CoD: Black Ops - How violent is too violent?

Violence and video games. Not a new pairing. You might call it the peanut butter and chocolate of electronic entertainment. It's understandable really, to some extent I think everyone wants to hurt their fellow man in some way from time to time. Video games provide a safe way to do that.

I've been playing Call of Duty: Black Ops, however, and wondering if we may have reached a point that we need to step back from.

Something about the scripted events in Black Ops started bugging me. Fairly quickly, really. It started when I was thinking about how the main character, Mason, can't seem to go two steps without getting blinded by something or nearly blacking out. Then I started thinking about some of the scripted kills. A couple from early on stick out:

1.) Stealing uniforms from the Russians in the rocket launch site. You pull out a special knife while sneaking up on them, and its usage becomes fairly evident. More or less, you jam it into the base of the skull of your target.
2.) Watching Reznov's buddy be a target of the chemical weapon plot MacGuffin. This one is really creepy if you think about it for a little bit.
3.) Later, in Vietnam, you're fighting a few VCA. At one point you drag one underwater and saw out his trachea with your knife.

I didn't really want to describe in this level of detail, but I figured it would help if I explained what I saw happen, and it would be more inclusive to people who hadn't played the game.

I'm not quite sure why this bothers me. After all, I've played Gears of War and its sequel, and eagerly anticipate the third title. We're talking a game where the mainstay weapon has a chainsaw used to bisect enemies on a regular basis. The second game had the inclusion of more forms of 'executing' a downed opponent.

Part of my thinking is that kills in CoD: BO feel excessive. GoW, kills are quick, or not overtly gory. Curb stomps are over almost immediately, and half of the 'long' execution moves are bloodless (clubbing someone with the Boltok or sniper rifle). Black Ops seems to be saying "Look how far we can push the envelope. Look at what we can do and still get an M rating that'll allow us to be sold nearly everywhere! I am going to rub your nose in how much of a psychopathic badass killer this guy is!"

This is not a cry for censorship. I think the last thing we need is to censor video games. But it's a little disturbing to see people intentionally push things as far as they can when there's no real reason for it.

I guess that's what bothers me the most. Black Ops is a spectacle. It feels like playing a movie, and the frequent interruptions of scripted events (like watching Woods get clubbed by a VCA because the M16 was a jammy POS in Vietnam, wait until you draw your gun, and then have to save his ass before he gets shot or watch it all over again) make sure you follow the movie's script very closely. As far as I can tell, there's no overarching message like "Vietnam was bad" or "the US soldiers were brave and valiant" because the game focuses purely on the action sequences and pretty much says "fuck you!" to standard plot elements like character development (except for Reznov).

So instead of making us think, Black Ops wants to be a pretty rollercoaster ride for a few hours and $60. Do we really need to be quite so extremely graphic with exploded legs and slit throats, then? Don't say you're trying to tell me war is hell when you're advocating running around with dual-wielded guns spamming more ammo than god in the general direction of the enemy while healing bullet wounds in three seconds flat.

Though after the debacle surrounding MW2, I guess I shouldn't have expected anything less. Sure it's Treyarch instead of Infinity Ward, but someone was pushing someone to top that.

I don't know. I haven't finished the game yet, and I'm going to regardless, but it'd be interesting to hear some other thoughts on this. Maybe I just watched a few too many of the wrong videos on the internet. Damn you, fourth channel!

Now maybe I can actually sleep, having put this forth.

Any game can be as violent as it wants to be, as long as there is context for that violence. There isn't a bar that says 'This much blood = too much blood' it's all about using violence to the best effect. If it helps the game in some way, I don't care how much blood and guts are spraying at the screen. It's when it's there for little more than titillation that its excessive. It's why games like the Silent Hill series and Dead Space never get called 'too violent'. The gore and disturbing imagery builds up an atmosphere.

I don't think that the violence of Black Ops is unnecessary. When you think about it, this was a very tumultous time period. What may be making you uncomfortable is how personal the violence gets- up-close, personal, and disturbing because you think "wow, these used to be people". I think that it fits well with the game because of this aspect- Black Ops tells a more personal story than the other Call of Duty games, thus making the violence fit better, and it also (in my eyes, at least) represents the maturation of the franchise as it becomes less afraid to show the ugly side of warfare.

FargoDog:
The gore and disturbing imagery builds up an atmosphere.

But is there a line. Or do you want to be able to see each individual layer of fat, bone, and muscle when you slice an opponent open with a sword?

I'd say the manhunt games are the ones that have taken it too far, but to be honest people do like gore porn. I mean look how many SAW's and slasher films there are. Violence only goes too far when it tries too hard to unsettles the player through large amounts of bloods and gore.

Nohra:

FargoDog:
The gore and disturbing imagery builds up an atmosphere.

