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Video Game / Call of Duty: Black Ops

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Splitting the difference between World War II and The Present Day since 2010.
"Your name is Alex Mason. You were born in Fairbanks, Alaska. In 1961, you served in a CIA assassination team known as Operation 40. Is that correct?"

And thus begins Black Ops.

Call of Duty: Black Ops is the seventh game in the originally World War II-themed FPS series Call of Duty, developed by Treyarch. Like Modern Warfare, it starts a new sub-series set in a new setting, but unlike Modern Warfare, it takes place during the height of the Cold War. It serves as a sequel to the Treyarch-developed Call of Duty: World at War.

You play as Alex Mason, a CIA operative being interrogated about his involvement in various operations, from an assassination attempt on Fidel Castro to The Vietnam War and beyond. The bulk of the game plays out in a series of Flashbacks that recall the many operations Mason participated in.

A sequel, set in the year 2025, with flashbacks in the 1980s has been released. Please put all sequel-related tropes in the Call of Duty: Black Ops II page. 2020's Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War acts as an Interquel between this game and Black Ops II's flashbacks, set circa 1981.


The Characters page.

The Tropes, Mason! What do they mean?!

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     General Tropes 
  • Actor Allusion:
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: "ROCK U" by Namie Amuro was used as the theme song in the Japanese version.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Underbarrel flamethrowers. While the exact model seen is pure fiction, Finland has experimented with the M/44 — an underslung flamethrower for the Suomi KP/-31. It never went into full production; only 40 of them were made.
  • Anachronism Stew: Black Ops has a surprising amount of weapons that weren't even patented, let alone produced during the 1960s setting the game is in. Even if they were the earliest weapon prototypes that the CIA could utilize (and they do Hand Wave it as such), they're still considered to be pretty damned early for its time.
    • Taken to ludicrous levels with the FAMAS. Not only did the original FAMAS F1 only enter production in the mid-70s, the FELIN model used in the game wasn't developed until 2001! Handwaved with being a prototype, just like the MP5K and several other guns, and it shows (for example: the Enfield, G11, and Commando use the same aftermarket iron sights, the MP5K has the foregrip of its very first prototype, et cetera). Although those folding rear sights are Troy BattleSights, which also did not exist until the 2000s, though most of the text on them is taken from similar folding rear sights that actually were experimented with in the mid-60s.
    • The Heckler & Koch G11 was developed over a period of twenty years, from the late '60s to 1990. It was a technical success, if not prone to issues, but never made it to mass production. The G11 depicted ingame is the variant that was produced right before the Berlin Wall fell and the project got canned, in 1989.
    • The CZ-75 pistol makes an appearance, even serving as a starting weapon in Hudson's mission to Kowloon. Production started in 1975, hence the name. The Full-Auto attachment is even worse, as that version wasn't developed until 1992.
    • The ASP pistol was designed and produced in the 70s, and so would not have been around for the assassination attempt on Castro. A more appropriate choice would have been the Smith & Wesson Model 39, which the ASP was based on and which some US special forces (particularly the Navy SEALs) did use around that time period.
    • The MAC-11 was developed in 1972, and hence is also anachronistic. Even the earlier MAC-10 wouldn't have been a great fit - while it did see some use in Vietnam, it also was not in production until 1970.
    • The MP5K "prototype" is hilariously anachronistic; the standard MP5 was not developed until 1966, and the MP5K was prototyped in 1976, but it appears in a level set in 1963. As above, the developers at least went to the effort to model it after the prototype version, with the wooden foregrip that enclosed the off-hand.
    • The AKS-74U was first produced in 1979, the base model having been produced in 1974. The RPK-74 also did not enter production until 1974, and is also equipped with further-anachronistic alternate ironsights when used without optics - again, the earlier 7.62mm RPK version would have fit just fine.
    • The M203 just barely fits the bill; it entered service in 1969, but there is a documented history of special forces (MACV-SOG) using similar prototype underbarrel grenade launchers. However, the GP-25 is way off base - it wasn't around until the 70s, and American forces never saw it in action until a decade later. Not to mention that the opposing Viet Cong in singleplayer have access to ridiculous numbers of the M203 for no particular reason as well, as every other FAL they drop will come with one.
    • Similarly, the Masterkey underbarrel shotgun was not developed until the 80s. The Remington 870 it was based on has been around since 1951, however, so the in-game version could be justified as random soldiers sawing them down and attaching them to their rifles for the hell of it - makes sense given it's used as a quick close-range weapon in this game rather than as the door-breaching tool it is in real life.
    • The Stakeout is a less-justifiable example, as the standard Ithaca 37 was developed in the early '30s, and was in limited use with the US military as a trench gun during World War II, but the version from the game (with a factory-shortened barrel and a pistol grip, rather than a sawed-down stock) did not exist until 1981.
    • The Spectre M4 was developed in the '80s. See a trend here?
    • The Franchi SPAS-12 was developed in 1972, entering production in 1979 and service in 1982, and yet it shows up in the hands of Soviet special forces in 1968 Hong Kong. That same year, it also appears being used (with incendiary rounds, no less) by the suspiciously well-equipped North Vietnamese Army.
    • The KS-23 is also anachronistic, slightly less so (it began development in the early 70s) but in the scheme of things still just as much as the SPAS (it first shows up from the opening mission in '61, and from then on is almost entirely exclusive to the Viet Cong who never used it).
    • The AUG was developed in 1978, a decade after when it shows up in the campaign. It gets worse in multiplayer, where when not using the ACOG it appears to be the A2 version instead, which wasn't developed until '97.
    • The M60 is a near miss - while the original version was in service in Vietnam (adopted in 1957), the actual model present in-game is, save for a different rear sight, the same M60E3 from Call of Duty 4, which wasn't developed until 1986. The HK-21 is much the same (originally developed in '61, the version in-game is an improved HK-21E, also from the 80s).invoked
    • The PM63 is another near miss. It was designed in 1965. Seeing as most of the game is set in '68, it wouldn't be anachronistic... except the first of only three singleplayer levels it appears in is Executive Order, set in '63.
    • The BGM-71 TOW from "S.O.G." is a triple-whammy - it was not developed until 1970, none of them ever made it to Vietnam until 1972, and some writing visible on the actual tube indicates it's actually the TOW 2B version developed in 1991. For added anachronism, it's mounted on an even more anachronistic 2011 Jeep Wrangler.
    • There are numerous other anachronisms, but they are relatively minor compared to the ones above. For example, the AK-47 isn't an AK-47. It's a mishmash of several Kalashnikov variants, most of them actually based on the AK-74.
    • Also, "Fortunate Son" from Willy and the Poor Boys is being played on the radio in January 1968, almost two years before its release in November '69; "Sympathy for the Devil" from Beggars Banquet at least got the year right, but was months too early (released on December 6th, versus the mission on February 11th - the album didn't even begin recording until March). The biggest musical anachronism, however, is probably "Quimbara" from Celia & Johnny, which plays over a radio in a mission set in 1961 despite the song not being recorded and the album not coming out until 1974.
    • The Soviet Mi-24 Hind helicopter did not have its first flight until September 19, 1969 and did not enter military service until 1972, but that doesn't stop the helicopters from appearing in multiple missions set in 1968. Also (albeit as an Acceptable Break from Reality), when you take control of it in the singleplayer mission "Payback" or with the multiplayer killstreak, it has a lock-on warning and automated countermeasure system to deal with missiles fired by the enemy - the real Hind did not get such systems until they started losing a few of them to American-supplied Stingers in the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan two decades later. The Mi-8 is a bit better about this, as for the most part the game takes place a year after it entered service, but that still leaves the fact that by '63 there were only three or four prototypes, and in the two missions set during that year alone you shoot down at least that many of them. The AH-1 barely fits the bill since it entered service in 1967, and moreover only shows up in multiplayer, so it depends on when exactly the multiplayer is actually set.
    • The computer terminals where in you can play Zork and/or access emails from various individuals appear to be running on a variant of Unix, and yet the operating system itself was released in 1969, a year after the game takes place. Then again, the terminal also holds emails and other documents dated as far forward as 1978 (not to mention Zork itself, the form it appears in first releasing in 1980).
    • The Reflex Sight in-game is an Aimpoint Electronic/Mark II, the world's first reflex sight - developed in 1975.
    • The level set during an uprising in Vorkuta takes place in late 1963, a year after the real gulag was closed and ten after the real uprising.
    • Fast-Roping is performed throughout the game, yet the concept wasn't introduced until the Falklands War in 1982.
    • Even attitudes about the Vietnam War are anachronistic. In the opening to "The Defector", the interrogator claims that the Tet Offensive and the battle of Huế were "when America really started losing the war", which makes sense from a modern perspective (the Tet Offensive was what turned a lot of public opinion against the war), but in terms of the game's chronology makes absolutely no sense, since the interrogation is only three weeks after that - the battle itself, much less the war, is still going on by that point, and Tet still should be seen as a major victory for South Vietnam and the US (the South Vietnamese military doubled in size, Huế and other positions lost to the North were retaken, and the Viet Cong took so many casualties the NVA had to handle everything by themselves from then on).
