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 Refresh
Posted by tomvek

I'd love to see a quick look of this just to see how bad it is.

Posted by WMoyer83

No amount of shameless Mountain Dew and Slimjim promotional tie ins can save this awful disgrace.

Posted by glitznglam_style

@Chris2KLee said:

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

Burning Skies Metacritic is twice what this is. Burning Skies is at 60, Declassified is at 29. Not quite "equal".

Posted by fisk0

@glitznglam_style said:

@Chris2KLee said:

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

Burning Skies Metacritic is twice what this is. Burning Skies is at 60, Declassified is at 29. Not quite "equal".

There was no mention of it in this review, so maybe it's been changed since then, but when IGN's Podcast Beyond talked about it a month or so ago they said the (human) enemies still used the skeletons and animations of the Chimera from the Resistance game. If that's still true, I can certainly understand a much lower score, as even if the Resistance game was bad, they at least created a bunch of assets for it, while this kinda seems to have been a re-skin of that.

Posted by fisk0

@miva2 said:

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.

You can probably count on it being the best selling title on Vita though. When it comes to franchises like Call of Duty and Resident Evil, it's the name they're selling on, not quality or review scores.

Posted by Moncole

These devs shouldn't make shooters, they should try a different genre to see where their talent is.

Posted by iAmJohn

@Demoskinos said:

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

Do not forget: Alex willfully reviewed Blackwater. He is a better (and more insane) man than any of us.

Posted by CarlosTheDwarf

Oof. Guess I picked the wrong day to stop sniffing glue.

Posted by YukoAsho

@fisk0 said:

@miva2 said:

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.

You can probably count on it being the best selling title on Vita though. When it comes to franchises like Call of Duty and Resident Evil, it's the name they're selling on, not quality or review scores.

Without the full multiplayer experience, though, I can't help but wonder.

Posted by TheSilentTruth

I was thinking about getting the PS Vita bundle that comes with this game. I guess I'll just dodge the bullet (no pun intended) and save my money.

Posted by Jackal888

@Vitor said:

@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.

I am upset Killzone Mecenary is not third person view like Liberation. I really loved that game on the handheld.

Posted by Nettacki
@ReaganStein said:

@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...

What makes you think everyone at Amazon is " trying to make their waste of $50 feel worthwhile to lead other cows to the slaughter"? Reading some of their reviews (which at least are fairly thorough and go through the mindset of the guy reviewing them as too how it makes a good game in their minds) to me seems like they genuinely like the game despite the shitty single player and multiplayer limitations/flaws. Key word: seems. 
 
Keep in mind: I'm not really planning on getting this game any time soon until there's some massive price drop or something. I think it's important to get both sides of the story when it comes to a game as seemingly polarizing between critics and fans as this one.
Posted by PandaBear

@Nettacki said:

@ReaganStein said:

@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...

What makes you think everyone at Amazon is " trying to make their waste of $50 feel worthwhile to lead other cows to the slaughter"? Reading some of their reviews (which at least are fairly thorough and go through the mindset of the guy reviewing them as too how it makes a good game in their minds) to me seems like they genuinely like the game despite the shitty single player and multiplayer limitations/flaws. Key word: seems. Keep in mind: I'm not really planning on getting this game any time soon until there's some massive price drop or something. I think it's important to get both sides of the story when it comes to a game as seemingly polarizing between critics and fans as this one.

I think it's that "defend it because you own it" mentality. I mean you could find someone who bought a piece of shit game and likes it. I think reviews from Amazon (or any user submitted site) usually skew either way too high and way too low anyway... kids with an axe to grind rating a game too low or fanboys going mental over a mediocre game are easy to find. Jeff didn't like it... what can he do about it? Reviews are subjective, if they weren't nobody would ever disagree.

At the end of the day I trust Jeff. And he liked Black Ops II, so even if Declassified was bad he'd probably give it two or three stars, but one star must mean he hated it... so I'll wait for it to show up for free on PlayStation Plus.

