Black Ops: Declassified - Can It Save Vita?

by Gaetano Prestia Featured 20 Comments 13 Votes 5663 Views 16/08/2012 Back to Articles

In early July, Sony Computer Entertainment SCE president, Andrew House, said that gamers could expect a "good raft of content" for the company's fledging handheld, Vita.

Mr House also acknowledged that "killer gamers are going to be what sells this device", and that there "are other aspects to the proposition that we can build in there."

Since then gamers have gotten Resistance: Burning Skies, the hardware's first true first-person shooter, and a game that ended up feeling the wrath of critics and gamers alike. Dull, uninspiring and unmemorable, the game seemed to suffer from the same issues the genre did on Vita's predecessor, the PSP.

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Fortunately developers realised that the PSP wasn't quite the right piece of hardware for the genre, and we ended up getting FPS franchises transformed in genres that, surprisingly, turned out better than their console counterparts. The top-down action game, Killzone: Liberation, was proof of this. This was a game that is actually better than any Killzone FPS released.

The PSP was also fantastic for third-person shooters, and with Unit 13 receieving plenty of praise following its Vita release, it seems as though the genre would once again find a place on the device.

And yet, Sony has thrown plenty of weight into the ring with Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified, a supposed "classic Call of Duty experience" that was shown for the first time at Gamescom over the past few days.

If Sony is banking on this game to help move might have made the right choice. Afterall, this is Call of Duty, and the brand itself is enough to move hardware. It will sell, and it's certain that Vita will move some hardware in the process.

The sad reality is that the game looks exactly like Burning Skies. Unsurprisingly, it's being worked on by that game's developer, Nihilistic Software.

What's most disappointing is that it seems like gamers are just getting a portable version of a "classic" Call of Duty experience, which, in PR speak, reads more like "old" considering reports of the game's lackluster off-hands showing at the convention.

Black Op 2's new loadouts and score streak system have been the talk of the industry since it was revealed earlier in the week, and yet that same innovative changes to the series are nowhere to be seen in Declassified, which is disappointing.

It's a little hard not to be a little frustrated at the prospect of this game. Then again, we should'nt be surprised: Call of Duty on PSP was anything but stellar.

While it's tough to be so critical of a game before anyone in the press actually gets a chance to play it, it's hard to imagine that it will actually be any good: it can't be a coincidence that Nihilistic's two Vita games, which are releasing only a few months apart, look so similar. If you got someone to play Burning Skies and then put the trailer for Declassified in front of them with all branding removed, you can bet they wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the two games.

I personally hope Sony doesn't think it can grab big third-party games and offer lackluster experiences for the sake of moving hardware, which is something it did with the PSP: most third-party FPS games on that system were awful, and it was only when developers took the risk to develop interesting, innovative experiences away from the familiar offerings of the brand that we got good games. Liberation is a perfect example of this.

Would a third-person Call of Duty game have been better? First-person shooters are continuously tried over and over again on handheld platforms, and while the cheaper offerings on tablets and mobiles are decent at best, at least they're not priced at full retail cost like we know Declassified will be.

Rumours surfaced last year about a Sledgehammer Games-developed third-person Call of Duty experience, which certainly begs the question as to whether it might have been a better move for the handheld: was Activision too cautious to take the risk and turn a series so reliant on its first-person offerings to bring gamers a third-person perspective?

Maybe, but now Vita gamers face the prospect of getting the first "blockbuster" title that actually turns out to be as lackluster as its creator's other offering.

What do you think of Declassified based on what you've seen and heard so far?

By Gaetano Prestia

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Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Declassified

Black Ops: Declassified - Can It Save Vita? Comments

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There's not a chance of it 'saving' the Vita.
Even if it was/is the best game on the system the CoD fans wont all flock over to the Vita just because a Call of Duty game's on it.

Tsunamo said: There's not a chance of it 'saving' the Vita.
Even if it was/is the best game on the system the CoD fans wont all flock over to the Vita just because a Call of Duty game's on it.

Really? I think it's being used purely to ship systems. Even if it's a small bump in sales, it won't matter because it's just a reskinned Resistance: Burning Skies. I think some CoD gamers are very likely to at least show interest, which is better than nothing. I still think it's the closest thing the device has to a system seller atm considering the strength of the brand.