  • BFG: This game features the Death Machine and Grim Reaper, respectively a man-portable gatling gun and a quad-barreled, incendiary rocket launcher. Both appear briefly in the single player and are obtainable from care packages/random powerups in multiplayer and zombies mode.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: There's a lot of localization errors in the Japanese release.
  • Detachable Blades: The Ballistic Knife, a spring-loaded knife that can be used for both melee or ranged attack by launching the blade, both of which are One-Hit Kill regardless the distance. It also swings faster than the standard melee attack with it equipped.
  • Easter Egg: Black Ops has a playable version of Zork, as well as a Smash TV-esque zombie mode.
    • To access the former, at the main menu, hit spacebar repeatedly/mash the triggers to break out of your chair, then turn around, go to the computer and type "zork" in the command bar.
    • For the latter, type in DOA, and you'll access Dead Ops Arcade, an extremely fun Smash TV-like game.
    • Shooting off all the heads on the Multiplayer map "Nuketown" within fifteen seconds of the round's beginning causes "Sympathy for the Devil" to play over the level's loudspeakers.
    • You can get the Thundergun in the Kowloon mission, similar to World at War's hidden raygun.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: The only non-elite faction in the game are the NVA/Viet Cong and the Cuban Army.
  • Gatling Good: The Death Machine.
  • Genre Shift:
    • The Easter Egg Dead Ops Arcade, a top-down arcade-style shooter, to say nothing of the inclusion of Zork, a text-based adventure.
    • The game becomes an arcadey vehicle simulator at one point, and the beginning of one mission has you leading Hudson's squad through a blizzard, RTS-style.
    • And, of course, Zombies mode, which turns the game into a horde-style holdout shooter.
  • Guns Akimbo: Available for some weapons, though if you do it, you get an accuracy penalty as well as being unable to use the sights. Very rarely in the campaign the player in Mason's missions will encounter Soviet officers who brandish twin Makarovs, though you can unfortunately only take one from them; Hudson starts his first mission with dual CZ-75s and can get dualies of some submachine guns from some of Clarke's weapon stashes.
  • I Call It "Vera":
    • As shown by the cover and by an in-game achievement, Mason owns a pair of Colt M1911s, one called "Sally", and the other called "Mustang" (as revealed in Zombies).
    • The player can scratch their clan tags onto their guns in multiplayer, allowing you to actually have a gun named "Vera", or any other name of four letters or less.
  • Improperly Placed Firearms: On top of the frequent use of weapons which simply did not exist in The '60s, many of the guns show up in the hands of people who never had access to them or never would have used them even once they did enter production.
    • Zig-zagged in regards to the FN FAL battle rifle, which is used by Cuban and NVA enemies in the campaign. The FAL was the standard rifle for many NATO forces during the Cold War, giving it the nickname "the Right Arm of the Free World". While Cuba did have some FALs of their own on hand to deal with the invasion at the Bay of Pigs that kicks off the game (a shipment of about 500 of them was sent out for Batista's government and were received by Castro's instead), there's no realistic reason every fourth NVA soldier has one, short of the game taking place in a world where Belgium is somehow a Soviet state. Moreover, about half of the FALs dropped by the NVA will also have M203 grenade launchers on them (North Vietnam didn't even have grenade launchers during the war).
    • Enemies that use shotguns in the campaign are almost universally equipped with the KS-23, a riot gun meant for keeping the peace in prisons, with a rare few in "The Defector" having the SPAS-12, which while actually being meant as a military and police weapon, was only sold to Western customers. The Olympia also makes a single-level appearance in Vietnamese hands despite being a civilian weapon. The Ithaca 37 Stakeout, despite being the closest to a period-appropriatenote  shotgun used by the appropriate people, is also restricted to a single appearance.
    • While the CZ 75 pistol has seen use by people from both sides of the Cold War, outside of it being an approved sidearm for use by America's 1st SFOD-D, the vast majority of that use has been as a police sidearm rather than a military one. That's also not getting into the complete unbelievability that an American military man in the 1960s would consciously choose to use anything other than a 1911, as Hudson does when he starts "Numbers" with a pair of CZ 75s.
    • Several other weapons in the game were meant for use by police and security forces (like the PSG1 and WA2000, the OTs-02 Kiparis, or the aforementioned KS-23) and/or are used by factions who aren't belligerents in the game (like the French FAMAS, Israeli Galil, Italian Spectre M4, or Austrian AUG).
    • On a non-weapon front, the aircraft used for the various killstreaks are entirely dependent on what killstreak that is rather than which faction called them in, so there can be sights such as a Soviet soldier calling in a napalm strike from an F-4 Phantom, an American soldier at the controls of a Hind, or a Viet Cong manning a minigun from the side of a Huey.
  • Isn't It Ironic?: Ads for the game had The Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" playing in them; a song about the horror and ugliness of war. Likely an intentional example, given actual soldiers in Vietnam played anti-war songs on the radio while they were there, much like how the first level of the game set there is bookended by verses of Creedence Clearwater Revival's famous protest song "Fortunate Son".
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Jason Hudson is a fan of this, employing it on both Clarke and Mason. The latter is the framing device for the entire game.
  • Kill It with Fire: The above-mentioned Grim Reaper, as well as an under-barrel flamethrower attachment for assault rifles. There's also a Kill Streak in multiplayer that calls in a flight of F-4 Phantoms to drop napalm, and the Dragon's Breath rounds in the SPAS-12 you start with in "The Defector".
  • Obvious Beta:
    • In the case of PC version. The released game featured insane CPU usage (caused FPS stuttering), too low network rate (caused multiplayer stuttering even if the FPS is good), LOD bugs (objects appearing a couple steps in front of you)... and that's not counting content unavailable to PC users for unknown reasons: can't change loadout between matches (something even CoD4's PC version allowed) or raise stakes in the money matches. These problems are so omnipresent many players consider the game hasn't been beta-tested on PC at all.
    • An update to the game caused Xbox 360 logos and information to appear... on the PS3.
    • In the Xbox version, the napalm killstreak will sometimes result in a lower frame rate when outdoors and facing the fire. Even after it has been extinguished, the framerate in certain areas will be noticeably lower.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": Mason's password on the computer system is "password". There's also an email from Hudson in his inbox telling him to change it. Funnily enough, almost nobody else's passwords on the computer system are much better - one person uses his own codename, another two use the names of their pets, yet another two use their wives' names, etc.; with enough patience and attention to detail, it's possible to find a hint on someone's password in-game, log into their account, and then receive hints on the passwords of everyone who's emailed them to boot.
  • Product Placement: Hey everyone! Let's get in the brand new 2011 Jeep Call Of Duty Black Ops Edition! Has its own Dualvertisement and everything, with the finale for the level "S.O.G." having you go to town on NVA tanks with guided rockets from the back of one. It is also shown, wrecked, on the multiplayer map "Nuketown" for more anachronistic fun.
  • Rare Guns:
    • Ignoring Anachronism Stew for a moment, there are some really weird guns in this game, like the ASP 9, Heckler and Koch G11, Spectre M4, M202 FLASH, Walther WA 2000 & MPL, PM-63, and Kiparis. Most of these are not well-known weapons, and others are too rare to see any kind of widespread use as seen in-game even if they were appropriate for the time period.
    • Possibly winning an award here: in several missions and the multiplayer, you're able to find the China Lake shotgun-style grenade launcher. This is an actual weapon, of which 20 to 30 made it in to service (never in the MACV-SOG) and which maybe six still exist. Say what you want about the G11 being in the game, the China Lake is possibly the rarest represented gun in any game series.
  • Recursive Ammo: Zombies mode in this game includes a secondary grenade in the form of a traditional Russian Doll. It can explode four times.
  • Reverse Grip: The standard reverse-grip knife attack returns, but it gets amped up when using the Ballistic Knife weapon - your character holds both the ballistic knife and your regular one this way. While you have both out your knife attacks are faster and have a shortened cooldown.
  • Up to Eleven: The game's sales. It even surpassed Modern Warfare 2.
  • WMG: As a game centered around the Cold War, as well as the computer at the main menu room, it is prone to have fan Conspiracy Theories.

     Campaign Tropes 
  • All There in the Manual: If you collect pieces of intel throughout the game, you unlock Intel documents that you can read to get more info on the characters and locations in the game.
  • Always Close: No matter how much time is left when you escape the ship after planting the bombs in Project Nova, they'll always explode moments after you escape.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: You play as Reznov during the mission "Project Nova". You also control the crew of a USAF SR-71, Neitsch and Mosely, as they guide Hudson's squad in the opening part of the mission "WMD".
    • Earlier in the game your perspective shifts to Hudson during the mission to capture Clarke. Given that the game has been told exclusively from Mason's perspective up to this point, it's quite jarring. It does make sense near the end of the campaign, when you find out that the interrogator is Hudson.
