Giant Bomb Review

227 Comments

Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified Review

1
  • VITA

You'd think that the people in charge of the Call of Duty franchise would be more protective of it than this.

At a glance, it looks and acts like Call of Duty. But it ain't.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified attempts to bring some of the flavor of 2010's Call of Duty: Black Ops to the PlayStation Vita by giving you new missions that put you in the boots of that game's main duo, Frank Woods and Alex Mason. While this could have served as an interesting segue between the events of that game and the just-released Black Ops II, Declassified is a disjointed mess of meaningless missions played against a clock backed up with a multiplayer mode that occasionally approximates something that resembled proper Call of Duty combat. More often, though, the game feels too small to be entertaining, with maps so tiny that you'll literally spawn with an enemy in your crosshairs... or vice versa. This would be a questionable purchase at traditional downloadable pricing. But at $50? No way.

To fit on the Vita, some control adjustments have been made. The triggers handle your aiming and shooting, but many of the other maneuvers--grenade tossing and melee attacks, specifically--have been moved to the touch screen. The rear touch is used to steady your aim while sniping and the game utilizes an auto-sprint option to keep things moving at a Call of Duty-like pace. But at best, controlling the action feels like a bootleg knockoff of real Call of Duty. Basic movement feels awkward and the auto-sprint feels unreliable, making it tougher to get away from grenades. It almost feels like the developers realized this, because the fuses on grenades feel way longer. Call of Duty has always been about snapping to your target when playing against AI opposition, and that snapping feels positively vital on the Vita. Turning with the right stick, despite a sensitivity slider, never feels right. Multiplayer matches, as a result, look like a collection of broken robots mindlessly running around tight corridors, passing one another, then clumsily turning to fire. As if that all wasn't weird enough, all enemies--human or otherwise--feel like they take three or four more bullets to drop. It's a messy game to play, and that feel permeates every mode.

The primary solo mode is a series of profoundly short time trials that put you, as either Alex Mason or Frank Woods, into a quick mission. You're given a few seconds of start-up storyline and sent on your way. There are no checkpoints, so if you die, shoot hostages, or stumble into some other failure state, you'll have to start the entire mission over. Most missions are only a few minutes long, so the lack of checkpoints isn't the end of the world, but it sure is a weird thing to include as your main single-player mode. You'll get cutscenes between missions, but no overarching story.

The AI you'll face in these missions is embarrassing. Enemies, seemingly aware that the game's controls are kind of bad, occasionally just stand there for a bit, giving you time to take them out at your leisure. Sometimes enemies two rooms ahead of you will just start shooting in your direction where they stand, even though there are multiple walls between you and them. Incidentally, this actually works out in your favor in some cases, since the game is sort of bad about telling you where you're supposed to be going. So just follow the gunfire. In an ideal situation, these missions would be good enough to inspire you to play them over and over again and place higher on the game's online leaderboards. But that is most definitely not the case.

The enemy AI is wildly erratic and feels broken at times.

The game also has a handful of time trials, which pit you against wooden targets as you try to get through a set of obstacle courses as quickly as possible. Hey, remember how Call of Duty games used to have the training course thing that would let you see which difficulty mode you should play on? Ever wish that this old idea was turned into a small mode of its own? Yeah, me neither. Hostiles mode, which is a wave-based survival mode, spawns in dozens of enemies for you to gun down and, between waves, drops supply crates to let you restock. Enemies typically make a beeline for your location, but they're also likely to get hung up on level geometry and just sort of vibrate up against a wall.

The most interesting option is eight-player multiplayer, which is built on a limited set of the same fundamentals that power other Call of Duty games. You'll gain levels, create custom classes with perks, weapon attachments, and more. It has a handful of modes, too, including Kill Confirmed and Drop Zone, which has you fighting over control of a single point on the map. It can handle up to eight players, which manages to be enough for the little maps included in the game. Remember how Nuketown always seemed like it was a little small? How about Nukehouse, which is a sectioned-off half of the original Nuketown map? No? On one hand, there's something novel about a handheld version of Call of Duty. But not like this.

