Giant Bomb Review

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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 Grissefar

@Zarile3 said:

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

Because this game exists only because Sony gave Activision a bunch of cash, to make a Vita game with the CoD name on it.

Edited by Cybexx

I wasn't expecting this to be good considering how little they have shown of it but man. At least Persona 4 Golden should be good but the Vita is going to have scrounge up an exceptionally good 2013 to stay relevant.

Posted by hansobach

@AmericanNinja: yeah we shouldnt really care about vita reviews most of them are only hating anyway, just buy which game we think are good and enjoy them

so far CoD Vita is very fun :)

Posted by Winternet

@AmericanNinja said:

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.

Because people can have fun with really bad stuff.

Posted by delt31

I generally agree with Jeff but he is really off on this one. Yes the SP is a waste but the multi is actually very fun and addicting. There is no way in HELL this game deserves a one star. It has the best Multi experience ever on a handheld period. Is it perfect? Def not. But damn is it fun online. Don't believe me? Check amazon, neogaf, etc and you will see a lot of positive responses.

I feel bad for those who will read this review and dismiss this game. If you're interested in COD MP on the go - get this game. Period.

Posted by Graham_Nix

Holy shit, look at the Metacritic user reviews: http://www.metacritic.com/game/playstation-vita/call-of-duty-black-ops-declassified

Posted by devilzrule27

@Cold_Wolven said:

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.

Burning skies feels great as an FPS just that the game itself is terrible. so it is possible.

Posted by hansobach

@delt31: agree the MP is good the reviewer from big sites always try to hit on vita but we know better !

Most user enjoy this game

Posted by Snail

I missed the TNT-in-mouth Jeff drawing.

Posted by mnzy

@Graham_Nix said:

Holy shit, look at the Metacritic user reviews: http://www.metacritic.com/game/playstation-vita/call-of-duty-black-ops-declassified

What the hell is that? Are they getting payed or just really stupid fanoys?

Posted by triviaman09

They should do a quick look of this. I know Vita QL's are hard because of the video issue, but I'd like to see this thing running.

Posted by Mandrewgora

I will not buy that game for $50.

Posted by spiceninja

@upwarDBound said:

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.

Playstation Plus for Vita was just revealed yesterday and it's incredible. 6 free games, 4 of which are full retail games. I'd say getting a Vita and PS+ would be a sound investment. But if Sony continues to offer up the system seller games like Uncharted and Gravity Rush for free then I can see major problems down the road. I just don't see how they're making money offering up stuff like that for just $50 a year.

Posted by GioVANNI

@mnzy said:

@Graham_Nix said:

Holy shit, look at the Metacritic user reviews: http://www.metacritic.com/game/playstation-vita/call-of-duty-black-ops-declassified

What the hell is that? Are they getting payed or just really stupid fanoys?

Almost certainly has to be Vita militants who need to justify their 250 purchase by being crazy.

Posted by spiceninja

@mnzy said:

@Graham_Nix said:

Holy shit, look at the Metacritic user reviews: http://www.metacritic.com/game/playstation-vita/call-of-duty-black-ops-declassified

What the hell is that? Are they getting payed or just really stupid fanoys?

"The general populous have been crippled on behest of the truly numerous hit driven titles that have landed on PlayStation Vita but with the latest title, +++Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified+++, THEY once again must burrow beneath their breezy wallets for more dough as +++Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified+++ is MOST stunning, radiant like a colourful bucket. Developed by devout TREYARCH cousins, Nihilistic Software(tm). +++Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified+++ takes the CALL OF DUTY to a wholesome level, gun banging has never been more offending...or ferocious. Controls work like a swinging charm as you quell superfluous targets and music is swelling, hellishly swell. This squashes competitor VIDEO GAMES ( ---3DS--- ) and rushes to a new era of online power play stretching beyond mankind’s own will. Thank you."

Holy. Fucking. Shit. What is that?

Edited by falling_fast

did they just change the box image attached to this review?

I guess they don't want people to get this confused with blops2. pretty funny.

Online
Posted by iceman228433

You knew this game was going to be garbage when they never talked about it and the developer changed there dam name lol.

Posted by TheHBK

But hey, on blackfriday you can get this with the Vita for only $199, you can't miss baby!

Posted by ptys

Wow, I've never seen the one star cartoon of Jeff before, lol. As someone interested in a Vita, this really makes me think twice if their top tier like this and Assassins keep getting mediocre reviews, why bother.

Posted by LostFlock

Fuck writing the review Jeff, all you needed was the score and the drawing.

Edited by kerse

Is this the first 1 star from Jeff? First time I've seen the 1 star portrait.

I'm still waiting for at least one other game to come out on the vita besides P4:G so I can justify buying one, just one more good game.

Posted by Xer0Signal

@ptys said:

Wow, I've never seen the one star cartoon of Jeff before, lol. As someone interested in a Vita, this really makes me think twice if their top tier like this and Assassins keep getting mediocre reviews, why bother.

Because there are a lot of other awesome games on the system that don't get reviewed because sites don't care enough.

Posted by RobertOrri

Please guys, do a quick look. We NEED a quick look.

Posted by MetalBaofu

@kerse said:

Is this the first 1 star from Jeff? First time I've seen the 1 star portrait.

I thought I remembered seeing his one star image before, so I went looking. He's had a few others. Rock Revolution and Tony Hawk: Ride got one stars from him, and I believe one or two other games did, as well.

Posted by JFunkhouser

Need quicklook

Posted by Dagbiker

Too bad. I really hope the Vita gets some good games soon, because I dont want it to die.