  • Arc Words:
  • Artistic License – Biology: At the end of the game, after Mason and Hudson stop the numbers broadcast, kill Dragovich, and are trapped in the underwater numbers station, they manage to ascend to the surface in thirty seconds, without experiencing any decompression sickness. In Real Life, even ascending small distances underwater without decompression stops is very dangerous and likely fatal.
  • Artistic License – History: In addition to everything listed in anachronism stew, the game makes one glaring mistake about the Bay of Pigs Invasion. The game treats Casto's subversion of his assassination as a master stroke of spycraft but in reality any secrecy surounding the invasion was blown when THE NEW YORK TIMES reported on it before it happened. The CIA and the rebels ultimately went ahead with the invasion figuring they could make it work anyway. However, the failure to destroy the Cuban Air Force and Kennedy's refusal of a second round of air cover, in additon to all the other problems they suffered, doomed it.
    • Although it is a send up to the movie the Deer Hunter neither the Viet Cong nor the NVA ever made POW's play Russian Roulette. They much prefered other tortures like beatings, food deprivation and forced labor. Funny enough this was actually a major criticism of Deer Hunter and actually caused a minor international inceident.
    • Finally this trope is played with in although the Vorkutalag was already closed by the time of the game, it is correct in that Vorkuta was the main holding place for American Prisoners.
  • Asshole Victim: During the Soyuz launch mission, the rocket crashes down onto the launch facility, messily killing all the non-combatants in a giant fireball.
    Brooks: Poor bastards...
    Woods: They're Nazi bastards, they don't deserve sympathy. We're here to hunt 'em down.
  • Atomic F-Bomb: Woods, upon being forced to play Russian Roulette by his NVA captors, screams one while pulling the trigger... luckily for him, he got an empty chamber.
  • Back for the Dead: Both World at War player character Dimitri Petrenko and his ever-present AI squadmate/CO Reznov return for this game. While Reznov's status is rather ambiguous, they're both still dead by the end of the first mission they show up in.
  • Badass Bookworm: Jason Hudson; in addition to being a double-major in psychology and political science prior to his service, he is described as an excellent tactician with genius-level IQ.
  • Badass Beard: Viktor Reznov, Frank Woods and Bowman.
  • Bad to the Bone: "He ain't me, he ain't me, I ain't no fortunate one, no!"
  • Behind the Black: The Viet Cong that blindsides Swift from the rat tunnel in "Victor Charlie" clearly wasn't visible by the player until he made his move, but Swift himself really should have seen it coming when he turned his head back after scolding Mason for talking to someone who wasn't there. Granted, Swift wasn't the one holding the flashlight, but that just calls into question why he chose to take point.
  • Been There, Shaped History:
    • Alex Mason bumps with some of the most prominent figures in the 1960s (Robert McNamara, John F. Kennedy, Fidel Castro), and takes part in some world-changing events (the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Battle of Khe Sanh, the Tet Offensive, and assassinating Kennedy).
    • An in-series example: if you go to the computer terminal hidden in the main menu and log into the "asmith" account, you can read a bio on Mason. It mentions that his father is a WWII vet who was awarded the Purple Heart for his actions during the Makin Island raid in 1942 - the setting of the very first mission in World at War.
  • Berserk Button: Don't mention Dragovich, Steiner, or Krevchenko anywhere within fifty feet of Alex Mason. Especially if you are Dragovich, Steiner, or Kravchenko. He will kill you.
  • Big Bad: Nikita Dragovich, the Soviet general behind continuing Project Nova and turning it on the United States, as well as Alex Mason's capture and attempted brainwashing.
  • Big Guy Fatality Syndrome: Sergei is by far the most physically imposing prisoner to assist Mason in Vorkuta and the only significant one besides Reznov, and he ends up gunned down halfway through the prison break.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • Dragovich. Drago is a prefix taken from the Russian Drakon meaning "dragon". Vich means "Son of". so his name means "Son of the Dragon" (Dracula, Transylvanian for "Son of the Dragon"). In Slavic folklore "dragon" is used to indicate the Devil. So Dragovich's name actually means "Son of the Devil".
    • During one sequence you are required to commandeer a helicopter. When you approach the helicopter, you can overhear an unsubtitled exchange in Russian by the two soldiers guarding it that the rear rotor has a tendency to jam, and it will be fixed in about ten minutes. You are expected to immediately kill them and fly off in it.
    • A rusalka is a Slavic mythological creature that haunted waterways and entranced men, typically to their deaths. A rather fitting name for the in-game ship, given its purpose.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Mason averts the total extermination of America at the last moment and kills the Big Bad, The Dragon, and The Evil Genius behind Nova-6, but he very likely killed or took part in the killing of JFK five years before and eventually is marked for termination along with Hudson and Weaver.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Bowman. Taken Up To Eleven as he is the only major character allied with the protagonist to receive an on-screen death
  • Bloodier and Gorier: This series continually tries to one-up itself with this, now featuring fully-detailed sliced throats. It goes without saying that it's much gorier than the last Modern Warfare game, but compared to World at War, gibs are actually less common, even when explosives are used - unless you use guns like the Colt Python or any machine gun or shotgun. You can't even decapitate anyone at all! (It's worth noting that an option here could reduce the blood and gore, making dismemberments all but impopssible.]]
  • Body Double: The Castro you kill is a double.
  • Book-Ends: In the Khe Sanh level, the phrase "You look like hammered shit."
  • Boom, Headshot!: Clarke suffers from this just as he's about to reveal some important information to you.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Mason. Reznov arguably saved him from the Crazy part. Maybe.
  • Break the Badass: Bowman, he was broken and had a severe Heroic BSoD when captured by the Viet Cong.
  • Broken Faceplate: One mission requires you to wear an NBC suit during a chemical attack. You're still fighting, though, and as you take damage, your faceshield will crack. While your health will regenerate normally, your faceshield won't, meaning that if you take too much damage in the entire sequence, you'll die from exposure to the chemical agent. It can be very disorienting to have to worry about your health in a game series famous for Regenerating Health.note 
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: Mason uses a Vietnamese soldier as a shield while escaping a POW camp. Made a little more noticeable because during gameplay, bullets penetrate various objects, including enemy soldiers.
  • Call-Back: The player can find a hidden text file where the main player character of the game, Mason, recounts his time in a Russian gulag; he notes early on that Reznov told him stories about Dimitri Petrenko, the player character of World at War that this game is a sequel to, and mentioned that he and Mason were much alike.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The cargo ship Rusalka is briefly seen at the end of the first mission. It later turns out that the Number Station broadcast is being transmitted from there.
  • The City Narrows: "Numbers" takes place in Hong Kong's infamous Kowloon Walled City. Yes, it really did look that bad in real life.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: There's a lot of foul language in the interrogation scenes, with the subtitles only sometimes censoring it.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Your mysterious interrogators are very liberal with the electrocution early on, and when you're in Kowloon the level opens with Hudson torturing Clarke by inserting a shard of broken glass in his mouth and repeatedly punching him in the jaw. This would have gone on, if the Russians hadn't arrived.
  • Collapsing Lair: Near the end of the final mission.
  • The Conspiracy: The main plot and the intel plot. Turns out, Mason isn't just being used by the Russians, and JFK was assassinated by an even more mysterious organization.
  • Conspiracy Kitchen Sink: It's a game set during the Cold War. JFK. Mysterious third parties threatening various US Government officials. Nuff' said.
  • Conveniently Interrupted Document: Every mission opens with a summary, before black ink smears out everything except the viewpoint character, the location, and time.
  • Cool Shades: Hudson wears these all the time. When he does take them off, it's plot relevant.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Dr. Clarke has a mind boggling number of escape routes and weapon caches prepared in the event that someone tries to kill him, and has mattresses on rooftops in case the escape requires Roof Hopping. When asked about this preparation, he simply states that while he may have accepted he was going to die, he was going to go down fighting. How crazy is he? At one point, a Russian helicopter flies in to grab what's left of Clarke's research, which wouldn't have been very predictable in Hong Kong. Seeing this, Clarke pulls out a detonator and destroys the helicopter with explosive charges planted in his laboratory. This isn't just Crazy-Prepared, this is So Crazy It's Awesome.
  • Cutscene Boss: Dragovich and Kravchenko, where at most, you're only made to button mash against the latter.
  • Darker and Edgier: This takes a more bleak, underhanded, and Stale Beer-styled approach than the Modern Warfare and prior Call of Duty series, which plays out more like traditional action movies and heroic WWII war movies, respectively.
  • Dead All Along: Reznov. Turns out he was dead after the escape from Vorkuta and he was just a hallucination in Mason's mind - though he does successfully enact his revenge via Mason.
  • Deadly Gas: The cloudy, green, near-instantly fatal Nova-6, the cornerstone of Dragovich's planned genocide and invasion of the US.
  • Death by Disfigurement: Averted with Weaver. He is knifed in the eye by Kravchenko, but he survives right to the end.
  • Defcon Five: The DEFCON meter is shown to (correctly) click down towards "DEFCON 1" during cutscenes.
