January 17, 2013
Since Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified is one of the first first-person shooter games to take advantage of the Vita's dual analog sticks, as a gamer you'd expect the controls to be given some leeway. Due to this, the first area of the game is presented as a tutorial focused around a shooting range (time trial). Surprisingly the controls aren't all that bad. The snap target seemed to attach to targets with ease, and the aiming calibration, while a little bit sensitive, allowed manual target acquisition to actually feel kind of like playing on a current generation console.
This is where this comes to abrupt halt though, as the rest of the game is pretty poor. To start off, the front touch screen and rear panel seem to have almost been after thoughts. While knifing an enemy is replicated with the front panel at a single touch, throwing grenades is done in a similar fashion to other games on the system like Uncharted and Resistance. You can tap the grenade to throw centrally or drag and throw. The only problem here is that you will need to fully expose yourself in order to throw a grenade.
When you're behind cover, looking to the left to do an the over arm throw will proceed to give the player back their own grenade. This is rather problematic for obvious reasons. It's also possible to throw back the enemy grenades in a similar fashion by touching the screen, but the indicators aren't very accurate and more often than not it's not worth the risk.
The rear touch screen also has another redundant feature as it allows you to stabilise your shot. However, should you actually find yourself in possession of a sniper rifle, you'll find that it doesn't require much stablising anyway as still for any length of time usually results in death.
Perhaps the biggest faus pax of this game is just how easy it is to die. Call of Duty has always been associated with its veteran difficulty mode and there's nothing wrong with that - it's nice to have a challenge. This has been adapted over many different Call of Duty iterations to make the games less frustrating. However, in Declassified there are several new ways elements that are seemingly there to just frustrate players.
It's hard to know where to begin with the flaws in the game design, so it's probably easier to describe how the trouble starts. The campaign is essentially the special operations mode from Modern Warfare 2 and 3. In other words, it's a scenario based around rather unimportant story arcs and objectives that require a player to survive a mission with no mistakes, no checkpoints and rather harsh conditions. It's not anywhere near as rewarding to complete a mission in Declassified and the poor story does little to mask it.
The enemy reactions and AI programming are by far some of the worst to be seen for a while. Enemies hide behind cover completely silent waiting for players - it's sometimes like dealing with an entire map of campers. They also like to take cover and shoot at you through the said cover without exposing themselves - very fair. Normally this wouldn't be so bad, but on regular difficulty their aim is very precise and deadly. If you're in the open for more than a couple of seconds you are basically guaranteed a death. While that doesn't sound too bad, the game also features aim offset when you're shot and considering the handheld first person controls are still relatively unrefined, this makes it all the more challenging.
Enemies also seem to always know where you are, a sniper based mission towards the end of the game is a prime example of this. It features a friendly that players have to provide cover fire for with a sniper rifle from a building. However, it often ends up with you becoming the target for just about every enemy that should be shooting at the objective. Enemies also only spawn based on proximity. This has been used in numerous other games, but it means that proceeding through a level too quickly will result in enemies appearing on top of you.
There are numerous other flaws and critiques, but there is one that perhaps trumps them all. At the end of one level, enemies spawned at the top of a staircase. One hid and wouldn't come out, but was able to shoot and hit with precision. This initially prompted a retreat, but upon attempting to go back up the stairs, the game told me to turn back and displayed a "you're going the wrong way message". Upon ignoring said message, the game displayed a mission failed screen - great.
Some other modes also become available if the ten campaign missions aren't enough. There's a Hostiles mode, which is similar to Modern Warfare 3's Survival. Here, you are pitted against waves of enemies on a few different maps. There's also a multiplayer mode featuring 4 vs 4 online matches through Wi-Fi complete with kill streaks, perks and a leveling system. This would probably be ok if the rest of the game wasn't as unpolished.
Speaking of polish, the graphics and sound don't really push the Vita at all. It certainly doesn't offer anything new or different to the standard box like rooms and corridors and restrictive game design.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified has many fundamental problems, but the main one seems to be a lack of any proper play testing. It's clearly been pumped out as an attempt to make a few bucks off franchise and anyone who plays this will find it to be the most challenging Call of Duty game to date, but all for the wrong reasons. If you want to play a first-person shooter on your Vita, do not waste your time with this one.
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