Call of Duty: Black Ops Game Poster Image

Call of Duty: Black Ops

Superb but violent shooter is definitely for adults only.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Positive messages

This game doesn’t make any sort of political or social commentary other than that the U.S. government executed covert operations during the Cold War. Its story is pure fiction and its action is sensationalized. It’s also filled with mature themes -- including graphic violence and tobacco use -- and clearly designed for adult consumption.

Positive role models

Although most of the game’s characters are loyal, obedient soldiers, and they appear to be fighting for the greater good, they also use some extreme methods to achieve their goals.

Ease of play

Experienced shooter fans should have little trouble acclimatizing themselves to this game’s traditional controls and mechanics. Multiple difficulties provide a point of entry for players of all skill levels, while an online mode called Combat Training allows players to learn how to play competitively against bots (computer controlled enemies) as opposed to humans.


Players use rifles, emplaced guns, explosives, and other weapons to kill their enemies. Dark red splashes appear when enemies are shot and the screen’s edges go red with blood stains when the player’s character takes damage. Limbs are occasionally blown off. Players can also stab their enemies in melee combat. In a couple of cases players have the option of slitting the throats of enemies while they sleep in their bunks. An interrogation scene midway through the game sees the player stuffing a victim’s mouth with glass and then pulling one of the controller’s triggers to punch him in the face, causing his mouth to turn red. Screams and moans of pain are heard throughout the game.

Not applicable

Protagonists cuss throughout. Expect plenty of profane words, including “f--k” and “s--t”.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Several scenes -- both computer-rendered and live-action footage -- show characters smoking cigarettes. Also, the game’s primary protagonist recounts his story while under the influence of interrogation drugs.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Call of Duty: Black Ops is a very violent military-themed first person shooter in which players use a wide variety of weapons and explosives to kill hundreds of enemies in the campaign and countless more human-controlled avatars online. It features violent interrogations, graphic melee combat, and lots of blood. The visceral nature of the action combined with its complex Cold War narrative leave little doubt that it was designed for an adult audience. It is not appropriate for children. Note, too, the online portion of the game supports open voice chat, a feature that Common Sense Media does not recommend for pre-teens. Kids may be talking about this M-rated game because of the ad campaign, which features Kobe Bryant and Jimmy Kimmel holding guns and pretending to play the game.

What's it about?

CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS, the seventh entry in Activision’s blockbuster military shooter franchise, sets the action in an era the series has yet to explore: The Cold War of the 1960s. Much of the story is composed of the memories of a special ops soldier under brutal interrogation. Consequently, missions skip around the world, from the trenches of Vietnam to the skyline of Hong Kong to the wintery lands of the U.S.S.R. Outside the story players can hop online in multiplayer where they will increase in rank, unlock new weapons and equipment, and work through a wide variety of individual and team-based modes. Parents should note that both the bloody campaign and deep online play -- which includes open voice chat -- are geared for grown-ups.

Is it any good?


Black Ops’ single-player missions are perhaps the fastest-paced and most unpredictable of the franchise. Whether players are pulling down a helicopter with a harpoon, blowing up a massive missile mid-launch, or escaping a prison on a motorbike, monotony never has an opportunity to set in. It’s not quite as emotional as the series’ games set during the Second World War, but it is at least as exciting.

However, few players will spend as much time with the campaign as they will with the extraordinarily deep multiplayer functionality. In addition to all of the franchise’s usual modes, challenges, and unlockables, this game also offers a wager mode that allows players to put their hard-won credits on the line in small matches in which the top three players take all the loot. Another new mode, Combat Training, allows players new to online gaming to get their feet wet fighting computer-controlled baddies with their buddies. Adult gamers will enjoy the epic interactive experience.

Online interaction: This game supports open, non-moderated voice communication, which opens the door to inappropriate language and subjects of conversation, as well as the sharing of personal information.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about violence in games. How does watching violence affect you? Does the interactive nature of games make violence in this medium more intense than, say, watching it in a film?

  • Families can also discuss the depiction of controlled substances in games. Smoking plays a large role in this game, which is set in a time when smoking was not as taboo as it is today. Do you think the storytellers needed to show characters smoking in order to create a convincing Cold War-era atmosphere?

Game details

Platforms:Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3, Windows, Xbox 360
Available online?Available online
Release date:November 9, 2010
Genre:First Person Shooter
ESRB rating:M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language

This review of Call of Duty: Black Ops was written by

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Parent of a 13 year old Written bysentry reccomen... November 13, 2010

Black Ops... not as violent as you think it is.

At first, when I bought it for my 13 year old son, I believed this game would be "way" to violent, but after watching this game it is definitely not what I thought it was. Let me touch upon a few points which separate this game from other Call of Duty titles. 1. There is no drug references or use 2. This game has far less gore and blood then Modern Warfare 2... further more there is a setting in the game to turn of blood and gore permanently - with this feature on, I believe this game could hold the T for Teen ESRB rating. 3. This game is quite true to the Vietnam war time line, so kids could learn first hand about that. 4. Like blood and gore, language can be turned off too!
What other families should know
Educational value
Adult Written bySteph. G November 13, 2010

You can turn of blood, gore, and language!

FIRST OFF I WOULD LIKE TO SAY YOU CAN TURN BLOOD, GORE, AND LANGUAGE OFF IN THIS GAME. This drastically changes what I would be writing here, since many parents are hesitant to buy this game because of pure peer pressure. Without a doubt this game is violent, but when you use the feature of turning off blood, gore, and language the game is much more playable in a family environment.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Educational value
Parent of a 11 and 13 year old Written byClyde S. December 22, 2010

Perfect for 11 and up!

I love this game. My 11 year old and I play it together, and, I discovered more than a few curses in it. True, there may be curses, but you can turn down the blood AND language. I do think this works, but the torture scenes are BRUTAL. However, these scenes, the language, and gore only appear in the single-player campaign. So, If your child has a deal to play ONLY the multiplayer or has everything tuned down, than it should be fine. All in all, your child has most likely seen the blood on other games (MAG,Warlord, WOW, etc.) and the language... Your child's heard it all by 4-5th grade. I rate this ON for 11 and up.
What other families should know
Too much swearing