Edited by vinsanityv22

So, I guess, all that leaves is a Quick Look of this quality, quality game? Pleeeeease? :)

I hope Activision just goes back to contracting N-Space for portable Call of Duty games. I hope they go back to Nintendo handhelds too; I have no doubt that Sony paid for an exclusive COD game to push Vita sales, but that's not gonna do squat anyway this holiday season when the game is reviewing so badly. It should go back to Nintendo next year, I bet. I just hope N-Space is going to be able to make a quality game on 3DS; Heroes of Ruin was... less than good.

Posted by BLKZOMBIE

Eggh...gross.

Posted by hidys

@tomvek said:

I'd love to see a quick look of this just to see how bad it is.

According to Jeff they don't have the tech to quick look vita games yet.

Posted by Oscar__Explosion

Now that yahoo mentions Jeff's review hopefully nobody buys this shit game. (games.yahoo.com/blogs/plugged-in/call-duty-black-ops-playstation-vita-deemed-embarrassment-181628122.html)

Posted by Rowr

still not sure why everyone is so invested in seeing the vita fail. Reminicent of all the sony vs ms fanboy carry on from 3-5 years ago. i guess theres always a fresh cycle of 13 year olds buzzing around game sites.

sad to see this game sux though i cant say i was really holding out for it or anything. it would be nice to see a competent fps on the vita though, its more than capable.

Posted by Asrahn

@PandaBear said:

@Nettacki said:

@ReaganStein said:

@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...

What makes you think everyone at Amazon is " trying to make their waste of $50 feel worthwhile to lead other cows to the slaughter"? Reading some of their reviews (which at least are fairly thorough and go through the mindset of the guy reviewing them as too how it makes a good game in their minds) to me seems like they genuinely like the game despite the shitty single player and multiplayer limitations/flaws. Key word: seems. Keep in mind: I'm not really planning on getting this game any time soon until there's some massive price drop or something. I think it's important to get both sides of the story when it comes to a game as seemingly polarizing between critics and fans as this one.

I think it's that "defend it because you own it" mentality. I mean you could find someone who bought a piece of shit game and likes it. I think reviews from Amazon (or any user submitted site) usually skew either way too high and way too low anyway... kids with an axe to grind rating a game too low or fanboys going mental over a mediocre game are easy to find. Jeff didn't like it... what can he do about it? Reviews are subjective, if they weren't nobody would ever disagree.

At the end of the day I trust Jeff. And he liked Black Ops II, so even if Declassified was bad he'd probably give it two or three stars, but one star must mean he hated it... so I'll wait for it to show up for free on PlayStation Plus.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-purchase_rationalization

Posted by Mooby923

Ya I figured it would be around this range. It is a shame because if done right it could have been a system seller.

Posted by ike7779

lol at Jeff's review image. Starting to think all reviews should drop the text and be solely expressed by a Draw Something image.

Anyway, I blame the bloppers.

Posted by YukoAsho

@hidys said:

@tomvek said:

I'd love to see a quick look of this just to see how bad it is.

According to Jeff they don't have the tech to quick look vita games yet.

I can't fucking believe it's been this long and Sony still haven't sent over a capture kit. Considering how influential quick looks are to many people, you'd think that would be a priority.

Posted by Lind_L_Taylor

It's nice to see somebody finally taking a shit on Call of Duty. :)

Posted by Smashlampjaw

I bet people will still buy it lol :(

Posted by Krakn3Dfx

I gotta say that, yeah, while the SP campaign is a short (for the best IMO) disaster, the MP aspect of Black Ops Declassified has been super fun. I know 4 other people who bought it for the MP aspect, and they've been enjoying the shit out of it, too.

Review seems harsh at 1/5, but to each his own. I would probably do at least 3/5.

Posted by daigen

Yes I bought this game... it's not great... actually it is that bad... but it had so much potential. After playing CoD Blops2 on the Wii U gamepad I want a real CoD on Vita even more :'( Maybe they will release a patch that will automatically give anyone who bought this game the Platnium trophy to make up for dragging their sack over the hot coals.

Posted by DrSharky

*face-palm* I have add for this game on the same page as a 1/5 review....