Since its release at the end of February, the Vita has seen a handful of attempts to provide a console-like experience on the struggling handheld. With the immense popularity of first-person shooters, it's surprising to see Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified as only the second released on the Vita to date. Hot on the heels of Nihilistic's last title, Resistance: Burning Skies, Declassified left no time for the studio to learn from the mistakes made on their first portable FPS, and it shows.
Most levels consists of clearing out enemies – sometimes twins!
Declassified's story – if you can call it that – consists of short vignettes that loosely tie together the missions of the game's protagonists, Alex Mason and Frank Woods, spanning 1975 to 1982. While story has never been a huge selling point for the Call of Duty franchise, even the gameplay is substandard. Each level, called an operation, rarely entails more than clearing out room after room of enemies or picking up some kind of intel, and sometimes you're under a time limit. Taking a page from the Vita's third-person shooter Unit 13, most of these operations last anywhere from five to ten minutes, a perfect length for on-the-go gaming. Yet just as the game starts to show some promise, it ends. This is because there are ten operations, and Black Ops Declassified is only one hour long.
Also included are five time trials. As seen in other Call of Duty titles, these time trials require players to clear areas of enemies while not hitting any civilians and moving through the level as quickly as possible. Even though they are short, the time trials provide an appropriate level of difficulty. Finishing the level garners one star, knowing the level and a quick pace grants two stars, and continued practice will leave you with three stars. They certainly don't make up for the rest of the single-player mode's shortcomings, but they are enjoyable for the few minutes they last.
Not even the ever-popular Zombies mode from previous Treyarch games is present, so players get the wave-based Hostiles mode instead. The player chooses one of five maps from multiplayer, starts with a revolver, and must use enemy weapons and care packages dropped between waves to survive as long as possible while earning stars based on the total number of kills. Though not as in-depth as Zombies, it's one of the few hidden "talents" this title shows.
Have fun watching this screen. You'll be staring at it a lot when trying to play multiplayer.
Because Call of Duty franchise has become one of the most popular in gaming's history, dominating sales records and lists of most played games alike, it would be a safe assumption that playing Kill Confirmed or some classic free-for-all on the Vita would be a fun and worthwhile experience. Unfortunately this isn't the case. If you manage to get into a match, most of the maps are scaled-down versions of Nuketown and other popular ones, but your enjoyment hinges on the unresponsive controls.
Multiplayer is where the biggest problems arise in this this extremely poor title. I was rarely able to connect to sessions, getting as far as the match loading screen, only to return to the main menu or have the game freeze on a static image. Even when I was able to connect, I suffered gameplay issues, most notably enemies taking twice as much damage to kill, general lag spikes, and using my knife when trying to call in killstreaks due to poor touchscreen functionality.
It's clear that Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified was developed at the same time as Resistance: Burning Skies, as Declassified shares many of the same problems. The muddy draw distance, abysmal AI, and a general lack of graphical polish will leave anyone wanting more. The single-player campaign is hardly present, multiplayer can't even be considered functional, and the only redeeming quality this game has is Hostiles mode, which offers zero replay value once completed. I may not be a Call of Duty fan, but I would never wish for the franchise to sink as low as it does in the hands of the now defunct Nihilistic Software.
Developer: Nihilistic Software
Release Date: November 13, 2012
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign), 2-8 (Multiplayer)
Platforms: PS Vita (Reviewed)