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What Should Parents Know About Call of Duty: Black Ops 4?

Editors Note: One of our goals at Love Thy Nerd is to educate people about gaming and nerd culture. While gaming is far from merely a hobby for children, we also realize that many parents are not gamers and gaming culture is moving a such a rapid clip that many parents have a hard time keeping up. In light of this, we have partnered with Andy Robertson, author of Taming Gaming, who runs Family Gamer TV, to help parents keep up. A few times a month, you can expect to see an guide like this for parents explaining what they need to know to make informed decisions about a new release that their children are likely to beg them to play. If you don’t like to read articles, we have you covered–most of the content in this guide is covered in Andy’s video below.

Trigger Warning: This article discusses violent scenes, describes brutal deaths along with themes about vulnerable children, abusive parents, and arson.

Making informed choices about the games your children play, even when they are older, can seem like an impossibility. Unlike films or TV series, games take many hours to play. There are an array of sources of information online, although these can create a complex and confusing array of advice.

With the support of families on Patreon, I spend one day a month assessing a new video game and collating advice to create this succinct guide to everything you need to know as a parent.   

This month it’s Call of Duty Black Ops 4 for PS4, Xbox One and PC. It’s a long running multiplayer first-person shooter game, the fifteenth Call of Duty game and the fifth in the Black Ops sub-series (I know it’s confusing but the first game in the Black Ops series was Call of Duty: World at War).

To those who don’t play Call of Duty games, it will seem like the same game every year with a new lick of paint. This is true to a large extent, but with the rise in popularity of teen shooter Fortnite, Call of Duty Black Ops 4 has more changes than we’ve seen for a while.

Unlike other Call of Duty games it drops the single-player story in favor of a series of character-based missions. The multiplayer mode lacks the usual automatic health regeneration and introduces both predictive recoil and a new ballistics system. It includes a particularly bloody 4-player Zombies mode and introduces a Battle Royale mode called Blackout. “Battle Royale” is a popular new game mode found in a lot of new games. It blends survival elements of exploration and scavenging with last-man-standing gameplay that typically features large numbers of players on one map. Blackout features up to 100 players in each match.

Ratings

In the US, the ESRB rates the game as Mature, only suitable for those 17 and over with content descriptors of Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language.

They state that “players use pistols, machine guns, shotguns, and rocket launchers to kill enemy soldiers and waves of zombies in frenetic combat”. They also highlight that “some weapon attacks can result in decapitation and/or dismemberment, leaving large bloodstains and body parts on the ground”.

“Several environments depict mutilated corpses with exposed entrails/viscera. Cutscenes can also depict intense acts of violence: zombies mauling victims from a close-up perspective; warriors dismembering and beheading zombies; a creature emerging from a man’s body, ripping his chest apart.”

In Europe PEGI rate the game as suitable for those 18 and over, due to strong violence and language.

The VSC, who administer the rating in the UK, expand on the PEGI rating by stating, that the “game contains instances of decapitation, dismemberment and the use of the sexual expletive ‘fuck’ and its derivations.

They highlight that “in addition to the initial purchase price, this game offers in-game items which may be purchased by the player using real-world money. Although there is no use of or glamorisation of drugs there are occasions when packages, some opened and showing white powder, are seen as a background element.

Unrated Concerns

Along with the ratings, it’s worth considering that the action is intense and non-stop. Also, the ratings do not cover content that is created by other players. Being an online game, players can communicate with strangers in the game. This can results in additional exposure to insults and inflammatory language. The game also allows you to create your own insignia which can lead to more juvenile players creating images to represent genitalia.

In addition, because the game is for adults it also addresses mature themes like child abuse, arson and loss. In one scene a young girl is threatened by her father. Her brother sets fire to the house and he jumps from the window.

Parental Controls

You can setup Parental controls on your gaming system to limit access to Call of Duty Black Ops 4 based on its PEGI or ESRB rating, so that playing the game requires a password.

You can also turn off graphic content like blood and some bad language in the Interface menu on PC and the Content Filter menu on PS4 and Xbox. This also enables you to turn off User Generated Content.  

You can use the Audio | Multiplayer Dialogue option in the  menu to mute language from Specialist. You can also use the Muting | Mute all except party option in the menu to turn off Voice Chat and Text chat in the menus which enables players to form a party of known friends before the game and then only be able to communicate with these players.

These settings do not have passwords and can be turned back on. But you can control this on PS4 by selecting Settings >  Parental Controls > Sub Account Management. Then under Chat/Message, select Block to prevent all voice chat.

On XBox One, select Settings > Privacy & Online Safety > Custom > Communicate with Voice and Text. Then you can select Friends or Private to disable it.

Younger Alternatives

You can consider the following alternatives for younger players. These are no less exciting or exuberant but they dial down the violence with content appropriate to youngsters.

  • Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 (PEGI 7+)
  • Splatoon 2 (PEGI 7+)
  • Roblox – Phantom Forces (PEGI 7+)
  • Overwatch (PEGI 12+)
  • Fortnite (PEGI 12+)
  • Starwars Battlefront II (PEGI 16+)

That’s my guide to Call of Duty Black Ops 4. I hope you found it useful. If you have questions about this game, suggestions for other games you’d like me to cover, or just want to chat about Call of Duty do pop a comment on this post.



Andy Robertson is a theologically trained video game journalist and family technology expert. He is the author of Taming Gaming: Guide Your Child to Video Game Health. Follow him on Twitter @GeekDadGamer.

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