  • Diegetic Interface: Downplayed. You'll still get a bloody screen when your health is critical but instead of getting the "You are hurt. Get to cover!" text from previous entries, your teammates will either shout something along the lines of "You're getting shot up!" or "Get [to/some] cover!"
  • Dirty Communists: Being a work set during the Cold War through the American perspective, this is to be expected, with the Soviets engaging in, among other things, human experimentation on their own people, Cold-Blooded Torture, a False Flag Operation involving innocent civilians dying, and the creation and use of Nova-6.
    • Dragovich in his own twisted way, aims to bring America under Communism. Though it's left ambiguous whether he really did go rogue against his own government or the Soviets at large quietly went along with his scheme.
    • Kravchenko is just as brutal as his direct superior, if not moreso. In addition to partaking in summary executions of Nazi prisoners after the end of World War II, he also partakes in the human experimentation of innocent Laotian and Vietnamese villagers using Nova-6. And this is all found out after he brutally tortures Weaver.
    • The North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong are no better either, with both factions using their training and weapons received from the Soviets to massacre South Vietnamese civilians during the Battle of Hue City, as well being complicit in the Soviets' experimentation of innocent villagers in the Laotian and Vietnamese jungles. In addition, the latter also parttake in the Cold-Blooded Torture of American prisoners alongside their Soviet advisors.
    • Castro, who willingly sides with the Soviets through Dragovich, hands Mason over to them without a thought, and allows access to his country to them for the latter's Evil Plan.
  • Dirty Coward: At the end of WWII, Dr. Steiner defects to the Soviets by offering up his chemical-weapons research, just to save his own hide. Notably, he contemptuously surrenders (calling Reznov a "Russian dog") only after virtually all the men under his command have been killed. He then tries to defect again to the CIA when he realizes he's outlived his usefulness to Dragovich.
  • Disney Villain Death: Kravchenko's grenade belt goes off after he falls out the window. Black Ops 2 bizarrely reveals that he and Woods both survived the explosion.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Mason: "Too late to back out - Slam it in!"
  • Doomed by Canon:
    • Double subverted, the tutorial mission has you assassinating Fidel Castro making it seem like it's Alternate History. Turns out Castro was using a double.
    • JFK, on the other hand, is played straight.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: During Mason's trip to the Pentagon, a Sexy Secretary blows smoke at Mason while giving him "fuck me" eyes. Subverted as the Interrogator's narration makes it absolutely clear she was a plant working for their organization in the CIA and was gathering info on Mason. And then double subverted when it turns out the Interrogators are the CIA themselves, meaning she really was just some horny secretary.
  • Elite Mooks: The Spetsnaz troops are supposedly better trained and equipped compared to other enemy soldiers (Treyarch apparently did real research into Russian special forces tactics and incorporated that into the Spetsnaz A.I.), though other than their use of their famous Unnecessary Combat Roll the difference is subtle enough to not be immediately obvious.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Kravchenko gets one during "Project Nova", as he kills a group of surrendering Germans who are on their knees begging for their lives. One by one he executes them with a single shot to the head. As he turns to kill the last German he finds he's out of ammo, so he grabs a comrade's knife and slits the German's throat.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto
  • Expy:
  • Eye Scream: Weaver takes a knife to the eye during the mission to the Cosmodrome. Fortunately, he survives (unlike the last guy who got a knife to the eye in a Call of Duty game), and spends the rest of the game with an eyepatch.
  • The Faceless: Finally averted with respect to the main character, who can be seen clearly on monitors in the interrogation room between levels and in every opening Cut Scene.
  • Fake a Fight: The start of "Vorkuta" involves faking a fight with Reznov in order to get the guard's keys.
  • False Flag Operation: "Crash Site" involves the Soviets using a captured American C-130 cargo plane to transport Nova-6. Intel collected reveals that the Soviets have actually been conducting several of these over the past few months, making it appear to the Vietnamese and Laotians that the Americans are conducting the experiments and massacres.
  • Fast-Roping: Naturally. It's even featured prominently in the trailer. Just as in Modern Warfare 2, rappelling too fast will get you smashed.
  • Foregone Conclusion:
    • With Reznov prisoner in Vorkuta and Dimitri nowhere to be seen, it's clear "Project Nova" will end poorly.
    • The first mission of the campaign, which involves the assassination of Fidel Castro. Since he was still alive as of the game's release, we already know that the attempt to assassinate him will fail. You do put a bullet in his head, but then he shows up alive and well at the end to tell you that was a Body Double.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Similar to Dead Space's NICOLE IS DEAD message, all of the mission start briefing messages contain a word from the NATO Phonetic Alphabet, with X-RAY hinting at spaces. Subtracting these X-RAYs, the "letters" chronologically spell REZNOV IS DEAD, and according to the Maverick Code, the numbers listed after each alphabet ultimately spell out in alphanumeric code Or is he?
    • At one point after a conversation with Reznov, Swift will angrily ask Mason "what the fuck is wrong with you?" since he's hearing Mason talk to no one at all.
    • During the scene where Mason receives his mission from JFK, there is a moment where Mason quickly hallucinates pointing a gun at JFK's head.
    • Astute players will notice that at no point do any of the NPCs that Mason interacts with directly address Reznov nor talk about him, hinting at his non-existence. There's other hints, such as Reznov being Friendly Fire Proof - shooting him will show animations indicating that he's been hit from behind and he will shout the typical "Friendly fire!" lines, but pursuing this reveals that the player cannot fail the mission no matter how many times it's done. Because he's not really there. Even more astute players will notice that Reznov has both index fingers intact in many of his appearances. Reznov lost his right index finger in Stalingrad, just before his introduction in World at War.
    • When playing as Hudson, the character's watch is matched to the time on your computer/console's system clock. When playing as Mason on Rebirth Island, the character's watch switches time at random and never gives a consistent reading. This shows Mason's unraveling sense of reality.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: Lots, in Spanish and Russian (and they are not subtitled), most notably the Cuban officer in the first mission calling the girl in the bar 'Puta Capitalista' ("capitalist whore").
  • Friendly Fireproof:
    • To a degree. You can't even point your gun at allies if they're very close, and melee is disabled. However, if your allies are far enough away you can shoot and kill them for the usual "Friendly fire will not be tolerated!" game over.
    • In an example of Fridge Brilliance: invokedMason has no trouble attacking Reznov after Vorkuta. Because unlike the other allies, he's not really there.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: Some of the enemies at Vorkuta and both enemies and allies at Rebirth Island. Justified, since the guards at Vorkuta use tear gas on you and Rebirth Island is a chemical weapons research facility... where NOVA 6 just got released.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Mason's interrogation was to get him to snap out of his MK-Ultra brainwashing he had endured at Vorkuta.
  • Gimmick Level: "Rebirth" offers a twist on the Regenerating Health mechanic for a portion of the level. Since you are fighting through a cloud of Nova 6, you have the integrity of your gas mask to worry about on top of your health. Take too much cumulative damage, and you will die.
  • Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!: Achievement achievable by escaping Vorkuta.
  • Gollum Made Me Do It: Mason and Reznov, though the former insists the latter is his friend.
  • Glasses Pull: An incredibly epic one in the "Revelations" mission. Later parodied in Black Ops 2, where it happens again at the end of "Pyrrhic Victory", only for the character in question to take a bullet to the shoulder and the music to wind down unexpectedly.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Basically the concept behind the "Wunderwaffe", or wonder weapons, that Nazi Germany attempted to develop when it became clear to Hitler that Germany was losing the war. Which also plays an important role in the game, as a rogue Russian officer attempts to secure one of those weapons, the Nova 6 biochemical weapon, to further his own selfish goals. The US is concerned about that, and as a result allows a lot of freedom to their covert ops groups to obtain as much data as possible on said weapon, and especially to prevent its use on American soil.
  • Gorn:
    • The single player campaign adds mutilation on the death animations if the weapons have enough damage output.
    • In one mission, you get an auto-shotgun loaded with Dragon's Breath incendiary rounds, which gib close-up enemies and burn the ones that don't die immediately. A section of a later mission has you take the role of a "tunnel rat", clambering through the Viet Cong tunnels with a flashlight and snubnose revolver that will remove limbs from enemies with a killing shot.
  • Gotta Catch 'Em All: In the style of the Modern Warfare games, you can collect intel hidden in various places through the maps, in the form of tape recorders. Collecting pieces of intel unlocks extra material you can read to get background on various characters and places in the game.
  • Great Escape: After the tutorial level, you execute a plan to stage a mass breakout from a Russian prison. The plan has been in the works for months, but the player only sees it as it plays out.
  • Happy Ending Override: The Russian campaign in World at War ended on a pretty triumphant note, with Reznov and Dimitri looking forward to returning to Russia as heroes despite the latter's wounds (and the odds were in favor of his survival anyway, given that he was established as being Made of Iron). As Black Ops establishes, things...didn't quite work out that way. Dimitri did in fact emerge from the ordeal none the worse for wear, but only so he could end up serving as a test subject for Nova 6; Reznov bitterly notes that it would've been better if he had died in Berlin, since at least then his death would've meant something. Reznov himself was betrayed by his corrupt superiors (and by extension, the country he'd served so faithfully), and thrown in a gulag to rot, with only his thirst for revenge keeping him from succumbing to despair.
