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Black Ops Single Player Visual Survey & Review

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  • Black Ops Single Player Visual Survey & Review

    I'm working my way through the single player version of Black Ops and recording sections with Fraps. I plan to put together a visual survey and review of the game.

    The game is certainly a good one, but not that much of an advance over the storytelling found in Bad Company 2. Nonetheless, there are sequences that are quite spectacular.

    A very annoying design flaw is the yellow "FOLLOW" above the lead character. This disrupts the visual aspect and is lazy design work. It also demonstrates how far the game design world is from what is found in good film-making. A "FOLLOW" indicator acts as a constant reminder of the "screen" -- it interrupts the player/viewer from being fully immersed in the experience. It is as unnecessary as it is ugly.

    The same goes for the name tags above secondary characters -- unnecessary and visually disruptive -- designers keep treating the gamer as an idiot-child. Why they do not include an off-switch for these uglier features is beyond me. I think if I ever met a game designer I would kick him or her in the shins.

    Early in the adventure, a car ride...




    Some close up violent encounters . . .



    Here is a fun sequence from the Cuban airport scene:




    The sequences with close helicopter support are very dramatic . . .

    Last edited by E-Male; 11-24-2010, 10:02 PM.
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  • #2
    Re: Black Ops Single Player Visual Survey & Review

    I was surprised to see how little the visual feel of the game had advanced from the days of Steam's Half Life. While the textures and surroundings are somewhat more complex, the overall visual impression does not feel like it has made great strides from Half Life. This is particularly so in the way people are drawn.

    We see flat features, a lack of dimension, edges of things and people that are too sharply drawn, all reminiscent of games from years ago.

    Consider the following images . . .





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    • #3
      Re: Black Ops Single Player Visual Survey & Review

      I like your comments about the follow indicator. That's partly what sets valve apart from lesser developers. Valve put so much effort into getting the balance right between immersion and letting the player know what they're meant to be doing. You wouldn't see Alyx Vance with dirty big indicators above her head.

      The problem with CODBO is that if it didn't have the indicators, you wouldn't know what to do, because you'd lose the guy you're trying to follow. His character design isn't distinctive enough (without being overt the top), and his AI isn't good enough to keep you following him without "cheating".

      It's reasons like this that I love the developer commentary in valve titles. Although they put lots of effort into the L4D characters, so they'd have an overall colour scheme and be distinctive from the brown and grey zombies, they still had to make the tough decision to use the rather more subtle blue outline that shows you your allies. Given the nature of the game, and the massive amount of zombies that can overrun one of your friends, it's probably a wise decision.


      [Spartan 9]

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      • #4
        Re: Black Ops Single Player Visual Survey & Review

        I do like the way Back Ops increased the level of gore and realism in some of the violence. In this sequence we see an enemy with a leg reduced to a bloody stump, and he clutches his leg in a realistic fashion. But why the lack of blood? Are designers afraid of blood? Is this a censor/ratings issue?

        In later sequences which I am working on capturing, we will see wounded enemies crawl away and reach for their pistols, forcing you to shoot them. This is excellent drama and realism in the AI.

        I do like the increased realism in violence, but Black Ops often feels as if the designers were afraid of reality in all its bloody detail. A pity, as these video games still lag far behind some of the best box office hits as far as good old fashion movie gore goes.

        This is a genre that sells mostly to adults, but continues to design for children and church widows. Perhaps the designers lack guts . . . bloody guts.

        And once again they seriously disrupt the viewing experience with the goofy degradation of the view when you are wounded. This leads to some of the best scenes and most intense drama being partially hidden by a red splotchy screen. Seriously, is this the best solution they could come up with for telling you that your character is wounded? Again, the designers have significantly interrupted our immersion into the drama and story by messing with our field of view. It is as if they neither respect their own art nor the audience's experience of their art.

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        • #5
          Re: Black Ops Single Player Visual Survey & Review

          I'm so tired of the blood screen overlay when you are wounded. I've always thought it was stupid, and very intrusive.

