COD Black Ops Declassified Got Right
- + Has the ideas to make a great shooter
- + Multiplayer can be fun
COD Black Ops Declassified Got Wrong
- - Stiff aiming
- - Terrible AI
- - Poor matchmaking
- - Awful map design
Call Of Duty: Black Ops Declassified might not fit the mold of a system seller, but its name alone is sure to sell some Vita’s. That’s unfortunate because it’s not a very good game. It’s not awful, but it’s far from being any good, either. Is it a must-have for Vita owners? Probably not, but despite its shortcomings I feel it is still a step in the right direction, both for Vita and for the FPS genre on handhelds.
The reason why is because I feel that it admirably offers a portable Call Of Duty experience. Portable is the operative word there, because anyone that expected this to be a fully-fledged Call Of Duty title was setting themselves up for disappointment. That’s not to say that it gets that portable experience down perfectly, but it really is a step in the right direction.
The campaign, for example, is more like a sequence of time trials. The story is irrelevant because it’s mostly incoherent and unimaginative, but the gameplay is all about quick bursts, fast aiming and constant movement. It times you, constantly pushes you to move forward, and encourages you to frequently take cover while enemy AI shoot at you.
Declassified seems to understand the equation that leads to a successful, high-quality portable shooter, but the solution it comes up with would see it fail the end-of-year exam.
In theory, it sounds a lot like Unit 13. That game pushed you to aim for the best possible score, not necessarily to pay attention to the story or care about the characters, although it still did a decent job of filling us in as to what’s happening, something Declassified fails in miserably. The only difference is that the execution feels rushed, and the end product is uninspiring and frustrating. A portable Call Of Duty experience really should share some of the ideas introduced by Unit 13, which is actually a great handheld shooter, but it doesn’t matter if the gameplay is as stiff as it is in Declassified.
Declassified seems to understood the equation that leads to a successful, high-quality portable shooter, but the solution it comes up with would see it fail the end-of-year exam.
For one, the pacing is way off. Missions start with a little bickering, a short cutscene (if that) and a basic goal before you’re thrown into the action without any clear objective other than to shoot your way through the crowd. It’s fun for about 30 seconds before you inevitably die in what is a severely unbalanced damage system that makes the Normal difficult far too tediously challenging. Having to restart missions from the beginning after every death and not being able to skip over cutscenes makes things even worse, especially after the third or fourth time sitting through the same pointless introduction.
Enemy AI is about as smart as a doorknob, firing at you wildly even while you lie on the ground in cover. Random grenades will come out of nowhere, leaving you no time to get to cover because the blast radius is ridiculously large, and cars spontaneously explode in confined spaces, making it sometimes impossible to avoid death.
As for the controls, I feel that they’re OK, although not especially memorable. Aiming is stiff but manageable, but the touch-screen controls to knife and throw grenades are broken, and you’ll occasionally find yourself tapping one thing when you intent to tap another. Touch registration in that regard certainly seems a little off the mark.
The survival mode is, surprisingly, more enjoyable than the campaign, although it suffers from the same pacing and repetitiveness issues. I felt no real incentive to continue playing beyond the third or fourth waves as the action just isn’t as engrossing or satisfying enough to keep me playing.
The multiplayer is ultimately what will attract people to this title, and I have to admit that I don’t mind it. It’s far from perfect, and matchmaking issues seem to be a persistent issue despite a massive update post-launch, but once I did finally get into some matches I found the experience to be akin to the Syphon Filter multiplayer on the PSP, although that game towers over Declassified when it comes to map design, community features and gameplay. Hit registration is a bit off but serviceable once you get the hang of it, and the unlocking system is akin to what you see in every other Call Of Duty games.
It’s not without its issues though. Respawning seems broken at times, and the HUD sometimes displays enemies on the map that actually aren’t even there. Countless times my whole team would be frantically searching around an area of the map because a red dot appears on the HUD, only they don’t actually exist in the game.
The map design also leaves a lot to be desired. They’re small and ugly, although the community seems to have already chosen its favourites. The infamous Nuketown map from the first Black Ops makes an appearance here, although it’s been halved right down the middle so that you’re literally respawning directly in the line of enemy fire. It’s a pathetically designed map that was obviously included purely for popularities sake.
The modes all feel like Team Deathmatch because that’s basically all you’ll be doing: running around the map killing randomly appearing enemies. Drop Zone doesn’t work as a mode at all, because care packages appear sporadically, and the pleasing scoring system from consoles, which rewards you 20 points for simply staying on the marked area, doesn’t even happen in this case. No one seems to care for the marked points or for the Care Packages that are dropped.
That said, I did enjoy myself sparingly while playing Team Deathmatch...as long as the connection was strong and the match was full, both of which are a rarity. More often than not it would be 2v3, 2v2 or 3v1, which doesn’t make for an especially exciting multiplayer experience.
The Final Verdict
Declassified has the ideas that should make for a great portable shooter, but it ultimately fails in execution. It’s fun in bursts, but its downfalls overshadow its better traits, which are rare. Levelling up in multiplayer won’t take you long but I can’t imagine that many would play it beyond a few hours.
By Gaetano Prestia