  • Heavily Armored Mook: Enemies wearing heavy body armor/riot gear appear about halfway through the second mission, the prison break from Vorkuta. Several appear guarding the Number Station control room at the very end of the game, also. They carry shotguns and machine guns, and advance slowly instead of running or using cover; basically they're this game's equivalent of Modern Warfare 2's Spec Ops-only Juggernauts. While not on par with their ridiculous toughness, they can still withstand about a dozen rounds of assault rifle fire or multiple close-range shotgun blasts before dropping, which is pretty impressive given that every other enemy in the game drops after only a couple bullets.
  • Hellhole Prison: Vorkuta. And it actually existed in real life and even held American prisoners, too!
  • Hero Antagonist: The SAS soldiers in the second half of "Project Nova", certainly in comparison to the other factions involved.
  • Heroic Mime: Averted after many games in the series played it straight: Alex Mason speaks both in interrogation scenes and in the levels themselves, as do Hudson and Reznov when you play as them.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Woods dies to save Mason from Kravchenko's Taking You with Me. Except not really.
    • Reznov leads the Army away during the bike chase so Mason can escape Vorkuta, but he survives. Turns out Reznov was actually killed, and his later appearances were hallucinations.
  • Hero Killer: Dragovich. Kravchenko tried to be one but is foiled by Woods.
  • Heroic Bloodshed: The mission "Numbers", which is set in Kowloon and features plenty of diving across rooftops, Bullet Time and dual wieldable weapons (in a campaign that's otherwise light on them), is essentially a loving homage to the genre.
  • His Name Is...: Clarke's death.
  • Historical In-Joke:
    • In the "Five" cutscene at the end of the game, Nixon freaks out when he hears a crash, assuming it's a break-in. It actually is.
    • In one portion of the level "S.O.G.", the player has to rescue Woods from a VC soldier who is about to kill him. The sole reason Woods didn't shoot the guy himself? His rifle jammed.note 
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Both Kennedy and Dragovich are killed by Mason, after sending him to kill the other.
  • Hold the Line: The defense of Khe Sanh in Vietnam. A tide of NVA troops rush at you throughout the mission.
  • Homage: The Russian Roulette scene in the Payback mission is a homage to The Deer Hunter, and the Spetsnaz operator's presence is one to Rambo: First Blood Part II.
  • Honor Before Reason: Reznov makes no effort to hide to Mason his distrust of Kravchenko and Dragovich in a Flash Back mission "Project Nova". He regrets not killing them then, as they had promised reinforcements during the Battle of Stalingrad but never followed up on it, and he already knew they were looking out for themselves first and foremost. However, Reznov also tells you that at the time he was a soldier, and still obeyed orders, hence why he did what he was told to by them.
  • Hellish Copter: Not even considering the various choppers that get shot down through the course of the game, there is the helicopter that gets taken out by a harpoon tethered to a railing at one point. One level starts out in a freshly crashed one.
  • Human Shield:
    • Double Subverted. "Castro" tries to use his mistress as a hostage when you burst in. It barely slows you down, as you just shoot him in the head anyway. Then she grabs his rifle and starts shooting.
    • Played straight later, Mason uses this to break out of the rat tunnel he and Woods are held in.
    • Earlier, Mason also did this with a Viet Cong on a sampan. Still subverted since the other VC open fire anyway.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Taken to its (il)logical extent. In "Numbers", Clarke, Hudson, and Weaver find themselves hanging onto a rooftop for dear life, whilst various Spetznas Mooks shoot at them. Clarke and Hudson literally have a conversation while hanging onto the roof and they're being shot at. They do finally manage to pop one in Clarke's head at least.
  • Ink-Suit Actor:
  • Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: Zig-zagged. There are plenty of doors you can open on your own, along with doors you can't open until your superiors order you to do so, some good old-fashioned NPC-only doors thrown in for good measure and some that are just part of the level art and can't be opened in any way by anyone.
  • Interface Screw: During the mission in which Hudson is wearing a NBC suit to protect against nerve gas exposure, taking damage will crack the faceshield.
  • Interrogation Flashback: The game begins with the main character, Alex Mason, waking up in an interrogation/torture chamber, strapped to a chair and hooked up to an electric shock device. Over an intercom (and behind a panel obscuring his details), the interrogator questions Mason's involvement in various CIA plots during the Cold War era. Each mission in the game is presented as a flashback, told by Mason to the interrogator.
  • Lampshade Hanging: When reminiscing about the Battle of Berlin, Reznov says of Dmitri Petrenko, "The wounds he sustained ensuring our victory should have earned him a hero's welcome to Russia." That battle takes place in World at War, in which Dmitri is the player character with Regenerating Health.
  • Jungle Warfare: "Victor Charlie", "Crash Site", and "Payback", which are set deep within the jungles of Vietnam. Averted with "SOG" and "The Defector", where the former has the surrounding vegetation destroyed from constant napalm strikes, while the latter is set within a city instead.
  • Large Ham: Reznov, the incredible scenery-chewing Soviet from World at War, returns, and he's still as awesomely hammy as ever.
  • Leap of Faith: At one point during the Kowloon mission, Dr. Clarke tells Hudson to jump from one rooftop to the balcony of an apartment about three stories below to evade the incoming Spetznaz. Clarke, as Crazy-Prepared as he is, had already piled mattresses on said balcony.
  • Live Action Cutscenes are used during the game itself multiple times, though this is mostly to get around the aging id Tech 3's inability to load multiple levels at a time.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Generally any mission where you're controlling a vehicle that has rockets on it, such as the boat in the "Crash Site" mission, or the helicopter in "Payback".
  • MacGuffin: The numbers.
  • Made of Plasticine: Despite less Ludicrous Gibs, it's possible to gib with revolvers and shotguns. Most noticeable during tunnel-crawling, when the player is forced to use a Colt Python and flashlight.
  • Meaningful Echo: In "Vorkuta," a prisoner asks if they can trust Mason because he's American. Reznov vouches for him. Subverted when later, Mason vouches for Reznov in the same fashion, but he's dead and being hallucinated by Mason himself.
  • Mêlée à Trois: In the mission "Project Nova", after Dragovich betrays Reznov and leaves him to die, the British arrive to extract Nova 6 themselves and fight with Dragovich's men, while you escape, killing anyone who gets in your way.
    Reznov: Keep moving! This is not our war!
    Nevski: Then who do we fight?
    Reznov: EVERYONE!!! We stand alone!
  • Mind Screw: When Mason blindly wanders through the Pentagon, hallucinating badly as his Russian brainwashing begins messing with his sense of reality.
    • The ending cutscene of the game. Mason rattles off a series of phrases and names (Texas, Kennedy, 6.5 millimeter) and we see films of the day that Kennedy came to Dallas, Texas. Eventually it stops at a crowd shot and focuses on one man. Mason. He was there, though whether or not he even assassinated Kennedy is still in question.
    • Unlocking all the intel and reading all the e-mail makes the plot into this.
  • Memetic Badass: In-universe, Dimitri, Reznov, and Sergei.
  • Mood Whiplash: The ending to Black Ops. After a brief sequence that might as well be from the music video to "America, F**k Yeah!", a chilling cutscene reveals that Mason might have assassinated Kennedy, and the game seems to end with a pithy quote by Kennedy summing up the story ("those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future")... which suddenly transitions into the hilarious "Five" cutscene with Kennedy, Castro, McNamara, and Nixon facing a horde of zombies inside the Pentagon.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Steiner and Dr. Clarke, both know exactly what Dragovich plans to do with the nerve agent they are creating for him, but neither one cares about the dire global consequences. Steiner's arguably just trying to avoid summary execution for no longer being of value to the Nova 6 program, and Clarke's dossier specifically describes him as a "malignant narcissist" who defected to the Soviets to get revenge on his western peers who snubbed him for his politics.
  • More Dakka: Some guns operate on this, especially machine guns with large magazines. Also played straight with mounted machine guns on vehicles. That said it's usually not a good idea to keep spamming bullets, as the vehicle guns will eventually overheat if you continuously fire from it. And handheld machine guns tend to have really long reload times, leaving you vulnerable to enemy fire or grenades while reloading.
  • Mugged for Disguise: In "Executive Order", Weaver gets compromised and the base is on high alert, so Mason and Woods kill two guards and take their uniforms to get into the base.
  • Mugging the Monster: When Sergei is introduced in the "Vorkuta" level, he has a prison guard in a headlock. You can hear him cursing Sergei out, continually threatening to kill him and then telling him to let go, before Sergei snaps his neck.
  • Musical Nod: Play through the first third or so of Reznov's reminiscence mission and the Soviet March from World at War's endgame starts playing. Glorious.
