WARNING This review contains minor spoilers from throughout the game, and major spoilers for the first few levels of the game. You have been warned. WARNING
You wake up in a mysterious room filled with monitors and medical equipment. You are asked by a man with a masked voice about some numbers, where you tell him to fuck off and see yourself with a bloody stain on your shirt on the monitors. He gets pissed, zaps you, and then flashbacks begin.
This, my friends, is a Call of Duty game gone horribly wrong.
No really, this has gone seriously wrong out of the gate, and it only gets worse and worse (then it gets slightly better, but then it ends before it ever redeems itself). The story begins with the scene I just described, where you are being interrogated. Flashbacks then ensue. In fact, all but the last level of the game consists of flashbacks and, uh, flashpresents? They are narrated by you, the protagonist, and by the interrogator, a body-less (until the end) voice that can't decide whether to scream at you or be supportive of you.
Look at the game's title, now back at this review, now back at the title, and back at this review. You spot the problem yet? For those of you who did, congrats, for those of you who didn't, here is the problem: you shouldn't be talking. This is a staple that the last 6 games have been able to do pretty well, even MW2 had the character who couldn't stop talking the first half of the game shut up when you were controlling him. Black Ops takes no such restraints. From the beginning your character talks. Your character is operative Alex Mason, voiced by Sam Worthington (who starred in such movies as Avatar and Clash of the Titans). Mason talks during many parts of the game, he talks during the interrogation screen, during the flashbacks, he even talks when you kill people. Then you add that the game doesn't even completely take place in the first person anymore. Black Ops is willing to take control of the camera away from you and do 3rd person camera angles, and it does it quite a few times, breaking from the action and fucking up the pacing big time.
The acting, the script and the story, once you got an hour in, were wonderful...for a movie. For a game though, the forced scripted events and the constant cuts from the actions for a narration/question from the interrogator made the campaign unbearable. This felt like they scripted a movie and at the last minute remembered that it was supposed to be a game. The best level in the Singleplayer for Black Ops was the Resnov flashback level that took place right after WWII, because it lacked such cuts from the action. It was just a plain old "run through the base and kill all of the Nazis alongside your fellow soldiers in an epic battle that you happen to be a part of" Call of Duty level, and it made me pissed because it shows you where Call of Duty is going with these new games, the wrong direction. The story itself was interesting though. Other then that, the campaign felt like an action movie/stealth movie/how many times can we use the slow-motion button movie, and the gameplay suffered for it. At one point you knife harpoon a helicopter, and during other parts everything around you will explode if you so much as sneeze. It felt like they pulled a Michael Bay during the entire thing with no regards to whether or not it was actually good game design.
And with that, we get to the multiplayer. My suggestion, read up on the MW2 multiplayer, because there is no difference, and when I say that, I mean that. In fact you actually see the HUD and art design differ between the Singleplayer and the Multiplayer just so that the Multiplayer can look exactly like the Multiplayer from Modern Warfare 2. The most they did was add wager matches and add a couple killstreaks and tweak the balance. This makes for a great patch (or at most an expansion), but for a sequel it is inappropriate. I know that there is a saying "if it ain't broke don't fix it", but there is not a saying "if it ain't broke sell it to them again for $60 without making any significant changes."
A nice addition to the Call of Duty franchise are the addition of bot matches. Trust me, if you get this game, you will be playing these alot for several reasons. The first would be that Matchmaking is broken. I seriously could not get into one game of Matchmaking on my 360. I was able to get matched up in Halo 3 and Halo Wars, but CoD Black Ops would not let me in a game. I was able to go to a friend's house and play a few matches there, which consisted of being yelled at and having to check every corner for campers, just like MW2. Other then that, I played against bots, a lot, and I had a lot of fun, fun I haven't had since CoD4. Why? For reason 2, bots aren't your average Black Ops player. Bots don't camp, bots don't quickscope (which I know isn't in the game, but still), bots don't yell at you, bots don't grief, etc etc. Bots are your ideal player. They aren't "MLG Pro Millionares", but they are decent opponents. They redeem multiplayer and are just a blast to face off against.
The last feature of Black Ops is Zombie Survival. You know the drill, because it is exactly the same as WaW. You are in a room with a pistol, and must defend against waves of zombies. You can spend points to get new weapons and unlock new areas of the map, but other then that it is just shooting and baracading. It is fun for a little while, especially with friends, but it gets old fast, and feels forced on to the game.
+Story +Bots -Cutscenes -Cut and paste multiplayer -Stale Zombies Mode