I’ve made it abundantly clear that Call of Duty: Black Ops has been released in a bug-riddled state during these past few days, but while I’ve already written up a troubleshooting guide for the more serious bugs, there are also a lot of people suffering from general performance issues! These people will get the attention they deserve today with a couple of helpful tips to improve the general performance of this game. A game that’s not much of a looker, but still manages to rank amongst the most demanding PC games of all time.
After some digging I’ve uncovered some of the more obvious and general tweaks, but also a few obscure and unexpected performance boosters for this game in particular. And when it runs smoothly Black Ops offers some of the best multiplayer first person shooter gameplay in recent years, so be sure to read on and get ready to join in on the fun.
Reinstall Call of Duty: Black Ops
In some cases the Call of Duty: Black Ops files appear to be corrupted. A friend reported that his processor usage issues vanished completely after reinstalling Black Ops from scratch, even though the simple game file validation never caught anything out of the ordinary. He reported 60-80% processor utilization on his Core i5 760, which has stabilized to a rock solid 30% after reinstalling Black Ops. So if your hefty system is seeing unusually high processor utilization, then this is something you’ll definitely want to try.
The way to go about reinstalling Black Ops is to head into your Steam games library, right click on the Call of Duty: Black Ops entry (and the multiplayer variant) and click on Delete Local Content. The game can then be reinstalled by right clicking on the appropriate entry and selecting Install Game. This will download all the game files from Steam, which can take a while depending on your internet connection.
Defragment the Steam drive
It’s always a good idea to defragment your drive when installing a new game, because there will always be fragmented files after a new installation and these can cause serious performance issues. Black Ops is a particularly good example of this, because it employs a large number of relatively small files which can greatly hamper game performance when they’re all fragmented.
So, this is what you’ll want to do to defragment your Steam drive:
- Right click on the Start / Windows button and open Windows Explorer.
- On the left-side of the screen is a list of drive entries. Right click on the drive where Steam is installed (C: by default) and open Properties.
- Go to the Tools tab and press Defragment now.
- In the new window that pops up, select the appropriate drive again and press Defragment disk.
- Wait for it to finish defragmenting and you’re done.
The result will be that each individual file on the drive will be lined up and packaged neatly together, so that they can be read much more quickly. This will not eliminate stuttering caused by excessive processor usage, but it does reduce general performance issues with the game.
Install the latest video card drivers
Every PC gamer knows that it’s important to always have the latest video drivers, but few actually bother to stay up-to-date unless they run into problems with specific games. That’s unfortunate, because the latest video drivers can often also carry major performance boosts for newer games, which is also true for Black Ops. After installing the latest video card drivers on my 8800GTX and GTX280M setups respectively I noted a large framerate boost on both systems. And I’ve heard similar comments from Radeon owners.
If you don’t know the make or brand of your video card then you’ll want to do this:
- Open the Start menu and then head into the Control Panel.
- Click on the Hardware and Sound entry.
- Open Device Manager (it’s listed at the top under Devices and Printers).
- Open the Display Manager entry and it should list your video card like so: AMD Radeon 6800 series.
Once you know whether it’s an AMD or Nvidia card, you can head on over to the aforementioned websites. The Nvidia site also lets you select your video card type so that it can find the optimal driver for your setup, but this is usually just the latest driver.
Note: It’s important that you download the driver appropriate for your operating system. A Windows 7 32-bit driver will not function correctly in Windows 7 64-bit, for example.
Tweak in-game video settings
There are a few in-game settings that can be used to improve Black Ops’ performance. None of these will affect the processor utilization issue, but they will improve your framerate.
- Anti-Aliasing: Turn this off. It’s an option that enhances the edges of textures, but also greatly increases the load on the video card.
- Resolution: This should ideally be set to your monitor’s native resolution (e.g.: 1920×1080 or 1680×1050) for optimal image quality. Reducing the resolution will result in significantly better performance, but also greatly reduces image quality.
- Sync Every Frame: Disable this. It’s only useful if you’re experiencing screen tearing.
- Anisotropic Filtering: Keep this slider down for optimal performance.
- Texture Quality: Set this to low for optimal performance. The textures will become drab, but it will greatly reduce the workload placed on the video card.
- Shadows: Disable this for a fair performance boost, at the cost of some visual fidelity. All shadows will be removed, so it will be impossible to see players around corners by their shadows, for example.
- Bullet Impacts: Disable this for a fair performance boost. It will remove bullet impacts on the environment, which is a negligible feature anyway.
- Number of Corpses: Set this to Small for optimal performance.
Tweak configuration file graphics settings
I’ve already covered a few configuration file tweaks that reduce the stuttering in multiplayer, so I will not repeat those here. Instead I’ll focus on a few graphics-related entries that can improve the basic framerate for those who are more troubled by poor framerates in general than processor utilization. But let’s find those configuration files first:
- Navigate to the C:/Program Files/Steam/steamapps/common/call of duty black ops/players folder on your PC.
- Open the config.cfg and config_mp.cfg files with notepad. The former is for singleplayer the latter for multiplayer and they’re generated only after starting the respective components!
These are the keywords you’ll want to search (Ctrl + F) for and edit in the configuration files.
- r_glow_allowed – set this to 0 for a large performance boost.
- sm_enable – set this to 0 for a large performance boost.
- r_drawdecals – set this to 0 for a decent performance boost.
- r_dof_enable – set this to 0 for a decent performance boost.
- r_distortion – set this to 0 for a minimal performance boost.
- r_blur_allowed – set this to 0 for a minimal performance boost.
- r_multiGPU – set this to 0 unless you have multiple video cards in SLI / Crossfire.
- r_multithreaded_device – set this to 1 so that it properly supports your multi-core processor.
- cl_maxpackets – set this to 100 for optimal multiplayer connectivity.
- snaps – setting this to 30 should result in a better multiplayer connection.
- com_maxfps – set this to 60 for a stable optimal framerate. It can be set lower and it’s important to note that a stable framerate is much more important than high FPS! It’s much more annoying to suffer from framerate drops than from low FPS in shooters.
Save the configuration files when you’re done and you should see much higher and more stable framerates.
Disable background software
Applications running in the background can have a great impact on game performance and even increase the stuttering many players are experiencing in multiplayer. This means that you’ll want to close down any non-essential application that’s running in the background before starting up Black Ops. These may include:
- Anti-virus and/or anti-malware software.
- Internet browsers such as Internet Explorer or Firefox.
- MSN Messenger and any similar chat applications.
- Voice-Over-IP tools such as Skype.
Note: do not shut down drivers specific to your configuration, such as keyboard, mouse, audio and video drivers.
Ensure that you have a proper Windows setup
Take a look here for some general tips that help improve general performance of your Windows installation. These tips will not only help boost game performance, but also shorten Windows boot times and generally ensure a more stable and secure system.