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya: "My name is Viktor Reznov. And I will have my revenge!"
  • New Meat: The "kid" manning the PBR bow gun in "Crash Site". He dies, and Woods has a miniature BSOD.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Mason when he killed Steiner.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Averted. The original Nova 6 stocks are destroyed, but Dr. Steiner spends the next 20 years re-creating them with facilities provided by Dragovich. They even manage to improve on the original formula while they're at it with help from Dr. Clarke.
  • Nostalgia Level: Project Nova, where Reznov is playable, Dmitri Petrenko fights at your side, and many weapons and soundtracks from World at War return.
  • Not Quite Dead: Mr. Mason — Woods is alive and remains the sole remaining American guest at the Hanoi Hilton. Thought you should know. —X—
  • Not So Different: Reznov befriends Mason partly because both of them have been betrayed and abandoned to their fate in the gulag. Reznov also implanted in Mason a strong desire to kill the three main antagonists in the game as well, since he knew he wouldn't be able to exact his revenge on them, so he has Mason do it for him.
  • Obligatory War Crime Scene: Plenty. Execution of surrendering soldiers, execution of civilians for collaboration, exposing non-combatants to chemical/biological agents just to see if they're effective, Cold-Blooded Torture, attempts at brainwashing; nobody's hands are clean by the time it's over.
  • Optional Stealth: In a few of the levels, it is possible to sneak up on an enemy kill and perform a melee stealth kill on them.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: The first part of the mission "Rebirth" is Mason's POV, but his account of its events is inaccurate due to him being an Unreliable Narrator. The mission is then played from Hudson's POV, which reveals how things actually went down.
  • One-Man Army: Mason in the final mission where Mason and Reznov go to assassinate Steiner once and for all. Then you play from Hudson's point of view, and find out Reznov is all in Mason's head. Which means Mason has been tearing through the entire facility by himself.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Sam Worthington voices the protagonist in Black Ops. It appears he has come no closer to perfecting an American accent since Avatar. It's most notable in the scene where Bowman dies in "Payback".
  • Painting the Medium: Like how Modern Warfare presenting loading cutscenes as a military information system, the cutscenes in this game are all presented as classified government files and footage related to the topic at hand, distorted through Mason's mental instability.
  • Pineapple Surprise:
    • The protagonist is almost killed by an enemy pulling a suicidal version of this trope until the villain is tackled out of a window by a self-sacrificing friend.
    • Also used against a NVA soldier during "S.O.G" after he ambushes the player.
  • Precision F-Strike: "DO NOT FUCK WITH ME, Mason! I know when you're lying!"
  • Previous Player-Character Cameo: Dmitri Petrenko shows up in the flashback mission "Project Nova". He then dies a horrible death by chemical agent.
  • Press X to Not Die: In Khe Sahn, a Vietcong soldier gets into a brief hand-to-hand altercation with Mason which is won by pressing a button as fast as you can. It's a Shout-Out to a similar event in Call of Duty 3, where a Nazi ambushes you in the same exact way. You also have to mash buttons to open a stuck side door on a crashed helicopter before it sinks in a river. There are also other places that the game slows down during that moment to give you time to kill unsuspecting guards as you break into their buildings.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "My name! Is Viktor! Reznov! AND I WILL HAVE! MY! REVENGE!!!"
  • Railing Kill:
    • On the Soyuz mission, players have the option of sneaking up on one sentry and shoving him off the roof of the building.
    • One of your allies in "WMD" does another one of these to a sentry after the window-breaching section.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: The penultimate act is portrayed from two different perspectives.
  • Red Shirt: A mainstay for the Mooks in a series like this, though invoked by Reznov to Mason about the prisoners revolting in Vorkuta.
  • Regenerating Health: Averted in "Rebirth," as while Hudson wears the gas mask, the hazmat suit's integrity does not regenerate, as represented by any cracks on the mask visor, and if it's compromised he dies from Nova-6 exposure. An achievement/trophy requires the player to successfully clear that portion without dying and without the usual regenerating health; failure requires the player to restart the level and play through Mason's portion again as well in order to try again. Otherwise played straight, as is standard for a Call of Duty game.
  • Renegade Russian: Dragovich's plot in Black Ops is said to be operating outside the knowledge of the Kremlin (or so hallucination-Reznov claimed. Supplemental "intel" you find indicates that the Soviet government undoubtably endorsed the development of Nova 6, but leaves the question of whether they approved Dragovich to initiate a suprise first-strike use ambiguous).
  • Retirony: The last supposed mission of Soviet war hero Dmitri.
    Dmitri: After this mission, do you think we will go home?
    Reznov: I hope so, Dmitri, I hope so!
  • The Reveal:
    • At the start of Black Ops, the guys interrogating Mason seem to be total assholes who are pissed at Mason for no good reason. And then you find out they are Weaver and Hudson, and they have very good reason to be pissed at him, especially Weaver since Mason shot him in the abdomen, albeit he wasn't exactly sane at the time.
    • They're not kidding about being on the "Brink of War". They've only got a few hours left until the Big Bad triggers his Nova 6 strike on the US, kicking off World War III.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Mason seems to think this, as he keeps a Python revolver as his sidearm rather than the usual M1911.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The mission "Payback". Hint: It's the Hind mission. You shoot down three other Russian choppers, blow up a shitton of NVA structures, supply routes, and pipelines, and eventually defeat Kravchenko.
  • Rousing Speech: Reznov gives one in Vorkuta:
    "Brave comrades of Vorkuta, the time has come to rise against our oppressors! Today, we show them the hearts of true Russians! We have all given our blood for the Motherland. We have answered her calls without question. We gave our youth, our hearts, our very souls for her protection..As brothers, we fought side by side against the German fascists. We crawled through dirt and blood and sand to achieve our glorious victory..Not for medals, or glory...but for what was right. We fought for revenge...When Berlin fell, how did our leaders repay us? We returned not to the rapturous welcome...but to suspicion and persecution. In the eyes of our leaders we were already tainted by the capitalist West. Torn from the arms of our loved ones, we found ourselves here... this place... this, this terrible place. Here we have languished, with no hope for release... No hope for justice. We have toiled in Dragovich's mines until the flesh peeled from our bones... We have watched our comrades succumb to sickness and disease... We have been starved. We have been beaten. But we will not be broken! Today, we will send a message to our corrupt and arrogant leaders. Today, my comrades... Vorkuta - BURNS!!!"
  • Roofhopping: In Kowloon. Hudson is not pleased to discover this has become part of the plan.
  • Russian Guy Suffers Most:
    • After the brutal Soviet campaign in World at War, things actually manage to get worse for Petrenko and Reznov.
      Reznov: Victory cannot be achieved without sacrifice, Mason... We Russians know this better than anyone.
    • You spend a lot of the levels kicking the shit out of Soviet personnel, including blowing up a Soyuz launch.
  • Schmuck Bait: One of the last levels has an enclosure in the middle of a lab that might make for a keen place to hide intel. If you go inside and don't immediately leave, you'll discover that you've entered a Death Trap and will be gassed to death.
  • Sequel Hook:
    • Gathering all the intel in the final mission reveals a document detailing that Mason, Hudson and Weaver are considered to have gone rogue and that CIA analyst Ryan Jackson is gathering a team including a hugely talented young SAS trooper named Jonathan ????? note  to travel to South Africa in order to hunt them down. It is also a Shout-Out, Call-Back, and Take That! at Modern Warfare 2, which ends with Price, Soap, and Nikolai going rogue.
    • There's also a computer accessible at the main menu telling you that as of 1978, Frank Woods is still alive and the sole remaining American prisoner at the Hanoi Hilton, North Vietnam's largest prison camp. Black Ops 2 contradicts this by showing that he was transferred to Da Nang in 1972, from which he escaped and made it back to the United States, and managed to live to a ripe old age.
    • In addition, there's some sort of shadowy organization watching the CIA and are the real ones responsible for murdering JFK.
  • Semper Fi: Woods and Mason were Marines, before being assigned to Operation-40.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Yes, there is a Gulag named Vorkuta, and yes, it was notorious for holding American inmates. And yes, it was most famous for a prisoner uprising.
    • There is a Rebirth Island which was used to test WMDs. However, it's not really an island anymore, due to the rapid drying of the Aral Sea.
    • Contrasting Anachronism Stew above, some of the guns fit right in. The Stoner 63 (seen in this game in machine gun variant) was only in active service from 1961-63, and some five-hundred Colt 629 Commandos were ordered by the real-life MAC V SOG in April of '67, under the designation of XM177E2 (Although the real XM177 has a longer flash-hider than the in-game model).
      • The Commando lacks the forward assist on the right hand side of the receiver, technically making it a Colt 649, known to the US Air force as the GAU-5A/A. But that's beside the point. There's a number of things wrong with the Commando in Black Ops, including but not limited to the M4 style flat top optics rail note , the backwards Troy Industries note  folding battle sight, and the sling wrapped around the rifle that at its best isn't actually connected, with the end visibly hanging off the front of the handguard, and at its worst is actually tucked behind the bolt hold open lever.note 
    • And Mount Yamantau (often spelled Yamantaw) is a real location as well. Several theories surround it. And, indeed, one of the main theories is that it is a "doomsday bunker", a title ascribed to it during the game. Another theory is that it is the Russian counterpart of NORAD's old Cheyenne Mountain facility, or maybe even the Russian Area 51.
