The first thing that Call of Duty: Black Ops does right...is voice acting. In fact, production value overall is pretty staggering. Each voice in the stellar cast is distinctive, with the exception of the main character, Alex Mason. He (you) is voiced by Sam Worthington, who creates a believable tone...but he just can’t escape his generic timbre. Ed Harris, Ice Cube, and Topher Grace top the billing, as well as Gary Oldman, who returns to portray a familiar character first established in World at War. As expected, they deliver command performances and help to create interesting and memorable characters.
Roll that in with really, really original set pieces, and the groundwork is laid for not only a good experience this time - but an ongoing legacy that the studio could very well continue developing with future games. You’ll visit the swamps of Vietnam, a secret bunker underneath Washington DC, a jungle villa in Cuba, and even a grounded German cargo ship in the Arctic. It’s all loosely tied together in a way that’s difficult to follow but intriguing enough to keep you playing. Speaking of which - the campaign has a bit more length to it this time around. In all honesty I’ve only put about six hours into the campaign (which would normally put me past the end), and I estimate that I have about four hours to go. This is on Hardened difficulty; general consensus seems to point to eight hours’ length for the Recruit or Normal difficulties.
Remember the snowmobile chase in Modern Warfare 2? Take that concept, but with motorcycles. Or better yet - an attack helicopter. Remember that climb up the sheer ice cliff? Now put yourself underwater in Vietnam, coming up to slice the throats of Viet Cong in fishing boats. Black Ops is full of scripted moments that sound “meh” on paper but in playing are actually fun and immersive.
Which brings us to the second thing that Treyarch has impressed me with: lore. Whether you’re surviving a horde of Zombies or running through war-ravaged trenches - you can bet that each scenario somehow fits into a larger scope that has been hashed and re-hashed creatively. Many people will see Black Ops as an opportunity for Activision to reap a buck; many will see it as simply a conversion mod for last year’s Modern Warfare 2; Treyarch sees it as their baby, and has tried to make every edge fit into a huge puzzle. If Black Ops were a movie, they’d have succeeded in a mighty way; and where Infinity Ward has set a high standard for over-the-top action, Treyarch has injected Call of Duty with a fair amount of substance.
You'll gain appreciation for the effort put into creating characters like Frank Woods.