(PlayStation Vita)

Game Review

Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Asher Asghar

Black mark

Has there ever been a more maligned handheld title prior to release than Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified? Reviewers (not all by any means), unabashed and damning in early preview criticism, seemed primed to deliver literary blows to the PlayStation Vita itself with the first-person shooter's release, yet gamers posting user reviews have portrayed an altogether less insulting affair, which has seemingly provided more enjoyment than the critics' obituaries.

Indeed, after playing the game for a requisite period of time, one cannot help but feel a twinge of sympathy towards Nihilistic, or rather, nStigate, as the developer is now known. While their first Vita offering Resistance: Burning Skies received below-par reviews, the actual gameplay was passable, and it nailed some of the series' classic weapons in feel and effect. Unfortunately, the developer's second console conversion was hamstrung the moment its first trailer was unveiled at GamesCom in August. Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified seemed uninspired and relatively drab for an authentic Call of Duty experience, which is what publisher Activision and Sony had promised. Thankfully, the final product looks much better than those initial trailers, with a smoother frame-rate, more detailed textures, and improved animation. But in spite of the evident improvements, it still falls significantly short of the series' typically high standards.

Taking the lead from the PlayStation 3 titles, protagonists Frank Woods and Alex Mason fill a timeline set between Call of Duty: Black Ops and the recently released Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, with a series of 10 brief covert missions. These bite-sized chunks are inherently similar to Unit 13 in objectives, structure, and breadth; rescue hostages, neutralise targets, and retrieve documents in small doses. Missions are often timed to 5 minute durations, leading to a scandalous lack of content as a result. The miniscule missions are perfectly suited to portable play, but the number of stages amount to less than half of Zipper Interactive's alternative, with the timed excursions negating any opportunity to soak in the atmosphere or environment with experimental play. Additionally, enemy AI is laughable at times, even though the hardest of the three difficulty tiers present a stern challenge. Meanwhile, Hostiles mode, which sees you fending off waves of soldiers, is no replacement for the home console's excellent Zombies offering, but at least serves as a useful pre-cursor to the multiplayer in its relentlessness.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified's graphics are serviceable, but not outstanding. Maps are frustratingly linear, but, as previously alluded, the lighting, animation, and textures are all improved over Resistance: Burning Skies. Enemies, while lacking any meaningful AI, perish believably, and the frame-rate is fairly smooth throughout.

The play mechanics will be immediately familiar to Call of Duty veterans thanks to the Vita's reassuring dual-analogue sticks. While the right analogue stick, used for viewing, can feel a tad off-kilter at times, it's not a game breaker, and you'll adapt fairly quickly to the controls. Similarly, lobbing grenades works fine on the touch-screen, and the general staples of the genre are present and correct. The use of the rear touchpad is also well implemented, allowing you to hold your breath when wielding sniper rifles.

Multiplayer is pleasant but unpredictable, with matches connecting easily on one day, and not at all on the next. When you join a game, the experience is functional, but maps are far too small to invoke any real strategy. Nevertheless, the component has the capacity to thrill in short bursts, and traditional multiplayer mainstays such as killstreaks and perks add to the enjoyable, if diluted, online adventure.

Conclusion

With a shockingly brief single-player campaign, and an enjoyable but inconsistent multiplayer mode, your enjoyment of Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified will depend almost entirely on your desire for a portable entry in Activision's blockbuster series. The title delivers a satisfactory first-person experience, but falls seriously short in substance. Sony Cambridge will, in all probability, better this effort in virtually every area with its forthcoming Killzone: Mercenary, which ultimately makes the shooter hard to recommend.

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User Comments (19)

Dambuster

#4

Dambuster said:

If this was £20 i would give it a punt, but for the best part of 40 quid, no thanks.

Slapshot

#7

Slapshot said:

Drop this on the iPad for $5 and watch it sell like crazy! Honestly, I'm being serious too!

@Asher For the majority of what I've see (and said myself) the blame for Declassified's shortcoming (or Burning Skies') wasn't blamed on Nihilistic, but on Sony forcing their hands to shovel out these two games onto Vita. But you reap what you sow and Sony's Vita is now sitting at the bottom of Christmas List this holiday season because of it.

Great review mate! :)

Knux

#8

Knux said:

Just wait a year or so and buy an used copy for $20 or less. Either way, I'm more interested in Black Ops II to be honest.

Galvatron

#10

Galvatron said:

Exactly; whilst I can't recommend it as a day-one purchase due to the price, that is in the main down to lack of content, not broken content.

Nihilistic - or rather, Nstigate - may have been 'forced' to make this by Sony, but as mentioned in the review, it is genuinely thrilling on multiplayer, when you can get connected!

Uncharted, Most Wanted & AC: Liberation have shown that big-name franchises need not be watered down for Vita or lacking in content.

Declassified isn't a hatchet-job by any means; the user reviews pretty much everywhere show that. Unfortunately, what's there - especially single-player content - isn't enough.

Mind you, the great thing about any FPS on Vita is the familiarity of controls from the dual sticks, so whilst IPad games may be cheaper, these type of games - proved by the likes of Nova - just don't feel right on a tablet device. They never will :-)

Ps4all

#14

Ps4all said:

Played multiplayer to rank 20 so far and i love it. I wanted a portable competitive FPS and this is it. I'm glad i didn't wait for killzone. The price is too high, but then again there are no other options at this time for vita. The lobbies are always full of people who ranked up allot, so i am obviously not the only person this.

playstation3

#16

playstation3 said:

PlayStation Vita Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified Bundle has all the stuff in the bundle, going to drive away potential customers.they have the nerve to charge $50 for this

urbanljones

#17

urbanljones said:

Personally, I don't mind that the campaign is limited and the graphics aren't as good as ps3. the only thing that bothers me is the connectivity in online mp. the fact that the mp maps are small is ok because if they were larger like the original black ops it would become tiring pushing those sticks for two minutes without actually seeing anyone. I just bought the vita and this game in the bundle two days ago, and before that my only handheld was the psp 3000, and i have to say this game exceeds my expectations (for a handheld game) and in it's simplicity makes me think back to the days of cod: waw and the original modern warfare. the fact that i can play call of duty in the car or on a plane is just awesome in itself. if they fix the connectivity issues, this could have a HUGE replay value.

SeVok

#19

SeVok said:

This game is better than what critics made out to be. Sure, this isnt the next best Call of Duty thing, but it is a decent first attempt of a dual stick COD shooter on handheld. People forget this system is very young, as if games were that good the first year of the PS3 or XBOX360...

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