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'Call of Duty: Black Ops' mostly more of the same for better or worse

As I stood in line for the midnight release of “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” I grappled with mixed feelings about what to expect.

Though I enjoyed “Modern Warfare 2,” the previous iteration of the series, I had convinced myself months ago that I would not purchase “Black Ops” — yet there I was, braving the chilly November air with a few hundred fellow gamers.

While I listened to strangers talk about how they hoped this year’s franchise release would improve on the last one, all I could think was, “Man, I just hope it’s different.”

"Call of Duty: Black Ops"

• First-person shooter

• M for Mature

• Online competitive, cooperative multiplayer

• 4 stars out of 5

I quickly found myself drawn into the single-player campaign. Developer Treyarch clearly took a narrative-driven approach this time around, focusing on a few key characters.

Even now, days after finishing the campaign, I can still remember their names, which is more than I can say for the previous “Call of Duty” titles.

Yet, Treyarch’s focus this time around is on something new: Cold War covert operations.

While the game’s gunplay and action are not unfamiliar to series veterans, a heavy dose of cinematic narrative and scripted action sequences are sprinkled in to make for a an interesting story, often coupled with the slow motion events made popular in “Modern Warfare.”

Some vehicle sequences were also included to add some variation to the mix — unfortunately, they are clumsy and lack polish.

Throughout the campaign, you’re forced to follow the lead of friendly NPCs who often encourage you to keep up while contradicting themselves as they dig in and wait for you to clear the next area of enemies.

Overall, the single-player experience is solid and though the ending may be confusing for some, it is enjoyable nonetheless — especially the post-credits scene.

The meat of “Black Ops” is the slew of multiplayer modes to choose from. In addition to traditional game types, new “wager” matches allow players to bet on their performance using in-game currency, with which you can choose which weapons, upgrades and perks you’d like to purchase.

Among the additions is the Gun Game, a mode originally popularized in “Counter-Strike,” in which each player begins with the same weapon. With each kill, players receive a stronger weapon, and the first player to cycle through 20 weapons wins the round and a payout of in-game credits.

Of course, Treyarch’s beloved Nazi Zombies mode has also made a return from “Call of Duty: World at War” as a result of popular demand.

With all of the new multiplayer modes available, this content-rich title will certainly keep fans of the series entertained for months.

After spending a week with “Black Ops” and finishing its campaign, competing in several online matches and falling prey to that pesky RCXD remote-controlled car more times than I can count, this is undoubtedly Treyarch’s best step forward in the series.

But it’s still “Call of Duty.” A new release for a new year. While I had no huge qualms with the game, it just didn’t “wow” me.

Thinking back to that cold midnight release, I should have just stayed inside.