    • The "intel" files are pretty well done too. Almost every non-fictional name and piece of background information in those has at least some sort of grounding in either reality or at least a realistic theory.
    • At the start of the SR-71 mission, you can see what looks like liquid pouring out of the Blackbird before the Player Character boards the plane. This is a real thing with the SR-71 as it was designed to seal its fuel tanks with the heat generated by Mach 3 flight. Sitting on the ground, they leaked like a bad pipe.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival plays on the radio in the background at the beginning of the first Vietnam level, as it does in Forrest Gump, Full Metal Jacket, and Battlefield Vietnam, making the scene feel like it was ripped right out of a war movie.
    • Many of the intel documents are written by a CIA analyst named Ryan Jackson. Tom Clancy wrote several novels featuring a CIA analyst named Jack Ryan.
    • NOVA 6's effects are a lot like The Rock's version of VX, and the sequence in which Hummel is forced to leave one of his men behind when a VX capsule breaks, and see the man's skin boil off as he helplessly watches is similar to Reznov watching Dmitri dying.
    • The Vorkuta escape ends with the player driving a motorcycle while shooting a Winchester 1887 one-handed and flip-cocking it, similar to the Terminator's own car chase and rescue of John Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. You also use a mobile Gatling Gun in that level.
    • In the Kowloon level, Hudson begins with Guns Akimbo and the player receives an achievement for using only dual weapons all the way through.
    • In Reznov's flashback, Dragovich says "We are here for one German and one German only".
    • One of the unlockable multiplayer face paint is blue and black, recalling Braveheart.
    • The final section before killing Dragovich has you fighting alongside Pvt. Clarkson and Pvt. Hammond. The two also can show up in "The Defector".
    • The multiplayer map "Nuketown" features a Double Rainbow.
    • The opening scene in "Payback", where Bowman and Mason and eventually Woods are forced to play a game of Russian Roulette by Viet Cong, which is nearly a shot by shot recreation of the Russian Roulette scene in The Deer Hunter, right down to the bandannas and the Viet Cong slapping the characters in the face.
    • There is a quite blatant shout-out to Apocalypse Now in one of the intel files for the mission Crash Site. CIA Analyst Ryan Jackson is talking about the versatility of the PBR boat, and illustrates it by speaking of the elimination of a rogue Special Forces Colonel by a CIA agent who infiltrated his base using one such boat. The name of the agent sent to kill the Colonel and the name of the actual Colonel are censored, but it is pretty clear that Captain Willard and Colonel Kurtz are being referenced here.
    • The third mission is one long cut scene where President Kennedy briefs you at the Pentagon. Walking into the nerve center, with the multiple split screens, is reminiscent of 24.
    • In the mission "Payback", Woods and Mason escape from a Vietnamese prison camp, steal a Russian helicopter, and embark on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. This mirrors the final act of Rambo: First Blood Part II.
  • Smug Smiler: You'd never guess that Dragovitch and Kravchenko weren't nice people.
  • Snub by Omission: Book-Ends for the mission "SOG", each time Agent Hudson introduces himself to one of Mason's team mates, they pointedly ignore him as if he weren't there. At the time, this was because the common soldier had a distrust for the CIA. There is a stigma among soldiers that CIA agents are smug assholes who can't truly understand the plight of the common soldier, they bark out orders and then go back to their cushy little desk safe from the danger of the battlefield. It also has to do with the not-unfair assumption that any time the CIA appears, shit is about to go down, and that more serious threats are over the horizon. Though it does seems strange that Woods acts like this at the end of mission when Hudson had fought alongside him and Mason, showing that he wasn't just a pencil pusher. For his part, Hudson seems to understand this isn't personal, as he continues his briefing anyway as if nothing had happened.
  • Sociopathic Hero: At least a few of the members of Mason's team seem to fit this, particularly in Victor Charlie.
  • Soft Glass: Subverted in one mission where your character shoots a window multiple times and it still doesn't give way before you crash through it.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Unintentionally done during "Op 40" due to a translation error. A Cuban soldier calls a woman in a bar a "capitalist whore" and tells her to leave, but uses the Spanish "formal" command to tell her to do so.note 
  • Soviet Superscience: Subverted. Although Nova 6 was originally created as a Nazi Wunderwaffe, it's been refined and enhanced with Soviet backing.
  • Spanner in the Works: Dragovich had planned to use Mason as a sleeper agent for his plans to attack the US. Unfortunately for him Reznov also implants ideas of his own into Mason to kill the three main antagonists, and Mason ultimately succeeds in that.
  • Spy Speak: Reznov's escape plan. The steps are given code names both for secrecy and because they are awesome to yell.
    • Step 1 - Secure the Keys! Stage a fight and steal the key chain off the guard sent to break it up.
    • Step 2 - Ascend From Darkness! Fight your way out of the coal mine.
    • Step 3 - Rain Fire! Use a slingshot to fling homemade bombs onto the guard towers.
    • Step 4 - Unleash the Horde! Arm the prisoners with stolen guns.
    • Step 5 - Skewer the Winged Beast! Use a harpoon gun to bring down the camp's helicopter.
    • Step 6 - Wield a Fist of Iron! Steal a minigun.
    • Step 7 - Raise Hell! Use said minigun to kick ass.
    • Step 8 - Freedom!
  • Stealth Pun: Woods shoulders a rocket launcher and exclaims: "Let's rock it!"
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: "You look like hammered shit." Considering these quotes Bookend the hardest mission in this game, it can count as Breaking the Fourth Wall too.
  • Stupid Jetpack Hitler: Nova 6 was created by the Nazis as a last-ditch "Wunderwaffen" to throw at the Allies. The intended launch platform for the weapon back in World War II, a V2 rocket modified to carry chemical warheads, counts as well.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: The level Victor Charlie shows a comrade ahead of you in a tunnel getting ambushed, with all you can do for him being killing his killer.
  • Synchronous Episodes: The "Rebirth" mission first has you play as Mason, infiltrating a Soviet base with Reznov to kill Steiner for his war crimes along with the latter's best friend Dimitri Petrenko. As the last scene plays out, some men in hazmat suits break into the room, too late to save Steiner. Then you play as Hudson, who was also on the island, and live through the events as he saw them while you were attacking the base as Mason.
  • Taking You with Me: Kravchenko attempts to do this to Mason, but Woods subverts it at the last minute ... or so it seemed.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: Something very bad was about to happen in 1968...
  • The Stinger: ...wait, did Mason really kill Kennedy after all?!
  • The Stoic: Mason constantly refers to Hudson as "a fucking ice cube." This starts to fade after the mission at Rebirth Island.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: In the finale, Weaver has managed to call in a massive U.S. Navy fleet consisting of no fewer than four battleships, dozens of helicopters, and fighter jet support... to destroy a single Russian cargo freighter. Then again, there was also an underwater submarine pen/broadcast station to destroy as well...
  • Thanatos Gambit: Reznov turns out to (maybe) have been running this. He's dead after the first mission he appears in - his appearances later on are from him hijacking the brainwashing Mason underwent during his time in a Russian gulag, adding on his own commands to take out the men responsible for it.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: "Payback, ya sons of bitches!"
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Quite a few of them appear, ranging from the Ascension Group, a group of former Nazi Scientists working with the Soviets in their space program, in "Executive Order", to a splinter group of SS being fought in "Project Nova". And then there's Dr. Friedrich Steiner, the Nazi scientist responsible for the creation of Nova-6.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Might be considered an example, as the player only sees through Mason's eyes unless the mission centers around Hudson, making the reveal of Mason actually being brainwashed even more shocking to the player.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: Mason, twice over: he's brainwashed to kill the President of the United States, and he's also brainwashed to kill the same people who performed the initial brainwashing.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: Downplayed. In Project Nova you control Reznov in a flashback to late 1945, and the fighting is done with the appropriate weapons, going from RPGs and AK-47s to MP 40s and Panzershrecks (making it a big Call-Back to World at War with less Grenade Spam).
  • Unreliable Narrator: Mason. Makes all those anachronisms a little easier to swallow, at least.
  • Villainous Rescue: In the "Project Nova" level, when Dragovich and Kravchenko throw Reznov in a chamber to subject him to the Nova 6 compound, he's saved by the arrival of British commandos who also wanted to get their hands on the biochemical weapon.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: At the end of "Executive Order", Weaver suddenly pukes all over the floor. Completely justified concerning the massive firefight he just took part in and especially considering he just had his eye gouged out by Kravchenko.
  • Who Shot JFK?:
    • It is implied in the ending that Mason was meant to assassinate JFK if Oswald (who was also hired by the Russians) was killed.
    Mason: You tried to make me kill my own president!
