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Call of Duty Black Ops Declassified Review: This One Should Be Redacted [Vita]

Posted on November 19, 2012 AT 05:33pm

The biggest question I have for developer Nihilistic Software is this, “Why did this game need to come out at the same time as it’s console brethren?” Call of Duty Black Ops Declassified feels unfinished, which is such a shame because somewhere deep down in this empty shell is the soul of a game that could have been good, and given players the on the go COD experience they craved from the moment the VITA was announced.

Playstation’s motto for the Vita has been that it’s a console experience on the go. In some cases this has been what developers have tried to do and it’s worked. Rather than make games designed for handhelds, they’ve ported their console games to the Vita, like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter X Tekken, Marvel vs Capcom 3 and Need for Speed Most Wanted. Here, Nihilistic Software has tried to create an original game in the Black Ops universe that feels like it’s console counterparts but it simply doesn’t measure up.

Black Ops Declassified is broken up into two main modes, a single player set of missions and multiplayer modes that you’ve come to expect from a Call of Duty game. The single player missions don’t create a cohesive story, and instead are set up as a series of incredibly short and boring vignettes. Each mission takes three to five minutes to complete and has three difficulties. They usually involve getting from point A to B and killing everyone along the way, but in such a linear and uninteresting fashion that it feels like a game from nearly fifteen years ago. Levels are small, boxed in and lack any giant set piece moments to make them memorable. Even worse, they almost all look the same. Enemies in each level are clones of each other (not literally) with zero enemy variety type other than the weapon they might be holding. They’re dumb as bricks but can see you through walls and cover, and therefore never miss if you’re out in the open at all. Every death feels cheaper and cheaper as you play on.

It’d be one thing if the AI was dumb and cheap; I died and restarted close by or after an objective, but Nihilistic has decided that every death means restarting the map entirely from the beginning. This can be very frustrating when you’ve tried to finish a level a few times in a row only to run into the same cheap deaths over and over, and having to restart with the same unskippable cut scene at the start. This makes replay value that much lower. There are also a set of target and speed running maps that lack any challenge at all, and are so bland that it’s easy to forget they exist at all.

The multiplayer is where most hardcore COD fans go anyway, so how does it stack up to it’s big brother? Not well. Like the single player missions, everything here is scaled down. Level size, the amount of people able to play (four on four) and the weapon selection all feels rather paltry in comparison to Black Ops or Black Ops 2. All the right modes are here, and for a few seconds it might actually feel like you’re playing the Call of Duty you remember. The snap to triggers work, the weapons feel a bit like they should, and even the perk systems are in place… but there’s something just off about the whole affair.

Bottom line is that it’s just too small. Every level is far too cramped, even for a 4v4 game. Deaths often result in respawning right next to where the person who just killed you was, or right where you died, making cheap kills a constant source of headaches. The map size actually effects the weapon selection as well. With maps so small the sniper rifle becomes rather useless. There are almost no open areas where it’s scope could come into play and with some of the weapons being so dramatically over powered it’s a wonder why anyone would even think of using one. Currently the SPAS 12 Shotgun is so powerful that every match I join has everyone using a silenced version which has insane accuracy and damage. Until there’s a fix, the multiplayer sticks this way.

Controls themselves are mixed bag. The thumb sticks do indeed act the way they should, but lack any sensitivity settings. There’s no way to turn them up. This could be due to the lack of maneuverability in the small space they occupy. The on screen controls aren’t bad, with throwing grenades and knifing working as on screen buttons next to the face buttons and right thumb stick, and the back touch panel activating a steadying motion when you’re in sniping mode. They do lack the tactile feel of a real controller, but they work well enough. The snap to aiming that COD is known for is here, at least in single player, and without it you’d be screwed in many of the more intense situations.

The biggest shocker for me was the lack of any kind of Zombie mode. Zombies have been a stable of Treyarch’s games and therefore the Black Ops titles themselves. The fact I can get them on my iPhone but not on my Vita is surprising to say the least. With so little content in the game, it’s a wonder why they wouldn’t try to include it. The gameplay style would work on the handheld better than most of what they’re offering and would make the game that much more redeemable.

SUMMARY: Despite all my complaints there’s something in the back of my mind that says, “Maybe they’ll get it right the next time.” Black Ops Declassified feels rushed to meet the release date of Black Ops 2 which makes no sense to me at all. The games aren’t linked, don’t share content back and forth and therefore do not need the same release date. They’re not even trying to say they’re the same game. So why release them at the same time? A few more months and the Vita could have finally had the FPS that everyone wanted. This is one op that should be redacted. At least we have a Killzone title to look forward to in the near future.

  • THE GOOD: It is technically Call of Duty and for those first few seconds you’ll actually feel like you’re playing a COD game…
  • THE BAD: The lack of polish flies in the face of what fans know COD games to be. Black Ops II pushes the boundaries of what the series can be, and this shows exactly what no shooter should be… EVER.
  • THE UGLY: The game itself is ugly. The textures, the maps, the characters, the polygon count, even the sounds are wimpy with big bassy headphones.

Score: 3/10

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