But is there a line. Or do you want to be able to see each individual layer of fat, bone, and muscle when you slice an opponent open with a sword?

Maybe. If it's to go 'Oh, that's so cool! Look at all those entrails!' then no, but if it's supposed to create a genuine reactionary response than yes.

northeast rower:
I don't think that the violence of Black Ops is unnecessary. When you think about it, this was a very tumultous time period. ... I think that it fits well with the game because of this aspect- Black Ops tells a more personal story than the other Call of Duty games, thus making the violence fit better ...

I'd believe that if the game didn't play out like a Rambo movie.

Nohra:

FargoDog:
The gore and disturbing imagery builds up an atmosphere.

But is there a line. Or do you want to be able to see each individual layer of fat, bone, and muscle when you slice an opponent open with a sword?

That sounds pretty good to me...

I have no problem with violence in video games because I know the real world is more violent...

I didn't feel it was excessive. Because these are 3 occassions in a 20-level game. Big whoop.

Nohra:

northeast rower:
I don't think that the violence of Black Ops is unnecessary. When you think about it, this was a very tumultous time period. ... I think that it fits well with the game because of this aspect- Black Ops tells a more personal story than the other Call of Duty games, thus making the violence fit better ...

I'd believe that if the game didn't play out like a Rambo movie.

True, but stop thinking about that aspect of it for a second and think about the story and time period itself.

Nohra:

GoW, kills are quick, or not overtly gory.

You said it not me, the chainsaw kills cover the screen in blood while you hack it through what ever your killing. Sure its quick but its nasty.... and I love it =D

I like violent video games, the gorier ther better.

It's far, FAR less violent then the real Vietnam War.

Ths game is "tellytubbies do the 'nam" compared to what is could/should have been.

RobCoxxy:
I didn't feel it was excessive. Because these are 3 occassions in a 20-level game. Big whoop.

Actually, there are around 15 of these. Yes, I counted.

Nohra:
snip

I have only read a part of your OP but I can tell you haven't touched a properly gory game yet.

Try postal for some twisted gore, using a cat a suppressor, for example.

If you want to get the meat of the gore world, go and look up on youtube manhunt executions! They will make even the most hardened gore fan wince, for example putting a sickle between a mans legs and pulling it from front to back. Another highlight is, cutting off a guys head with machete/axe/wire then putting it in a plastic bag to use as a distraction on other guys.

Black ops is rather tame to be honest, I think Resident evil out does it. Silent hill Definitely does!

I get the impression that Treyarch thinks that severed limbs and shouting "fuck" 1800 times makes a game gritty and edgy and mature. Of course the counter is that it's war, and that it's more "realistic," but a lot of it still comes across as contrived and overboard. I don't have a problem with over-the-top violence or swearing if it's organic; many places in BO felt out of place.

I guess that means I have a bigger problem with the writing than the content itself. Ah well.

Violence is just as much a part of CoD as my arms are a part of my body. Just the way it is. Oh, and

Nohra:

2.) Watching Reznov's buddy be a target of the chemical weapon plot MacGuffin. This one is really creepy if you think about it for a little bit.

Reznov's buddy? Did you just call Dimitri Petrenko Reznov's buddy without a name? CRIME!
Just kidding. Seriously, that bit depressed me though.

DaemonicShadow:

Nohra:

2.) Watching Reznov's buddy be a target of the chemical weapon plot MacGuffin. This one is really creepy if you think about it for a little bit.

Reznov's buddy? Did you just call Dimitri Petrenko Reznov's buddy without a name? CRIME!
Just kidding. Seriously, that bit depressed me though.

Yeah, that part after that level I played as though it didn't matter if I died because my best friend just died.

Bullshit. Sure, when a movie tries to make things as gory as possible that's fine, but when you can actually PRESS BUTTONS TO ACTIVATE CERTAIN EVENTS?!?!? Dear lord ban this pornography! HOLY SHIT! It's not like this kind of stuff ACTUALLY HAPPENS IN REAL LIFE! Really. These people, do not like each other. These people, do not like each other! Dear lord! What if my son saw two people that weren't immediate friends?? Ban!Ban!Ban!Ban!Ban! ..... Active parents make me sick.

It's an 18+ game. This stuff is to be expected, stop being a whining pussy trying to get everyone down. Play Aliens vs Predator, you can rip guys heads off and impale them, all from a first person viewpoint. It's actually quite funny.

northeast rower:

RobCoxxy:
I didn't feel it was excessive. Because these are 3 occassions in a 20-level game. Big whoop.

Actually, there are around 15 of these. Yes, I counted.