The game is strangely quiet, even after a launch day patch that claims to adjust the sound levels. It feels like it's missing music or some more ambient battlefield noise. While we're talking about audio, it's worth noting that most of the original voice actors do not reprise their roles here. The graphics are often decent, but the stilted, awkward character movement just makes the action look strange.

The game is also plagued with a handful of technical issues. Multiplayer matches are often hard to connect to, and if you're connecting to what Sony refers to as a "Type 3" NAT, attempting to select the multiplayer menu at all simply pops up an "Insufficient NAT" message, preventing you from playing the multiplayer mode at all. Menus sometimes seem to freeze up for seconds at a time, preventing you from making a selection and moving forward. Joining multiplayer games often sends you back to the main menu instead of into a game. And the game can get caught in some sort of loop that causes it to pop up a wireless network error message over the single-player action without actually pausing the action. The game's already seen one patch, which put in an Ad Hoc multiplayer mode, but it's in need of more.

So it's a bad game on its own, but the technical issues really twist the knife already buried in Declassified's dark heart. Allow me to remind you that this game is $50. Do not buy this game for $50.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
227 Comments
Posted by Moncole

Sony fanboys are saying this is a good game.

Posted by Triumvir

Poor Vita. Poor, poor, Vita.

How much are 3DSs going for right now? :P

Posted by Jeff

@PerfidiousSinn said:

"but many of the other maneuvers--grenade tossing and melee attacks, specifically--have been moved to the touch screen."

Why do Vita developers keep doing this? The console is set up perfectly for first person shooters as it is. Putting in unnecessary touch/motion controls adds nothing. Stop it.

Because the Vita doesn't have two sets of triggers or sticks that click in. All those functions have to go somewhere.

Staff
Posted by reelife

Aaaaw =( I was really hoping that this game would at least be above average (Vita standard)... Also I think I've >heard< that this games engine is the same one as the resistance burning skies game? Resistance burning skies is not a good game!

Edited by Enigma777
@Jeff said:

@PerfidiousSinn said:

"but many of the other maneuvers--grenade tossing and melee attacks, specifically--have been moved to the touch screen."

Why do Vita developers keep doing this? The console is set up perfectly for first person shooters as it is. Putting in unnecessary touch/motion controls adds nothing. Stop it.

Because the Vita doesn't have two sets of triggers or sticks that click in. All those functions have to go somewhere.

Exactly. On the whole, touch based buttons (a la Uncharted and Gravity Rush) are not too bad because they're in the corner of the screen and your thumbs are right there anyways...  
 
But that crap where you have to point the camera at a light or rotate the Vita or use the backtouch for anything ever needs to go!
Posted by Phatmac

Wait, I thought only Alex reviewed bad games!

Posted by Slaegar

Nooooo! 
 
Stop having bad games vita! I want you so badly! 
 
I want to play Persona 4 Golden, but I can't justify buying a system for one game.

Posted by Zarile3

@Grissefar: Why does everyone always fault Sony? They didn't publish or develop the game, Nihilistic developed it, Activision published it.

Posted by Mechanized

Weird, I'm having a lot of fun with the game. These are legitimate complaints for the most part but I think the score and overall criticism is too harsh.

Posted by JoeyRavn

Oh, wow. First 1-star Jeff review in a while, if memory serves. I'm playing BLOPS II and it's quite a good game, even without the "for a Call of Duty" tag. It's weird that Activision would ever allow a game like this to exist and carry the CoD name, even if it's a Vita spinoff.

Edited by NTM

"Allow me to remind you that this game is $50. Do not buy this game for $50." For a one star game, shouldn't there be another smaller sentence that says, do not buy this game at all?

Posted by Enigma777
@Zarile3 said:

@Grissefar: Why does everyone always fault Sony? They didn't publish or develop the game, Nihilistic developed it, Activision published it.