    Dragovich: (smirking at the player) Tried?
    • How "Sympathy for the Devil", featured in the game, has the lyrics: "Who killed the Kennedys? When after all, it was you and me!"
  • Wham Line: "Viktor Reznov has been dead for five years. For all this time, you thought he was with you, but that was just in your mind!"
    • The next line as well, not because of what is being said - we've already heard it once - but because of who is saying it.
    Alex Mason: My name is Viktor Reznov! And I will HAVE! MY! REVENGE!
  • Wham Shot: The final image in the game, revealing Mason to have been in Dallas... the day Kennedy was assassinated.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • What happened to Nevski, the only surviving teammate of Reznov in "Project Nova"? Considering that Reznov was caught soon afterwards and imprisoned in Vorkuta, it's fair to assume that Nevski suffered a similar fate.
    • The Number Station broadcast was stopped, but there are still hidden communist cells in the United States with stockpiles of Nova 6.
  • Where It All Began: The Number Station is on the ship Rusalka in Cuba.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Hudson's reaction when told to leap from a rooftop onto a balcony three stories below in Kowloon.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Dragovich does this to Clarke and later to Steiner. He also attempts to do it to Reznov, but British commandos end up inadvertently saving him before he can be subjected to the Nova 6 compound.
  • Younger Than They Look:
    • Dmitri Petrenko. Perhaps the war got to him...
    • Daniel Clarke, as well. Granted, he has spent the last four years (correctly) assuming that his employer would kill him as soon as he finished his work.
  • Zerg Rush: The NVA's common tactic. Especially in missions like 'SOG', where you'll see NVA soldiers endlessly gushing out from a hill in the horizon like an army of pissed off red ants. This is actually Truth in Television to an extent, though it's revealed that the presence of Russian tanks is what's bolstering them to suddenly break out of the the stalemate.

     Multiplayer Tropes 
  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: The NVA weren't that well armed or trained in real life (as regular troops can curbstomp SOG in multiplayer and can come equipped with G11s and PSG-1s), but then again, no one likes multiplayer turning into a "hide and seek and pray to God the Americans don't bomb us/pray to God my M16 doesn't jam and I don't step on landmines" war. One also doubts that Cuban forces had access to such advanced weaponry, or that a massive shootout in Kowloon, the Berlin Wall, and New York between Russians and Americans would go unnoticed.
  • Ascended Meme:
    • The multiplayer map Nuketown features a Double Rainbow.
    • The caption for a Headshot medal is "Boom, Headshot!", one to Pure Pwnage.
    • The multiplayer map "Hangar 18" includes an apple floating in an anti-gravity device.
  • Battle in the Rain: The First Strike DLC gives us "Kowloon", a rain-soaked romp across the rooftops of urban Hong Kong, echoing a similar level from the campaign. It features ziplines, which, while a quick way to traverse the map, will likely expose you to enemy fire.
  • Big Applesauce: The multiplayer map "Stadium", set where the infamous Soviet vs. America "miracle" hockey match took place.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The non-American factions speaks in their native tongue (see Enemy Chatter), but the announcements are still in English.
  • Bling-Bling-BANG!: If you get enough prestige levels in multiplayer, you can buy Gold camouflage for any primary weapon. Serves no purpose other than Bragging Rights Reward and looking incredibly cool.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Name-dropped if you accomplish one.
  • Captain Obvious: If a bunch of killstreaks are launched at once (usually near the end of a round), the announcer can fall a little bit behind the action.
    (Jet flies over, bombs explode, player burns to death horribly)
    (two seconds later)
    Announcer: Enemy napalm strike incoming.
  • Character Customization: The multiplayer allows a great deal of character customization. You can change the way your character looks with the first perk, you can apply face-paint, you can emblazon your clan tag and emblem on your gun, and you can even change the color and shape of the crosshairs on your precision sights, to name a few.
  • Chirping Crickets: On some maps, if there is a lull in the action, you will hear these.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Combat Training mode features bots. Bots who have an ungodly reaction time when you're coming around a corner, and who can headshot a moving target from across a map with just the ironsights on an LMG, even on lower difficulty settings. However, they have a bit of an issue with actually noticing you, and sometimes don't even notice when you're shooting them. They're also different from actual players, in that they tend to move like actual soldiers instead of rushing up and down the map. Bots have instant acquisition (the millisecond any part of you becomes visible to them, they're aiming at it), perfect tracking (they can keep their cross-hairs/iron-sights on you no matter how oddly you move), can see through walls (though they won't fire until you're actually in line of sight; they will iron-sight early, however), aim perfectly (they can and will throw frags and semtex over walls and buildings and hit you square in the face with them, assuming they don't just instantly nail a headshot with an unmodified gun from the other side of the map), can turn faster than you can (on consoles, at least, they can do a 180 faster than you can if your sensitivity was turned up to 10), can knife faster than you can (players have a split second between the animation starting and their target dying; bots that have noticed you will counter-knife you the instant you try if they're looking anywhere near your general direction when you get in range), and last but definitely not least, they have no recoil (meaning they can snipe you with a full mag/belt of LMG ammo). The only thing that makes these monsters beatable is the fact that they usually wait a good second or so before firing on you after they've acquired their target, rarely move and shoot at the same time, and often try to throw grenades at you rather than just shoot you.
  • Deadly Gas: You can equip and throw Nova 6 Gas grenades. They deal middling damage, slow the movement of and blur the vision of enemies caught in the cloud. However, only one can be carried at a time, and it's easy enough to move out of the cloud's radius and the Tactical Mask perk completely negates its effects, though it can still be hard to see through the cloud itself.
  • Double Unlock: In multiplayer, you have to reach a certain level requirement to unlock a gun, or meet certain conditions to unlock a perk's Pro version. In both cases, you still need to spend COD Points on the gun or perk to actually obtain it. There's also the final weapon in most categories, which isn't even revealed until you purchase every other weapon of that type.
  • The Elevator from Ipanema: The elevators on "Hotel" play a Suspiciously Similar Song version.
  • Enemy Chatter: Strangely, also applies to player characters in multiplayer, which can be annoying since it may give your position away. On the other hand, also a good way to locate your enemies. Disabled in Hardcore mode.
  • Enemy-Detecting Radar: The Spy Plane and SR-71 Blackbird (the former can be shot down and only shows where they are the moment the radar line sweeps over the map; the latter can't and shows the location and direction of enemies at all times).
  • Hollywood Silencer: Averted, the silencer only reduces muzzle flash, preventing you from showing up on the enemy radar, and make it harder for the enemy to tell where the shots are coming from. Otherwise, suppressed weapons are still quite loud and can be heard by other players.
    • The sound suppressed weapons make is criminally pathetic though; it's a kind of pi-pi-pi instead of the dull bangs and thumps of other recent Call of Duty games.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Flamethrower attachments, RC Car bombs, Tomahawks, Exploding Bolt Crossbows, etc.
  • Just Plane Wrong: The U2 spyplanes and counter-spy planes apparently fly low enough to be hit by small-arms fire, which is incorrect as that plane was specifically designed to fly so high as to be above existing anti-air technology.
  • Kill Streak: Many killstreaks from Modern Warfare 2 return. The artillery strike and attack dogs from World at War return as well, the former in the form of a mortar strike, which can be targeted at three separate locations. Most notably, the much-hated Tactical Nuke is gone, replaced by a player-controlled Hind-A gunship.
  • Luck Manipulation Mechanic: Hardline Pro allows you to "re-roll" the results of a care package drop if the player doesn't like what it gives.
  • More Dakka: Gone is the damage-boosting Stopping Power perk, but there are other ways to boost your dakka. Almost any gun can be equipped with extended magazines. Typically you get 10 to 15 more rounds per mag, but it gets crazier with the machine guns, which get doubled ammo per magazine. This is already good with the mag-fed ones, HK21 and Stoner 63 getting boosted from 30 to 60, and the 40-round RPK to 80, then the already sizable 100-round belt for the M60 gets doubled to 200 with its extended mags, which is helpfully labeled as "Big Ammo".
  • One-Hit Kill:
    • Dogs, Tomahawks, and Knives (ballistic or otherwise).
    • The bolt-action sniper rifles, if you hit your target in the chest or head.
  • Prestige Class: An option once you hit the max level, though also give you some bonuses, but you will be reset to level 1 and have to redo the pro perks challenges again.
  • RPG Elements: As always, you can level up for more perks and weapons.
  • Sentry Gun: Multiplayer features gatling sentries that target enemy players and Surface-To-Air missile ones that target enemy spy planes and helicopters. The DLC map "Berlin Wall" has neutral ones that will fire on anyone who enters the "red" zones indicated on the minimap.
  • Shooting Gallery: Includes a multiplayer map titled "Firing Range", with the majority of the map taken up by buildings with moving targets.
  • Visual Pun: The Counter-Spy Planes orbit the battlefield counter-clockwise.
  • You Have Researched Breathing: A literal example with the perk "Scout". It lets you hold your breath longer while sniping.



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