That's not to say Treyarch isn't teasing out its own contentious imagery. The developers' mercenary treatment of human life is typically grim, and its many gratuitous displays of violence proudly earn the game its 18 rating. A flashback sequence to World War II actually has you shooting Allied forces at one point, for instance, which should go down particularly well with Daily Mail readers.
The question with Call of Duty is not whether it's a fixed rollercoaster ride - it clearly is - but how effective that ride is - and a fair few of Black Ops' rollicking trips are on par with the series' finest. The sprawling jungles and dilapidated cities of the game's Vietnam levels are standout highlights, with the environments perpetually engulfed in thick black smoke. A late-game snowy jaunt hearkens back to last year's outing with Soap MacTavish, there's a solid nod to The Deer Hunter, and a trip to the Baikonur Cosmodrome allows a rocket launch - an image hugely indicative of the times - to become an iconic setpiece.
As for how you'll merrily blast away the reams of opponents along the way, the standard SMG and assault rifle pairing - truly a match made in heaven for modern developers - is mixed up by a hefty accompanying arsenal. Potentially anachronistic weapon selection is written off by your inclusion into the Studies and Observation Group; firing novelty guns like the explosive crossbow or the Dragon's Breath (a shotgun with devastating incendiary rounds) could be seen as ruining any attempts to build a delicate tone, if only they weren't so much fun to use.
Treyarch proves itself as a more capable developer since the immature outings of yesteryear, and things like World at War's blatant corridors have been neatly hidden within illusory wide-open environments. The ridiculous levels of enemy grenade spam have been significantly dialled back, though they still occasionally present a problem, and while the series' staple shooting galleries remain - by the seventh major outing of a series, to expect anything otherwise would be foolish - they're handled with a defter touch and a more confident execution. Ultimately, the developer has learnt to add substance to its overproduced spectacle, though it's a shame to see infinitely spawning enemies used to pad out some of the large-scale confrontations.
Still, many of the sections which stand out the most about Treyarch's latest campaign are its slower moments. Call of Duty has always been about as subtle as those people who type their Facebook status in CAPITAL LETTERS TO SHOW HOW IMPORTANT THEIR POINT IS, but one of Treyarch's main failings in both Call of Duty 3 and World at War was its ceaseless staccato pacing – a constant bang bang bang bang bang, which afforded no space for character or development. Magnificent explosions are all well and good, and Black Ops certainly has its fair share of those, but there's a pleasing nuance here that Treyarch's previous work somewhat lacked.
There are still problems with the narrative delivery, mind, such as how you're whisked from 1963 to 1968 without any discernible jump in time for your characters. President Kennedy also finds himself in the spotlight at the start, only for his assassination to be ignored until finding itself suddenly unearthed, years later, as a major plot point in the game's closing chapters. Still, at least there are no quotes delivered with ham-fisted sincerity about the horrors of war when you eat a stray RPG round.
By framing itself around an altogether more personal conflict than Modern Warfare 2's rendition of World War III: The Early Years, Black Ops' campaign never quite manages to muster up the sense urgency of last year's iteration. This latest Call of Duty is still a thrilling, ambitious and engaging campaign in its own right, however, with an obviously lavish budget and top-tier production values, but crucially Treyarch has finally shown it understands the rhythms and tics of the franchise that, over the course of the last year, has become its own.
It's impossible to know how Black Ops' take on multiplayer will cement with Call of Duty's mammoth online audience over time, but initial impressions are hugely promising. The time I spent with multiplayer allowed me to get just shy of level 19 - although I was also provided with a profile that had everything unlocked - and while that's not enough to make any bold claims about the future of the series, it was plain to see that - in a similar vein to the campaign - this is already a far more accomplished experience than Treyarch's previous efforts.
There are 14 multiplayer maps on offer, though that list will gradually inflate with premium DLC, and the initial highlights include Cracked and Havana - two levels absolutely destined to be the favourites of many for the next couple of years. The range is far more successful than World at War's bland selection, and the architectural and layout trends have clearly borrowed a few pages from Infinity Ward's design manual. They're equal parts indoors and outdoors, complex but never complicated, and orchestrated with enough ingenuity to naturally guide you into the action.