I think it'll sell quite well - by Vita software sales standards - but it looks pretty disappointing. Still not sold on shooters on handhelds.
Resistance: Burning Skies was a curious little game. It proved that FPS games *can* work on the Vita (the controls were great), but it was otherwise pretty damn dull. Odd that these guys are being given a shot at the CoD license. I'd been hoping for a Neversoft effort.
Why is this system not measurable as a success unless it is flooded with casual western shooty gun of the master sergeant games?

It's a niche system.
Black ops wont save Vita on its own.However having Black ops with Killzone, Tearaway, Assassins Creed, Sly Racoon, Ratchet and Clank, All-Stars and others, it's definitely gonna help.
The long answer or the short one?

Going with the latter, no.

The market this is aimed at will all be wanting iPhone 5s come christmas.

OllyEbbz said: The long answer or the short one?
Going with the latter, no.
The market this is aimed at will all be wanting iPhone 5s come christmas.

Is it out in November?

Terrible time for it. That market will be playing Blops 2.

It could do quite well in a May-August window.

Jickle said: Resistance: Burning Skies was a curious little game. It proved that FPS games *can* work on the Vita (the controls were great), but it was otherwise pretty damn dull. Odd that these guys are being given a shot at the CoD license. I'd been hoping for a Neversoft effort.

Controls were OK...but there are still obvious limitations on a handheld (speed of aiming down the sites, flexibility of aiming, accuracy).

Neversoft would have made this game more promising.

abuu91 said: Why is this system not measurable as a success unless it is flooded with casual western shooty gun of the master sergeant games?
It's a niche system.

I agree with you, but what I am really trying to say is that, unless Vita is in the hands off as many gamers as possible, the range of software available isn't going to be great. PSP had some fantastic niche titles (Patapon comes to mind) and was a great system for RPGs but unless you're prepared to import you're not really getting much in the West for Vita. PSP had a considerably better start, and at least it had games to appear to that Western market. I don't live in Japan. I don't care for games from that market.
Slap a Call of Duty title/logo on anything and it will sell even there's women tampons or toothbrush with a 'Call of Duty' logo on it fanboys can't resist their loyalty and buy it.

Im more looking forward in Persona 4, AC: Liberation, Madden 13 and The New Little King's Story on the Vita this year than CoD.
yeah, it probably will sell hardware. despite the fact that it looks absolutely horrendous
Point of order, Burning Skies was released in May - since July, the Vita has received Puddle and Sound Shapes (Sound shapes by all accounts being most excellent).

But as for saving the Vita, I'm yet to find _one_ gamer who can find _one_ system that, six months in, has the games line-up the Vita has right now. Not one. The issue we've got here is that we're comparing the Vita six months in with two home consoles half-a-decade in, and a 3DS about a year and a half in (and there are more games on Vita that interest me than there are on the 3DS now, despite the time difference, although I find Ninty first-party material bland - obviously Ninty fans would see it the other way around).

So, while I agree that BLOPS:Declassified looks uninspired, and am far from holding my hopes out for the game to be anything other than mediocre, the Vita is far from needing saving. These kind of headlines remind me a lot of what people were saying about the PS3 at a similar time in its lifecycle. Back then, a lot of gaming journos suggested Sony would leave the hardware industry, and very, _very_ few thought the PS3 would sell as much as the 360. And they were pretty much all wrong, and yet they're doing the same thing all over again. Humanity's good at that ;).

Axe99 said:

Well for me the 3DS has more exclusive to handheld titles where i own most of the Vita titles on home consoles. Gravity Daze had promise but was fairly meh. Even the future shows no promise of exclusive to handheld titles coming to Vita, Sony are even foolishly promoting this fact with the whole crossplay promotion, its good to get free games but why buy an expensive handheld to play the exact same games? and at a lower quality at that?
I remember the articles you mention about PS3 back in the days but i personally never agreed with them, after PS1/2 the Playstation was a strong brand and PS3 was always gonna sell in the long run at the right price. I think the PS3 has tarnished the Playstation brand a bit though with poorly designed hardware meaning mainly ported third party titles, poor online services, long patch and game installs and missing out on the strong support of Activision with the biggest franchise this gen in CoD oh and not forgetting sticking with a pad designed for games back in '95, with all this it wouldn't surprise me if PS4 had troubles. The PSP made some poor design choices and failed to offer the right software and the Vita is showing no signs of Sony learning their lesson.
With all the software companies Sony has been aquiring it wouldn't surprise me if they bailed out to become software only.
Hang about Olly, while there are some overlap games (Rayman Origins, for example), Uncharted, Unit 13, Mutant Blobs Attack, Wipeout 2048, Everybody's Golf, Gravity Daze and Puddle are all Vita-only titles you _can't_ own on console (there are others as well, I'm just picking highlights). And if you're complaining about already owning the same franchise on console, then you're hardly going to avoid that issue with a 3DS - Ninty recycle IP more than any company in the history of gaming.