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          • #6
            Re: Black Ops Single Player Visual Survey & Review

            Originally posted by UnDeaD View Post
            I'm so tired of the blood screen overlay when you are wounded. I've always thought it was stupid, and very intrusive.
            I sort of agree but to me the presentation is what makes it either appropriate or overdone. MW2 and BO have the red jelly spray (highly annoying) as opposed to Call of Duty 2's and COD 4's red eye which really reminds you are severely wounded.

            As a whole I really liked the Black Ops campaign up until the end. It was better paced than MW2 and was more fun and enjoyable than the slog which is Bad Company 2. None of them top COD4's for me.

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            • #7
              Re: Black Ops Single Player Visual Survey & Review

              Here is one of many great dramatic moments in Black Ops, which on the whole provide the most compelling reason to buy the game. But once again what could have been a great visual moment is ruined by very poor design. The designers need to draw our attention to the anti-air emplacement, but is the best solution a FLASHING gold overlay? Here a simple golden highlight, as has been used in the game thus far, would have done the trick. By making it flash like a Los Vegas sign the designers insult our visual intelligence and once again remind us that we are in a game. The movie immersion experience is lost.

              And do we really need a big ugly reminder in the centre of the screen to "Press LEFT MOUSE to Shoot"?

              And note how poor the contrasts are drawn -- the cargo plane is washed out as it lifts off. The whole scene looks like a poorly drawn comic book.

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              • #8
                Re: Black Ops Single Player Visual Survey & Review

                Nice review so far E-Male and I agree with most of what you have said.

                But something you seem to be forgetting concerning the development of this game and almost every other game is this: The developers always cater to the lowest common denominator. They make these games to appeal to the largest crown possible, thereby increasing the potential revenue the title can generate. Some examples:

                1. They put in some blood and gibs to keep players like us interested enough to continue playing, while catering to the tards in the world that believe video games (or the sight of digital blood) cause (or can lead to) real life violence.
                2. They put in arrows and flashy gold overlays to guide players that don't have a bunch of experience with games like these.
                3. They put in blood splatter on the screen to indicate that you are wounded so that those players with goldfish like memories will be reminded that they are no longer at full health.

                These, of course, are just my personal opinions colored by my internal cynic and my jaded view of game developers. I don't see it changing much in the foreseeable future. Not unless the world wakes up and tells all of the "Nanny Staters" and the "Think of the children!!!11!!" types to go away and diaf*.

                * - diaf = die in a fire

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                • #9
                  The Interrogation as Story Telling Device

                  One of the best features of Black Ops is the use of the interrogation cutscenes to advance the plot. The editing and visual effects are excellent, and the storyline interesting without being to complicated (thus far).

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                  • #10
                    Motorcylce Sequence

                    A great video game is defined by the number and variety of vehicles one rides, and Black Ops does not disappoint with this trip on a classic motorcycle.

                    This sequence also demonstrates the seamless way the designers integrated cutscenes with game play.

                    Yet the designers really let the player down when they did not allow the player to create game-saves at will. Not being able to save the game at a particular point means we lose the opportunity to readily go back and play a particular scene again. Why why why?

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                    • #11
                      Sloppy Design -- Again

                      You would think that it is a no-brainer to create some fish that realistically flop about on the floor. This sequence of an exploding aquarium reminded me of the crappiness of BioShock's fish scenes.

                      These fish stink . . .

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                      • #12
                        How to Ruin Great Drama with Poor Design

                        Time and again, Black Ops operates as a textbook study in bad design interfering with great drama. Consider this sequence of a wounded enemy crawling away.

                        The initial attack is all but blotted out of view by the inane blood-splotching of the view screen. Then the kill scene is disrupted by the gun swap message and reload message. This is just craptacular design and lazy coding.

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                        • #13
                          Brilliant Visual Design But Weak Soundscape

                          This was great, but the sound fell flat -- I should have felt like, well like a 747 just flew 20 feet over my head . . .

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