Call of Duty: Black Ops

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Call of Duty: Black Ops Game Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Superb but violent shooter is definitely for adults only.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 208 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 555 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

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 & Representations

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.


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

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bythe man with th... August 28, 2020

really violent but controllable

now black ops (bo1) is divided in 3 parts campaign (sp) multiplayer (mp) and zombies (zm)
now sp is really violent bo1 had followed the world at war example of... Continue reading
Parent of a 17-year-old Written bySircjalot July 26, 2018

Arguably the best Call Of Duty game! Being that it is such a good game, does it mean that kids should play this game? NO!

I would rate this 18+ unless you changed the gore and swearing in the settings, then I'll recommend it for 13-15 year-olds.
Being a war game, there is a lo... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old March 9, 2011

hold up a second

What the review fails to realize is that you can yurn of the blood and cursing. The game is violent. Baisicly the games goal is to kill as much as possible. I m... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old July 24, 2011

What the heck??????? is wrong with game makers????!!!!!!

Constant blood repetitive bad language. First there is some thing messed up with treyarc for making a game where you can blow peoples arms off and light them on... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love action in their games

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