Regular readers will notice that the following article is a slight departure from our usual preview style. For gamescom 2010 we've adopted a streamlined structure, allowing us to cover as many games as possible while giving you the important juice and info. In many cases we'll be running longer, more detailed previews upon our return to the UK.

What is it?

Call of Duty: Black Ops (which you probably haven't heard of) is a war-themed shooting game viewed from the first person. It features very high production values and is published by a company called Activision (don't worry if you don't know them) after being developed by another company called Treyarch.

Excitingly, the game has a mode where you play it by yourself against a computer-controlled army (called single-player) and another where you can go up against other players (this is called multiplayer, and requires a connection to the internet). Both modes have you firing guns, which is nice.

What was shown?

A demo of two single-player levels, Victor Charlie and Payback. The former has you sneaking around Huong River in 1968, which puts it near the end of the Vietnam war. As the screen fades in, you realise your squad's helicopter has crash-landed in the river and the Vietcong are closing in on your location. Oh, and you're sinking. Which is a great opportunity for Treyarch to show off the game's new swimming mechanic, which is put to good use a few minutes later when you swim underneath a hut and plant a semtex charge on its base.

It's all suitably gory, featuring a bit where you knife someone in the neck while he sleeps and, before that, watch the life drain out of a Vietcong you're using as a human shield.

Near the end of the level you clear out a Vietcong tunnel, furthering Treyarch's desire to put enemies so close to your character that you can see the whites of their eyes as you jab them to death with a pointy blade.

Payback, on the other hand, takes the destruction up into the air, having you pilot a very nippy Hind D. As in, actually pilot: you steer it about and fire the rockets and all that. Explosions - and there are hundreds of them - are technically outstanding, with big black plumes of dirty smoke rising up with the fiery reds and yellows.

Our reaction

Call of Duty is as Call of Duty does. My (very real) fears of Treyarch producing a(nother) less-than-stellar entry in the series are quickly being put to rest. There are clear additions to the single-player that are very exciting. Swimming and the drivable helicopter are what Treyarch is showing off and, while I'll need to get the game in my hands before I can make any serious judgments, the sequences certainly look the part.

Call of Duty: Black Ops is due for release on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii and DS.