Call Of Duty: Black Ops Declassified Review

by Gaetano 'Xbot' Prestia Featured

14 Comments 18 Votes 4923 Views 19/11/2012 Back to Reviews
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.

Get the Adobe Flash Player to see this video.

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

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Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Declassified

Platform: Vita
Developer: Treyarch
Similar to: Call of Duty: Black Ops II
 

More Info on Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Declassified

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Declassified

Call Of Duty: Black Ops Declassified Review Comments

OllyEbbz please be gentle :P

Beta said: OllyEbbz please be gentle




When you write things like " I feel it is still a step in the right direction, both for Vita and for the FPS genre on handhelds." it's kinda hard :P

But no, overall its a good review, you highlight a lot of my issues with the title and I feel a 5 is probably on the money considering the mixed opinions. My only issue is what I quoted you on above, seriously? the right direction? it feels like your trolling lol.
This is probably the death of FPS on Vita right here and quite possibly the beginning of the end for the handheld. It doesn't sell, the games don't sell no decent publisher/developer is interested... I can't imagine what xmas 2013 is gonna look like for the Vita.
Well, I mean that, if the controls were good, the missions longer (or maybe more missions) and the maps better, it would be a good game. The stuff that's there is fine...it's just how it works.

I'd have no issue with every CoD game on Vita offering the same TYPE of content if it was more fun to play. So in that regards I think it is a step in the right direction.

Beta said: Well, I mean that, if the controls were good, the missions longer (or maybe more missions) and the maps better, it would be a good game. The stuff that's there is fine...it's just how it works.
I'd have no issue with every CoD game on Vita offering the same TYPE of content if it was more fun to play. So in that regards I think it is a step in the right direction.



The singleplayer is rubbish. There's no two ways about it in my eyes. The missions are too short, the AI is no fun, the plot is non existent, the map designs are poor. There's no real incentive to play.
Imo there's no reason to not have a full campaign like its console versions. Have a save anywhere feature to allow quick bursts or more checkpoints than normal. The mission structure and what you get is down to an extremely poor developer in my eyes, not a step in the right direction. This title will get zero support and the multiplayer will forever be broken and a bore. With Nihilistic done maybe next years iteration stands a chance if Activision can be bothered.
5 sounds generous [Shifty]

The writing was on the wall months ago. It wasn't playable at any events.

OllyEbbz said:

Beta said: Well, I mean that, if the controls were good, the missions longer (or maybe more missions) and the maps better, it would be a good game. The stuff that's there is fine...it's just how it works.
I'd have no issue with every CoD game on Vita offering the same TYPE of content if it was more fun to play. So in that regards I think it is a step in the right direction.


The singleplayer is rubbish. There's no two ways about it in my eyes. The missions are too short, the AI is no fun, the plot is non existent, the map designs are poor. There's no real incentive to play.
Imo there's no reason to not have a full campaign like its console versions. Have a save anywhere feature to allow quick bursts or more checkpoints than normal. The mission structure and what you get is down to an extremely poor developer in my eyes, not a step in the right direction. This title will get zero support and the multiplayer will forever be broken and a bore. With Nihilistic done maybe next years iteration stands a chance if Activision can be bothered.



Well, do you think people would sit down and play long missions on their Vita like they would on console? Is it a similar type of gaming experience?

Like I said in the review Unit 13 does it well. Missions aren't long, but the gunplay is fun and smooth, and the missions at least have a little structure. I don't disagree that the "campaign" (and I say "campaign" lightly...) is rubbish, but I don't mind the structure of quick missions, a clear objective, and something that ranks you based on score or time. IMO that's better suited to handheld gaming. On the train I want to play a mission where I can better my score and time. I can do that with Unit 13, but not with Declassified, which is its downfall.

I think the reason this sucks so much is because there is little incentive, little reward, and as you said the AI is bad. But improve those things, give the missions some worth alongside trying to better your own score and time, and it would be better.

But we really should have expected this.
I forgot to mention I credit you for bringing up Unit 13, an under-rated gem, not that Sony thought so after closing down the dev.
I guess your right. They also need to add a cross game feature if there is a next time, maybe these short missions could affect the console title somehow kinda like the Strikeforce missions in Black Ops 2 I guess.
But with Nihilistic down for the count who would make another?
I agree completely with everything you said in the review. Id probably give it a 5.5-6. So sick of people comparing it to black ops 2 and expecting a console version of cod on a handheld. This game is definitely a good first step for an FPS on a handheld. The fundamentals are all there and they just need to work out the points you mentioned for future FPS vita games. Hopefully Killzone vita will be excellent.

davidhes said: So sick of people comparing it to black ops 2 and expecting a console version of cod on a handheld.


Then Sony shouldn't advertise the Vita as console games on the go.
@Beta Great review :D Probably the best I've read in regards to this game. You pointed out the games flaws without just trashing it(which seems to be the in thing). As for controls, I'm not finding the aiming a problem. The touch screen parts are a problem though. As you point out its common to hit knife instead of grenade with the way it's laid out. I'd have liked an option to use the back touch pad instead. Right side for knife, left for grenade. With this you wouldn't have to take your thumb off the right stick. It would also have made the HUD on the main screen less cluttered. I feel they really got the basics right with this game. It just needed a whole lot more polish. I'd give it about 6 for people wanting to play multiplayer FPS on a handheld. For people looking for a single player FPS on handheld, I'd say look elsewhere.

Blob said:

davidhes said: So sick of people comparing it to black ops 2 and expecting a console version of cod on a handheld.


Then Sony shouldn't advertise the Vita as console games on the go.



I'm sorry but I have seen very few vita ads frm Sony claiming that vita games are like console games on the go. Not saying there aren't, just that it is hardly one of the main features they are using to advertise the vita. Also you definitely can't claim that in regards to cod, this game has received no advertisement, so was never claimed to be black ops 2 but on vita. People expecting a full blown console experience are plain insane, if developers want to do it, I.e. NFS most wanted, then great, but just don't expect it. It's a handheld device built for short burst of game play. Declassified is nowhere near perfect, but it has the formula for handheld gaming mostly correct.
You wanna know where all the online community is. This guy *points at self* I am not a CoD enthusiast. In fact I hate the series. But online is reasonable, the most I play online with my Vita. It's not a savior but it is definitely a lot better the Resistance. Like after playing everything in resistance CoD beats it in every way (except for the gimic touch controls, but it's hard with a shortage of buttons)
I'm enjoying the online. The only problem is that I have to tether from my phone to get it. I never liked COD games until earlier in the year when I replayed Black Ops 1 and I find this one just as fun online.
The singleplayer is not so fun though, I can't get past the 3rd level :(
wow, seems horrible :L

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