Giant Bomb Review


Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified Review

  • 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+
Posted by big_jon

1 star!

Posted by phrosnite

Game of the Year.

Posted by MooseyMcMan

I feel sorry for you Jeff for having to play this game.

At least it was a well written review!

Edited by Grissefar


Sorry Sony, development costs of 500 bucks are not sufficient if you want quality Vita games.

Posted by leejunfan83

Damn son!

Posted by Giantstalker

One less reasons to buy a Vita. What a fantastic console thus far.

Posted by ucankurbaga

Worse then Modern Combat 3 for smart phones.

Posted by jessej07

"You'd think that the people in charge of the Call of Duty franchise would be more protective of it than this." Activision is usually much more careful about the quality when it comes to their IP.

Posted by fargofallout

Did you guys ever figure out a good way to do video capture for the Vita? And if so, any plans to quick look this? Not that I'm into torturing anyone, but I'd like to see it.

Posted by UberExplodey

Dayum sonnn!

Posted by deano546

Vita GOTY right here.

Posted by NapTimeSleeper

Damn. I thought it would've been cool to have the Black Ops multiplayer on a portable device. Seems like a total letdown though.

Posted by Atwa

I feel sad for people that buy this thinking they are getting some Call of Duty.. damn. 

Posted by Doctorchimp

YEAH, man the Vita really is proving me wrong. I totally should have bought one.

Posted by vonFlampanker

Damn. The Vita really needed this to be a good game.

Posted by CookieMonster


Posted by ManlyBeast

haha this review surprised me.

Posted by Shaanyboi

"The console experience on a handheld". Sony's words, not mine.

Posted by graboids

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


Gotta love that TNT cigar

Posted by Levius

A new challenger for worst game of the year appears.

Edited by RE_Player1

The Vita deserves better and unfortunately people will judge the console from this due to it being possibly the most popular bundle during the holidays. Congrats Nihilistic you have continued to take good franchises and make some of the worst games with them.

I'm so sorry you had the experience this Jeff.

EDIT: Even looking at the comments people judging the Vita as a platform from this game. Sony and Activistion should have put a bullet in it, the game has done more harm than good.

Posted by Oscar__Explosion

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.

Posted by Sammo21

To be fair, even in the console versions of Call of Duty I normally spawn within 30 ft of someone and they are either looking at my back or I'm lookign at them. :p

Posted by MarkWahlberg

A rare Dynamite Gerstmann appears!

Posted by PXAbstraction

As soon as I saw the name Nihilistic Software, I knew this game would be a disaster. There's a reason they're refocusing the company on mobile games. I can't remember a title in the last decade with their name on it that wasn't bad. When Sony refused to show anything about it beyond a title graphic at E3, I knew this would be a mess.

Thank you for providing this valuable public service Jeff. :)

Posted by CaptainAnarchy

I didn't think it could tank that bad.... Good review btw.

Posted by Nettacki

Weird, some guys over at the PS Vita Hub are saying the multiplayer's actually pretty good, minus some technical issues. They all agree that the campaign is crap though.

Posted by Video_Game_King

I thought Alex was the person around here allowed to give 1 star ratings.

Posted by dropabombonit

Knew this was going to the bad the moment I heard Nihilistic were making it. Resistance: Burning Skies was bad but this sounds flat out broken

Posted by august

Sounds pretty good!

Posted by louiedog

And that's when Jeff decided to buy Alex a Vita.

Posted by Kingloo

Activision cashing that Sony cheque.

Posted by probablytuna

Oh wow, this is probably the first time I've seen Jeff's 1-star image.

Posted by DeF

Oh wow ...I expected mindless mediocrity but THIS bad?

Posted by Xeonian

I doubt anyone is surprised by this review at all. Shame that Sony seem to have been hedging their bets on this game as the Vita saviour. If they're serious about making shooters the staple for the platform, they need better games than this to justify it. Otherwise, they should do well to look at the (admittedly few) ways the PSP was successful and try to work on that. On a related note, really hope Persona 4 Golden outsells Declassified.

Posted by Little_Socrates

Let me remind you that one of the the primary bundles for the Vita this holiday ships with this game. Meaning most people buying a Vita will either buy it with Assassin's Creed III: Liberation...or Declassified.

The Vita is absolutely fucked.

Posted by Baltimore

Could that fact that the Vita is doing so poorly be a big reason why this game is so bad? It's almost like that game is nothing more than shovelware.

Posted by Yanngc33

This game is available to me for free in the Vita bundle which when you buy that bundle at FutureShop you get a free copy of Uncharted for your Vita. Despite that fact, I still don't want this game

Posted by avantegardener

Fuuuuuck, that's quite surprising.

Posted by Solh0und

And So Call of Duty has sunk it's first low....since the PSP one.

Posted by a5ehren

@Yanngc33 said:

This game is available to me for free in the Vita bundle which when you buy that bundle at FutureShop you get a free copy of Uncharted for your Vita. Despite that fact, I still don't want this game

Did you guys get the AssLib bundle in the Frozen North? That would be a much better purchase.

Edited by Xer0Signal

@Giantstalker said:

One less reasons to buy a Vita. What a fantastic console thus far.

It's a shame that some people will inevitably see it this way. There are a good amount of games on Vita that are actually fun, but, Giant Bomb (among numerous other sites) haven't reviewed them (LittleBigPlanet, Dokuro, Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack!!!, Unit 13, Retro City Rampage), so, awareness is even lower than it already is thanks to Sony's poor marketing.

Posted by zombie2011

Wow, this and AC:L were Sony's big Vita games for this year and they both really disappointed it seems.

Edited by bigsmoke77

I bet Activision signed a contract to release a Call of Duty Vita game on november 13 and that makes Sony and Activision look like a bunch of idiots.

@Kingloo: I am going to go out on a limb and say that the Sony person who signed the deal with activision is probably going to get fired or is already gone.

Posted by Enigma777
@zombie2011 said:

Wow, this and AC:L were Sony's big Vita games for this year and they both really disappointed it seems.

I beat Liberation, and while it's not necessarily a good game, it's at least serviceable (with the occasional moment that almost fools you into believing it's good). But from the stuff I've heard, Declassified is on a whole another level of bad.
Posted by PerfidiousSinn

"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.

Posted by langdonx

Nihilistic Software doing their best to twist that knife that's currently in the Vita's side. For shame, as it really is a great piece of hardware.

Posted by Enigma777

The sad thing is that a bunch of casual people will (could?) buy this and then write off the Vita entirely based on a single bad game. The nail in the coffin was placed when Sony and Activision handed this to Nihilistic in the first place...

Posted by Slixshot

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