You also seem to have fallen for the media bandwagon when it comes to the PS3's online services. Beyond the lack of cross-game chat, which of the PS3's online services are 'poor', as you so claim? Hell, the PS3 provides more dedicated server games than the competing HD console (and the Wii), for free (and if you don't know the difference between peer-to-peer, which dominates on XBL, and dedicated servers, then it's time to read up on it ;)).

As for the cross-buy, cross-play thing, the reason for it is the same reason you'd buy a handheld in the first place - portability. Home consoles will always (until everything runs on portable nuclear fusion cells, lol) be able to out-perform handhelds of the same generation because they can draw a much higher wattage. Why buy a 3DS if you're going to be gaming at home as well? If you're not interested in portability, then a handheld makes as much sense as buying scuba-diving gear to go sky-diving. And if you are buying a handheld for portability, then being able to shift your game from your console to your handheld to take on the road is actually a pretty nifty feature.

As for the controller, it's regularly considered the better controller for fighting genres, and there are millions of gamers worldwide that prefer it. If the 360 (or Wii controller, lol) was significantly preferred, then we'd all be buying the Nyko PS3 controller shaped like a 360 pad. But the fact that we're not suggests that your argument here is based on personal preference, rather than objective fact (something that most of your post suffers from).

The 3DS is a great piece of kit, but anyone that can't see the Vita as the same either isn't a portable gamer (ie, it's not their thing) or has significant amounts of emotional baggage ;).

Firstly thanks for the mature responses! Normally i get allsorts thrown at me!

With what you said i don't consider Uncharted, Wipeout 2048 or Everybodys Golf as exclusive as these experiences are available on console. (Uncharted 1,2,3. Wipeout HD etc)
With the PS3 having more dedicated servers available i've never read this, do have links to any articles?
With the controller people stick with it cause its official, i'd like to see Sony offer a pad with the 360 design and see if your claim still stands.
There's far more titles coming to Vita that are unchanged copies of their home console counterparts with downgraded graphics and controls. Most people imo won't be attracted due to this and will stick with the home versions. Iphones have the portability covered and what little of the market left Nintendo has due to offering better titles and more importantly exclusive experiences.
It won't make a major impact on the system but it'll create a dent in sales that will increase sales, ever so slightly. What declassified needs to do is do something like AC: Liberation/ACIII collab. Do certain things and get rewarded for each game one way or another.

Blops II is a futuristic game which means they have created a game which everything has been revamped and tweaked in a way that uses the future to its advantage. By playing Blops:Declassified and sync with Blops II it might offer exclusive weapons, environments or even a cross play multiplayer mode which could work a lot and increase sales by a big percentage. But thats my very own opinion. I know nothing about marketing but CoD is a popular franchise, my brother is obsessed. He bought posters and pre order display boxes just to have it. Once any fanboy sees "Exclusive Weapon unlock by syncing". And that is honestly how you are going to save the Vita, because right now its aimed at independent gamers, doesn't offer much online capabilities besides leaderboards

No worries at all - I'm also saddened by the inability of most gamers to be able to do more than just dogmatically shout at each other! Although it's not a gaming-only issue, happens pretty much everywhere.

In terms of Uncharted, Wipeout and Everybody's Golf, sure you can have games in the same franchise on console, but the 3DS, if anything, suffers more from this than the Vita - beyond Professor Layton, the _vast_ majority of 3DS IP is available, in better quality, on console (one of the largest 3DS releases so far is a game I've played a bit of on N64, Gamecube _and_ Wii, lol!) By having the twin sticks and through good coding, I found Uncharted and Wipeout to be just as good on Vita as they are on console. Based on your argument, you'd only by one game from each IP (ie, why by Uncharted 2, as you've already played 1, or why by New Super Mario Bros, as you've already played the original Super Mario Bros). And, if you're looking for totally new IP, I'd wager you'd find more on Vita (Sound Shapes, Gravity Rush, Puddle) than on 3DS (I'm not as on top of the library, but I can't think of any quality new IP, noting the Kid Icarus isn't new, even if it is a long-overdue refresh).

