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 csl316

Damn.  Annually, Call of Duty still sort of works.  If they start crapping out a bunch each year it'll be the end as we know it (it's how Guitar Hero died, of course).

Posted by TheGorilla

Considering it was a 6 month project maybe it's not so bad.

Posted by Korolev

Damn how I wish they could do proper Vita Quicklooks!

Posted by TripMasterMunky

I don't know if I can trust this review guys. Giant Bomb is currently running ads for this game on their site videos. Not sure if this score can be trusted, they might be biased giving it such a high - oh wait, nevermind.

I could also make a joke about Jeff being fired from Giant Bomb soon, but that would be too easy.

Posted by algertman

@Oemenia said:

Bad move Sony, this couldve saved the Vita.

Bullshit.

Posted by Boopie

this game is the jam!

Posted by Landon

Well... shit.

Posted by MattGrant

Well. That was rather unequivocal. xD

Posted by Timnoldzim

Showing the same not-giving-a-fuck as always, Jeff! I'd never expect a game of this caliber to be this bad, but from how you've described it, it really is.

Posted by glitznglam_style

It's a shame this game turned out this way. As someone who actually enjoyed the single player and multiplayer of Burning Skies, even though it had many issues, I was prepared for this to improve upon those issues. Sadly, this game turned out far worse, with a meaningless single player and some serious online issues that are even worse than the issues that plagued Burning Skies during its launch week. Still, I really enjoyed the campaign in Burning Skies, then the online was patched when I was ready to jump in. Sadly, Declassified's single player content feels like a hollow shell, whilst the online needs some serious work to improve it.

If you're getting a Vita this year, get the Assassin's Creed III: Liberation Bundle. That game has some problems, but it's a fantastic game despite those problems.

Posted by mulder000

Well, luckily I didn't get THIS bundle with my Vita. I only got my Vita 2 weeks ago and PS+ is giving me 5 games with my subscription on Monday, so who cares about this game.

Nice review. Now, back to playing COD: WAW. Much cheaper, lol.

Posted by Goronmon

Ouch, 1-star huh? That's not a good sign for the Vita. As someone who has recently started commuting a bit I was actually considering picking up a Vita to get in some gaming on the long rides, but it just seems like there aren't that many standout games. Either they are decent games with issues, or games like this that just look bad. Perhaps I'll just find my old PSP and play some of the older games I never got around to finishing.

Posted by courage_wolf

Well that sucks. Here's hoping Gurrilla Games get it right with Killzone Mercenary.

Edited by Bourbon_Warrior

@algertman said:

@Oemenia said:

Bad move Sony, this couldve saved the Vita.

Bullshit.

Actually I could of....This could of been Americas answer to Monster Hunter at lunchtime that is huge in Japan. Firstly it had to be a good game, 4 vs 4 via bluetooth or how ever Sony does it. Link this up with your account on either xbox\ps3\pc so you get bonus XP for the games you played at school that day and I think this game would of been a hit and sold alot of Vitas, plus put guns\unlocks\perks you could only get by playing the Vita version and the word of mouth with people playing it would be huge.

Posted by Chris2KLee

Considering this is the same developer that made the equally panned Resistance game on Vita, I'm not exactly surprised at the outcome.

Posted by Godlyawesomeguy

@TheGorilla said:

Considering it was a 6 month project maybe it's not so bad.

Is that an actual statistic?

Posted by Peteybird

Guys, I think he liked it.

Posted by PillClinton

Damn, how'd they manage to screw this up so badly? And 50 bucks?! Fuck no.

Posted by rjayb89

I don't know why they bother releasing games that aren't Persona 4: Golden for the PlayStation Persona 4: Golden Machine.

Posted by YukoAsho

No surprise. The developer was renamed and moved away from retail games. Also, there was dreadfully little promotion for the title after Sony announcing it at E3. It was nothing more than a cash-in, a Tiger Electronics-esque version of Call of Duty.

Why is it $50 games on this system fucking suck? First Uncharted and now this.

Posted by algertman

@Bourbon_Warrior said:

@algertman said:

@Oemenia said:

Bad move Sony, this couldve saved the Vita.

Bullshit.

Actually I could of....This could of been Americas answer to Monster Hunter at lunchtime that is huge in Japan. Firstly it had to be a good game, 4 vs 4 via bluetooth or how ever Sony does it. Link this up with your account on either xbox\ps3\pc so you get bonus XP for the games you played at school that day and I think this game would of been a hit and sold alot of Vitas, plus put guns\unlocks\perks you could only get by playing the Vita version and the word of mouth with people playing it would be huge.

I just can't buy into that. Why spend over $200 on a Vita and CoD when I can get the real thing for a console I already own? Vita CoD was never going to be the same as Black Ops 2 on PS3 and have crossplay. MS would never be cool with that and with the money they give Activision for DLC first and for being the console the game is designed on that was never going to happen.

Posted by EverydayOdyssey

Aren't these the same guys and gals that made that poor Resistance Vita game? They should probably just change their name to an Alan Smithee company.

Posted by synesthesik

It was extremely professional of Jeff to play this all the way through. He also wrote a damn good review. One couldn't fault him at all for playing this game for an hour and realizing it's a complete mess. One could fault the developers, however, for making a very shitty game. This is a pretty important IP to hand out to amateurs like knockoff candy. I'm sure there are quite a few indies that would've loved to get their hands on this instead. On the other hand, maybe not. LULZ.

Posted by BisonHero

@Oscar__Explosion said:

Holy shit the way Jeff was talking smack about this I thought it was gonna get a 3 star or at worst a 2. I didn't think it would end up being 1 star shitty.

When was he talking about it?

