Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified – Vita
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Nihilistic
Release Date: Nov 13, 2012
Genre: FPS
Reviewed by Mark Smith

Review Score: 1 of 5

For maximum enjoyment of Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified for the PS Vita you must first locate the download code for five year old PSP game, Call of Duty: Roads to Victory, enter the code into the PS Store, download, and play that game and only that game. As for the contents of the Vita game chip snapped into the plastic case with the new Declassified game…well…let’s just say that some things should have remained top secret.

Declassified is the perfect example of a potentially good game rushed to retail to meet a system launch date, but the sad thing is this game didn’t come out during the February launch window. It had nine extra months to gestate in the womb of Activision and Nihilistic and become the first great handheld FPS on the Vita or any system for that matter. But even those nine extra months weren’t enough to save this disaster, and you can’t imagine how much it pains me to say all this because I have been a huge Call of Duty fan and loyalist since the franchise was born on PC in October of 2003.

Declassified offers nothing that you expect or even want from a Call of Duty experience, coming across as more of a butchered version of Spec Ops crammed onto the Vita…well not really crammed since there are only 45 minutes of original gameplay to be found in the game, making this more suited as a $5 download title from the PS Store than a retail release doomed to the discount bin. There are only ten missions, and while they feature characters from the Black Ops franchise like Mason, Hudson, and Woods, there is no traditional campaign or coherent story. Missions are simply presented in menu fashion with star ratings that are supposed to encourage you to play and replay them like an arcade game. And with no checkpoint system in place you’ll be replaying them a lot.

Missions are not story-driven and lack any of the Michael Bay spectacle we expect from the series. Whether you are on a hostage rescue mission or providing sniper cover fire, you’ll always end up shooting your way through what can only be described as elaborate training levels with static pop-up enemies that start to exhibit some of the worst cheating AI I have seen in the franchise. You would think in a game so short and so linear they would have at least randomized the enemy locations to keep things fresh, but you can always count on those enemies being in the exact same spot at the exact same time, making the game more about memorization than reflexes. While you try to adapt to the horribly swimmy analog controls (hint: turn sensitivity all the way down) the enemy enjoys seeing through walls and player-seeking bullets that can kill you mere moments after entering a new area. Ironically, your best tactic for survival is to wait for the moronic AI to kill themselves, as they often seem to forget to stand up from behind cover before shooting or throwing grenades.

While not as chilling as Zombies, Declassified offers a Hostiles mode which has you facing off against endless waves of re-spawning soldiers on five maps. This is probably the more enjoyable mode of the package, but that isn’t saying much. And for those who like to speed-run their games, you can check out the Time Trial mode, also with five levels and a possible 3-star ranking to keep compulsive gamers playing longer than they want.

And then we come to multiplayer; perhaps the only reason people are still interested in this franchise. Declassified supports up to 8 players in 4v4 matches assuming you can find anyone else who has this game or wants to play. Several weeks after launch (and a 400mb patch download) I was finally able to scrounge up a couple of 2v2 games and even then the maps were so small, simple, and poorly designed that the experience was anything but fun and nothing like the console or PC. And that’s assuming you can keep all your players connected for the duration of the match. The server issues that plagued the game near launch are still present in 2013, which is a shame because the multiplayer component contains many of the fan-favorite features from the console like XP, perks, and prestige.

The presentation is merely average with okay graphics that are a slight step up from the PSP but can’t compare to the console version in quality or framerate. The sounds are good with all the appropriate gun effects, explosions and such, and the music is okay, but without a story lacks any emotion, and it all lacks the power and punch unless you are wearing headphones. I used this game to test my new Kunai headphones from Tritton, so it sounded better than it would on most headphones or ear buds even though the static-filled online chatting for multiplayer was almost completely useless.

There was no effort to make this game special for the Vita, either in functionality or gameplay. While the Vita’s second analog stick makes the game slightly easier to play than the PSP game that comes with it, there is no real use of the accelerometer, and the touchscreen offers gimmicky moments of melee and swiping your grenade tosses. Near technology supposedly allows you to share loadouts with other players in the area, assuming you can find them, but there is no connectivity with the PS3 version of Black Ops 2. I was really hoping for something like Sony did with Resistance where you could find intel in the PSP game that would unlock weapons in the console game.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified is a broken and uninspired mess from the moment you take it out of the box, so don’t let that ridiculous ad campaign fool you into thinking anything different. You won’t be diving and rolling around rooftops in exciting multiplayer matches…you’ll be jumping off rooftops in utter despair. If you are looking for a great shooter on the Vita then check out Unit 13. I know it’s not an FPS and it has no multiplayer, but it’s fun to play, looks great, and has five times the content. As for me…I’m still a fan of the Call of Duty franchise, so I’ll just pretend this game never happened. Consider yourself warned.