PS3 has dedicated servers for MAG, KZ2, SOCOM:Confrontation, SOCOM SF/4, Warhawk, Starhawk, GT5 and a few others. My 360-playing friends tell me that on 360 that the shooter exclusives (I'm not sure about Forza/PGR) are peer-to-peer, and it's only games like BC2, BF3 and Frontlines (I think, I haven't played this one, but something along those lines) that have dedicated servers. And DICE's netcode is so damn bad I feel like their dedicated server games are peer-to-peer anyways :(. The difference in dedicated server games is one of the reasons you don't get as many larger-scale shooters on 360 (and, ironically given the reputations for each console, get a wider variety of shooter experiences on PS3).

As you say with the controller, we'll never know, but I still find a symmetrical controller better suited to me, given I have relatively symmetrical hands, slightly wonky little finger from a footy injury aside. But there's no question that the 360 pad is also a good set of kit - I like they way they indent the top of their sticks, in particular.

And you're right about the more titles coming to Vita that are unchanged copies of their home console counterparts, but given that you generally pay once for both, that's not necessarily a bad thing - prior to E3, I was trying to work out whether to get Sly 4 on PS3 or Vita - now I'll be able to play it on PS3, switch out to Vita on the road, and switch back to PS3. Although, as I've mentioned above, the Vita is so good to play, I suspect I'll just leave it on Vita.

As for iPhones, I'm on Android (which is actually more than half the smartphone market, although you'd never think so from Apple's marketing and media reporting) and there's just no comparison between gaming with physical controls vs touchscreen for most genres. Sure, people that are just looking for casual time-wasters will never get a handheld (although these people often wouldn't have got a handheld in the first place), but I'm happy if devs focus Vita games towards gaming enthusiasts.

I'm not sure about your claim that Nintendo offers better titles and more exclusive experiences. Based on your measure of what is an exclusive experience (ie, new IP), the 3DS is probably almost devoid of anything new! It does offer some great titles, but taking the top 10 metacritic rated games on 3DS, we have:
(edit - run out of space :()
Continued: Because I'm not keen to write it all out again, you've got four 'new' games in the top 10 on 3DS (Kid Icarus, Pushmo, Colours 3D and Cave Story), and two 'new' games on Vita (Sound Shapes, Gravity Rush), but give the relative time the two have been out, that's a pretty good showing (and, personally, I prefer the Vita's offerings to the 3DS here, although all six are quality, it's purely a taste thing).

Also, you never addressed my mentioning of the whole 'portability' thing - if we're not worried about whether these games are exclusive to being on portables, then why are we talking about portable gaming devices in the first place? ;). Either way, good discussing it with you, and don't think I'm knocking the 3DS, far from it, it's a great piece of kit and deserves to do well - just sticking up for the Vita, as there's a lot of misinformation out there, and it's _also_ a great piece of kit :).
I've got a 3DS and don't play it much. Never really did after Zelda and RE to be honest as I just found it too small to hold for long periods of time. And I guess the 3D for me was hard on the eyes as I must move too much when playing. I'm not contemplating the XL as I feel jibbed by Nintendo over the release of the original and zero news on a bigger version etc.

Was thinking of getting a Vita, but still not sold. CoD won't make me pick up one, but a great new IP probably would. In fact a great new exclusive game probably would. I get the whole portability argument, but for me if I've already got a PS3 and if i can play the game on that, it is one less reason to fork out for new device. Sure the new device is portable, but it's also a few hundred bucks at a time when a new console is emerging giving me portable play within my house.

I need a clear reason to buy.

You add in a general feeling of uneasiness on the net regarding the Vita's future development support........

Unfortunately I've recently been uninspired by news of physics being not included in the madden wiiU version, no true online multiplayer for ZombiU, Reggie stating in interviews there was no issue with game releases in the twilight years for the wii and the wiiU again being significantly out gunned as early as this time next year.

So I'm left wondering who will take this money I'm so desperate to spend.
No Zombies :'( How will it save the Vita now? :P

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