Posted by ZombiePie

@JFunkhouser said:

Need quicklook

Sony has still not made capture equipment for the PlayStation Vita accessible to the public or press.

Moderator
Posted by artgarcrunkle

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

Why would you think that?

Posted by Jeff

@delt31 said:

I generally agree with Jeff but he is really off on this one. Yes the SP is a waste but the multi is actually very fun and addicting. There is no way in HELL this game deserves a one star. It has the best Multi experience ever on a handheld period. Is it perfect? Def not. But damn is it fun online. Don't believe me? Check amazon, neogaf, etc and you will see a lot of positive responses.

I feel bad for those who will read this review and dismiss this game. If you're interested in COD MP on the go - get this game. Period.

Or you could spend an extra $10 and get the real Call of Duty game instead of a stripped-down, awkwardly controlling disaster. But hey, if you're so desperate for something to play on a handheld that this still sounds like a good deal, then yes, by all means, go buy it! Enjoy! Consume!

Staff
Posted by vhold
@artgarcrunkle said:

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

Why would you think that?

Because it's such a valuable brand and this hurts it?   Another company could make the exact same game, but not sell as many copies because people won't recognize it the way they do Call of Duty.  But if they start putting out really substandard games, the brand will no longer mean anything.    
 
Kinda like how Star Wars actually used to be pretty good brand for video games, it's track record was good, but in the last 2 generations or so they've totally abused it and now most people assume Star Wars games are crap.  Same thing with Sonic The Hedgehog I suppose.  They just drove it into the ground.
Posted by vhold
@ZombiePie said:

@JFunkhouser said:

Need quicklook

Sony has still not made capture equipment for the PlayStation Vita accessible to the public or press.

I have a hunch that this is putting a pretty heavy bias against PS Vita games, I get the impression the GiantBombers, especially Jeff, feel a bit jilted toward Sony.  I can't blame em, they live and die by those videos, so a platform that's just closed off to them like that is kind of a big deal to them.
Posted by JerichoBlyth

Jeez, I just need to look at who is developing the games nowadays and I can automatically think of an average score at the top of my head.

When I had seen the Resistance Vita score earlier on this year and had a chance to play it as well...I just knew they couldn't do anything right with a first person shooter and I was convinced COD Black Ops Declassified would be a stinker.

Why do huge companies like Sony and Activision trust these idiots with their precious franchises!?

Posted by MoonwalkSA

@PlasmaBeam44: Holy shit. That's insane, but now I love the phrase "radiant like a colourful bucket"

Posted by Demoskinos

Ouch. Surprised Alex didn't review this he ends up usually getting all the utter shite games like Blackwater.

Posted by Nawls

@vhold: Yes, because a game simply being $50 worth of uninspired hot garbage is way too boring of an explanation for Jeff's review.

Posted by Delta_Ass

Man, I thought for sure this was gonna be an Alex review.

Posted by Nettacki
@Jeff said:

@delt31 said:

I generally agree with Jeff but he is really off on this one. Yes the SP is a waste but the multi is actually very fun and addicting. There is no way in HELL this game deserves a one star. It has the best Multi experience ever on a handheld period. Is it perfect? Def not. But damn is it fun online. Don't believe me? Check amazon, neogaf, etc and you will see a lot of positive responses.

I feel bad for those who will read this review and dismiss this game. If you're interested in COD MP on the go - get this game. Period.

Or you could spend an extra $10 and get the real Call of Duty game instead of a stripped-down, awkwardly controlling disaster. But hey, if you're so desperate for something to play on a handheld that this still sounds like a good deal, then yes, by all means, go buy it! Enjoy! Consume!

Good point Jeff. Luckily, I'm not desperate enough for a COD on the go, so I'll stick to some other games like Persona 4 Golden or Retro City Rampage. Or even Rayman Origins, if I can get a copy on the cheap.
Posted by djhicks1

Quicklook incoming?

Posted by satansmagichat

It was worth clicking on this just to see Gerstman's 1 Star avatar. Hilarious.

Posted by TooWalrus

Hooooooly shit. I was hoping this would at least be decient, as I'll probably be getting it for free this thanksgiving, but man, that sounds terrible. A portable Call of Duty would be kinda nice, and I was OK with most of that list of removed features, but this just sounds like a drag. Hopefully the next attempt (which has to be coming, right?) will be much better. Hell, I'd be cool with them just porting CoD4 to the system and calling it good. The Vita is more powerful than a Wii, right?

Posted by Dethfish

God damn it, Vita game developers. You're starting to piss me off. I really like the Vita, stop trying to kill it.

Posted by Ujio

LoL! It appears the hits just keep on comin' for the Vita!

Posted by lockload

@artgarcrunkle: Because they have so far, the cod games have all been good quality

Posted by VisariLoyalist

vita getting hit hard damn, just taking in totality all of the console port attempts not looking great for it.

Posted by Nerolus

Ouch.

Posted by Oemenia

Bad move Sony, this couldve saved the Vita.

Posted by delrobertto

gerstman laying it down.

bummer would have loved this to be even half decent

Posted by RiotControl

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qIbFqhTgHw

I think this video just about sums it up.

Posted by vaportra1l

Wish they just ported COD4 over to Vita, properly of course.

Looks like my vita purchase was a waste of 300 bucks more and more.

Posted by beard_of_zeus

@SuperJoe said:

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".

Haha, delightful. It's like you've managed to capture the essence of the internet in this tiny microcosm here.