-45.
It was very frustrating. I found myself aiming from the hip because I couldn't track targets correctly aimed down the sight, and hanging back rather than rushing into the action. There were times where there was a really cool cinematic event that was flat-out ruined by the fact that the game was running like a slideshow. And as with the stuttering problem, I encountered low fps regardless of my graphical settings. I tested on three levels what I'm about to say: There was no discernible gain or loss of fps between two sets of settings of 16x AA, 16x AF, and a 1920x1080 resolution, and 0x AA, 0x AF, and an 800x600 resolution. This is on a PC that can run any other Call of Duty game at over 100 fps.
These fps problems carry into multiplayer as well, the part of the game where its absolutely vital to have over 60fps. Since this part of the review is, I must confess, absolutely heartbreaking for me (I played cod4 professionally), permit me to sum it up with one statement: Unless you have a high-range machine, you'll always be playing at around 30-40 fps. For me, at least, that is unacceptable.
Amazon defines a 3 star review of a product as one that is simply "OK". Nearly everything about the game is fantastic; the intriguing narrative, the cinematic feel, the tight feeling of the controls, and the improved multilayer, among other things. Yet, despite all of the awesome elements of this game, the problems with low fps served to consistently shatter the fantasy, turning a heart-racing, breathtaking global trot into a walk that was simply OK.