What probably happened was that Sony wanted a COD on Vita really bad but Activision didn't have an internal studio to work on (or didn't want to invest a lot of money) so Sony said they'd partially foot the bill (or all of it) and handed it to Nihilistic which had already developed several (bad) exclusives for Sony. 
 
So yes, we can (at least partially) blame Sony for not handing this to a better developer (or pumping more time and money into the project to get a better final product). 
Posted by Gordo789

oh man, and all those vita bundles going on sale this black friday. Going to be a lot of disappointed new vita owners.

Posted by Xeirus

@Slixshot said:

HAHAHAH, I Love Jeff's animation for a 1 star review.

I've been on this site for a very long time and I have never seen that image.

Posted by SuperJoe

How can I trust Jeff when there are currently 60 positive user reviews on Metacritic?

For example, user "GlitterLicks" claims the "movements, animations feel very much like a console COD". GlitterLicks adds a disclaimer to this statement saying "By the way, I don't play COD on consoles, hate them".

Posted by dawnclover

@Mechanized: I agree. SP kinda sucks, except if you want to get all 3 stars on each stage and the leaderboards, but MP is pretty fun imo. They should have added Co-Op to hostiles too...

Posted by robcat09

@Gordo789 said:

oh man, and all those vita bundles going on sale this black friday. Going to be a lot of disappointed new vita owners.

I think the Vita is still a great device, despite this one game being underwhelming. Remember, the bundle actually gets you the game 'for free', so I think there will be plenty of people out there happy to make that purchase and have a decent amount of fun with this free pack-in game.

Posted by Mystyr_E

looks like the Vita has at least one saving grace this fall........

Persona 4 Golden

Posted by KDR_11k

Urk, this sounds worse than the DS Call of Duty games and those were already pretty boring. At least the DS games had proper campaigns. What is it with putting lazy or incompetent developers on Vita games? I guess I can answer that myself, low system sales plus significantly higher development costs due to better graphics capabilties... Basically trying to approach PS3 level graphics doomed it because it's too expensive to make proper games so people instead make cut-up mission by mission stuff like this.

Guess I should trawl the PSP and PS1 libraries if I want to get a fun game... Gravity Rush and Unit 13 got boring, LBP and Tales from Blob were fairly short so I'm looking for something new again.

Posted by msavo

@Mystyr_E said:

looks like the Vita has at least one saving grace this fall........

Persona 4 Golden

I can confirm Golden is amazing. Got an early copy.

Posted by falling_fast

I'e never seen the 1 star picture for Jeff before. that's a really good drawing

Posted by Krakn3Dfx

On the plus side, Assassin's Creed III Liberation and Need for Speed Most Wanted are both pretty awesome on the Vita. The system is capable of great things, Nihilistic just sucks.

Posted by algertman

DAAAAAAAAAYUUUUM! Not surprising. When was the last time GB gave out a 1 star review?

Posted by mattoncybertron

what a bummer, this could've been pretty decent :(

Posted by Unavailable

How long ago was the 1 star Jeff review picture drawn, and is this the first time it's been used?

Posted by iAmJohn

@AmatureIdiot said:

A new challenger for worst game of the year appears.

I'd be really surprised if something beats out Steel Battalion.

Posted by Yummylee

That was a surprise. I was totally expecting to see Alex's name next to the review.

Posted by fisk0

For some reason, Jeff's 1 star image reminds me of the end of Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot Le Fou.

Posted by algertman

@iAmJohn said:

@AmatureIdiot said:

A new challenger for worst game of the year appears.

I'd be really surprised if something beats out Steel Battalion.

CoD is actually playable.

Posted by Gordo789

@robcat09 said:

@Gordo789 said:

oh man, and all those vita bundles going on sale this black friday. Going to be a lot of disappointed new vita owners.