Well the VC knifing and slowmo headshot thing is one level, thats about six right there haha

ninetails593:
Bullshit. Sure, when a movie tries to make things as gory as possible that's fine, but when you can actually PRESS BUTTONS TO ACTIVATE CERTAIN EVENTS?!?!? Dear lord ban this pornography! HOLY SHIT! It's not like this kind of stuff ACTUALLY HAPPENS IN REAL LIFE! Really. These people, do not like each other. These people, do not like each other! Dear lord! What if my son saw two people that weren't immediate friends?? Ban!Ban!Ban!Ban!Ban! ..... Active parents make me sick.

>implying I didn't say "Censorship is the last thing I think video games need"
>implying I'm a parent

Most movies don't simulate real wounds, either. They have pretty, clean, Hollywood wounds. There are more than a few websites you could visit if you wanted to see a compound fracture, bone splinters, or some of the more nasty things that can happen to the human body. I'm not linking any of them here.

Nohra:
Something about the scripted events in Black Ops started bugging me. Fairly quickly, really. It started when I was thinking about how the main character, Mason, can't seem to go two steps without getting blinded by something or nearly blacking out.

It's a Treyarch game. The majority of missions in CoD3 started or ended with a blackout.

I didn't really even notice any of the things you're talking about. The animation of these acts didn't feel particularly graphic to me. I don't even remember seeing any blood at all in a lot of those sequences. I remember a guy being split in half at one point, but it looked so cartoony it didn't phase me. But I understand that different people are always going to have different reactions to things like this. Sometimes something feels more extreme to one person than it does for someone else.

This is where things like personal discretion come into play. And you're entirely within your right to not like the direction a game takes in how it shows violence. I think anything that gets people thinking, even if it's just making them question what they like or don't like, is always a good thing.

A game can never be too violent in and of itself. It can be too violent for you to personally enjoy it, but that does not mean that the game has overreached some universal violence limit.

baddude1337:
I'd say the manhunt games are the ones that have taken it too far, but to be honest people do like gore porn. I mean look how many SAW's and slasher films there are. Violence only goes too far when it tries too hard to unsettles the player through large amounts of bloods and gore.

Exactly. The violence and gore in Black Ops is to make the game even better and I think it did.

I haven't played it but I think I know what you mean. Kinda like Saving Private Ryan?
Knife scene still gives me the creeps

It's a video game. I don't care how violent it is.

The violence of Black Ops is actually pretty well in context. You see an enemy harm someone, you not just want to harm that enemy as an act of battlefield justice or innate retribution, but you better follow the programming from Reznov as well as sympathize with him and your U.S. comrades. Killing the Russian sentry with a knife in the back of the next to get his uniform for infiltration is fairly justified as not just an enemy but you fulfilled that mission with the pretext that you would neutralize an ICBM that would hit the US, which would start Mutually Assured Destruction and kill millions if not billions of people. Black Ops' tour through Vietnam was pretty tasteful not showing some of the actually VC booby traps or agent orange and completely ignoring the My Lai Massacre. Plus Black Ops didn't gamble its story-telling prowess on a massive slaughter of civilians like "No Russian" in MW2.

I don't think the whole purpose was to push any kind of envelope or to see what they could get away with - I just think that when a lot of people think about Vietnam, black ops or well anything that's covertly hidden away from the general public.. there has to be a certain level of gruesome involved that just doesn't come from the warfare that we all learn about on television and in the movies.

I honestly disagree OP, yes the combat and especially the hand to hand depicted in black ops is fairly brutal but it is brutal because Treyarch was going I think for realism on some level (at least with the violence, the plot is out there lol). There's reports the USSR did test chemical weapons on their own troops, that water knife kill? the one where you jab in then saw out? The exact same method I was taught in the Marines to kill a sentry silently, slamming the knife through the 3rd and 4th c-spine vertebrae (the other knife kill you mentioned) was also mentioned to us as a more advanced silent knife kill.

Black Ops is violent and brutal there's no denying that, but it's violence and brutality in it's place as conveying and telling the story and the reality mixed with the fictional events. This isn't gore porn like was mentioned above, this is a decent attempt to display the brutality that is warfare in all it's terrible glory.

If you think the game is too violent for you, then don't play it. That's what the rest of the world needs to get in its head as well.

I don't have a problem with some of the violence that is understandable (I'm loathe to throw the word realistic out here) like people losing limbs to explosions, that actually happens. But many of the stealth kills are excessive and inefficient. So I personally have no experience with knifing someone, but my good mate on leave for the holidays is a rifleman in the Australian army. and he thought some of the stuff was ridiculous compared to what he'd been taught officially and not so officially by guys who vetrans. That said he was impressed by some of the other stuff, so it's 6 up and half a dozen down.

Black ops isn't nearly as violent as the Splatterhouse "reimagining". Heh, people complaining about that.

 

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