Posted by rjayb89

@BisonHero said:

@Oscar__Explosion said:

Holy shit the way Jeff was talking smack about this I thought it was gonna get a 3 star or at worst a 2. I didn't think it would end up being 1 star shitty.

When was he talking about it?

Numerous tweets on his twitter account:

https://twitter.com/jeffgerstmann

Just scroll down a bit. Starts around a tweet about 20 hours ago.

Posted by Zekhariah

I've never seen the TNT cigar. Looks spiffy.

Posted by BisonHero

@rjayb89 said:

@BisonHero said:

@Oscar__Explosion said:

Holy shit the way Jeff was talking smack about this I thought it was gonna get a 3 star or at worst a 2. I didn't think it would end up being 1 star shitty.

When was he talking about it?

Numerous tweets on his twitter account:

https://twitter.com/jeffgerstmann

Just scroll down a bit. Starts around a tweet about 20 hours ago.

Ah, thanks.

Posted by LiquidPrince

@rjayb89 said:

I don't know why they bother releasing games that aren't Persona 4: Golden for the PlayStation Persona 4: Golden Machine.

There are a handful of decent games on the Vita aside from Persona 4. That game is just going to be the best one.

Posted by whatsnme

woof.

Posted by Bourbon_Warrior

@algertman said:

@Bourbon_Warrior said:

@algertman said:

@Oemenia said:

Bad move Sony, this couldve saved the Vita.

Bullshit.

Actually I could of....This could of been Americas answer to Monster Hunter at lunchtime that is huge in Japan. Firstly it had to be a good game, 4 vs 4 via bluetooth or how ever Sony does it. Link this up with your account on either xbox\ps3\pc so you get bonus XP for the games you played at school that day and I think this game would of been a hit and sold alot of Vitas, plus put guns\unlocks\perks you could only get by playing the Vita version and the word of mouth with people playing it would be huge.

I just can't buy into that. Why spend over $200 on a Vita and CoD when I can get the real thing for a console I already own? Vita CoD was never going to be the same as Black Ops 2 on PS3 and have crossplay. MS would never be cool with that and with the money they give Activision for DLC first and for being the console the game is designed on that was never going to happen.

But do you have COD at lunch break? We used to play PSP tekken at lunch, would of loved playing 8 player COD. Need for Speed Most Wanted XP goes between consoles including Vita and 360. MS would pretty much let Activision do anything considered how many Xboxs have been sold because of COD.

Posted by sungahymn

AHAHAHAHAH.

Posted by Nettacki

The people at Amazon genuinely like this game. As if they just don't give a fuck about the campaign and feel the multiplayer is really good for a handheld. One of the highest rated reviews there comes from a guy who's never played a COD game before. So if there's more people like them across the internet, then perhaps the Vita isn't quite dead yet.

Posted by ReaganStein

@Nettacki: Citing amazon user reviews won't change Jeff's opinion. He played a junk game, and gave it a junk score. And his opinion does not seem to be an outlier. Buyer beware seems to be the overarching opinion from the majority of reviewers. Real reviewers, not some purchasers trying to make their waste of $50 feel worthwhile to lead other cows to the slaughter. At least you found a review pool more useless than metacritic user reviews to back you up though...

Posted by RaidenMitsuru

GODDAMN

Posted by Slab64

Don't suppose anyone commenting on the Black Ops 2 QL wants to defend their "Jeff is giving COD a pass" statements now?

Posted by Ashler

Wow, definitely not touching this. Wasn't this supposed to be the system seller for the Vita, I mean, it's the best selling franchise in gaming, and it's a POS on the Vita. :(

Makes me sad.

Posted by hollitz

Two worst game of the year contenders in one day?! SHIT IS HEATING UP!

Posted by ShinjiEx

1 star... it's not that bad and I've never played it yet alone own Vita ^__^

Posted by ShinjiEx
@Ashler: Persona 4 Golden. ^__^
Posted by Ashler

@ShinjiEx: I'm sure it will be a great game when it comes out (I'm in Europe btw, great...!), but it's not the system seller nor does it have the push behind it that CoD does.

Posted by Vitor

@courage_wolf said:

Well that sucks. Here's hoping Gurrilla Games get it right with Killzone Mercenary.

Well liberation is still one of the best PSP games ever made so I'm hopeful.

Posted by SupberUber

Ouch!

Posted by NekuSakuraba

Wow, I thought it would be bad, but not this fucking bad. Awesome review as always by the way!

Posted by xinix

Guess this won't be on my list when I get a vita...

Edited by SubwayD

I managed to pick this game up for about $10 and, well, I'm actually pretty happy with it.

That said, I'm in the minority of people who put way more time into score-attack and side mission stuff than MP thrills. Banging my head against a Veteran challenge level is my shitty idea of fun.

Still, weird tastes aside, the pricing for this is sickening. This should have been a downloadable game, $15 tops. Urgh. On the bight side, horribly overpriced Activision games retain their trade-in value. Once I'm done (that won't take long) I can sell it off for a profit. :)

Posted by ZRLeigh

I'm not a Call of Duty fan any more but was hoping the game would be at least decent to raise Vita's user base. Hopefully this piece of crap won't put them off the Vita.

Posted by capnhaggis

this is disappointing...Haven't been a huge call of duty fan for a while, but i was interested in this version for God know's what reason...Oh well, maybe I'll pick it up when it goes to like $5.00 :\

Edited by pyromagnestir

Has that always been Jeff's 1 star review picture? I don't know if I've never seen that before.

I shall miss them if they are taken away. Don't do it Dave!

Posted by kmg90

@graboids said:

I dont think I've ever seen Jeff's 1 star review image, so awesome!

Ditto

and its one good thing I can say about Black Ops for vita

Posted by miva2

And this was supposed to make the Vita more popular?

I hope Sony didnt have this in mind when they said they'll expect more christmas sales for vita.