I think the Vita is still a great device, despite this one game being underwhelming. Remember, the bundle actually gets you the game 'for free', so I think there will be plenty of people out there happy to make that purchase and have a decent amount of fun with this free pack-in game.

fair enough! I've been curious about the vita but the hardware doesn't appeal to me and I don't see the quality of the games library improving by very much. I can't think of anything I want on there besides P4G and maybe Gravity Rush and a few downloadables. In a year or so if it isn't completely dead and there is more of a confluence of great games to pick up I might bite if the price is right. I remember feeling pretty down on the 3ds when I saw it at PAX east 2011 (that was march or april i think), and I just picked up a 3ds XL and am loving it so far. Maybe in a year it'll be better.

Posted by algertman

@robcat09 said:

@Gordo789 said:

oh man, and all those vita bundles going on sale this black friday. Going to be a lot of disappointed new vita owners.

I think the Vita is still a great device, despite this one game being underwhelming. Remember, the bundle actually gets you the game 'for free', so I think there will be plenty of people out there happy to make that purchase and have a decent amount of fun with this free pack-in game.

I dunno man. Next year will be a waste land for Vita games.

Posted by Nettacki
@zombie2011: What about Madden NFL 13? That one is also a game being bundled with a Vita.
Posted by JJOR64

Ouch.

Posted by Nettacki
@Little_Socrates: Madden NFL 13 is also one of the primary bundles if one likes sports games.
Edited by Etnos

@ucankurbaga said:

Worse then Modern Combat 3 for smart phones.

If you talking about the one made by Gameloft.. that one is actually quite good and its only 6 bucks...

Posted by radioactivez0r

Well, there's always the Lego Batman 2 Vita bundle.

Posted by IceColdGamer

Another scratch on the Vita's record. Shame.

Posted by darukaru

EA must be happy that War of Medals: Honorfighter is no longer the worst shooter released in 2012.

Posted by BasketSnake

"Wildly erratic AI" sounds funny.

Posted by Anaardvark

Ouch, I had this pre-ordered a while ago, until I saw the first trailer that came out. Instant pre-order cancel. Glad I made the right decision!

Posted by Knights

So let me get this straight this was supposted to be the Vita seller and it turns out to be a giantbomb of a game? Why is this Nihilistic company still making games? Burning skies was a crappy game too for the Vita. I bet they got whatever resources they wanted to make this... So sad....

Posted by fentonalpha

I'm sorry Jeff but did you review this game the way it's supposed to be? Jumping around erratically on a rooftop pretending to shoot your friends with a Vita while you play? No? Bad review.

Posted by civid

Wauw, at least now we know why it was never showed at E3. Awesome you reviewed this, I'm hoping for a QL though, would love to see this garbage in action :)

Posted by Dan_CiTi
@Jeff said:

@PerfidiousSinn said:

"but many of the other maneuvers--grenade tossing and melee attacks, specifically--have been moved to the touch screen."

Why do Vita developers keep doing this? The console is set up perfectly for first person shooters as it is. Putting in unnecessary touch/motion controls adds nothing. Stop it.

Because the Vita doesn't have two sets of triggers or sticks that click in. All those functions have to go somewhere.

Ragnarok Odyssey apparently uses them really well in a way that compliments the game(item slot you can tap at the edge of the screen), not feeling like "well we had to do this because it is there." I don't even think it uses the back-touch. 
Posted by AmericanNinja

Nobody finds it weird that the "games media" hates this game(just like burning skies) but yet gamers are having a fun time with it.

Edited by Seb

I have a vita and I am sad.

Posted by Cold_Wolven

I just don't think the right analog being as small as it is isn't suitable for precision aiming so shooters on the system will never feel 'right' unless that Killzone Mercenaries game does a better job.

Posted by upwarDBound

The Vita is practically dead in Japan and this game will likely do it no favors in other regions. I don't see a bright future for this system.

Posted by Nawls

@AmericanNinja: McDonald's sells a lot of God damn hamburgers.

Posted by mrcraggle

Just looking at the trailer from E3 I thought was pretty apparent of the quality of this game.