Platform: Playstation Vita
Release Date: November 13, 2012
The behemoth-like Call of Duty franchise usually entails a few things: a tight shooter, large setpieces, and record-shattering sales. The Vita could use all three of those things. Although not as dire as some sensationalists would like to point out, a shooter would benefit the Vita and a portable Call of Duty game is just about the best thing you could ask for. Beckoning to the call, Nihilistic Software created Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified, a game tailored to the Vita’s capabilities. Or at least, that’s what they told us. Declassified is an insulting pile of steamy trash that simultaneously spits on the exquisite Call of Duty name and almost sours the idea of a first-person shooter on the Vita.
Black Ops‘ engrossing take on the “numbers” and Black Ops II‘s obsession with future tech is nowhere to be found in Declassified‘s campaign, if you can even call it that. Instead of a cohesive story mode that follows a line of events, Declassified‘s campaign is a disjointed succession of loosely connected objectives with little to no relevance to one another. Even if they are connected, the incredibly dry pictures before each do a better job at boring the player into a slumber than saying anything of importance. A mission based structure sort of makes sense for a mobile platform, but the brevity and shoddiness of this mode makes it puzzling why it is so insulting short (I’m talking maybe an hour) and bad.
Shooting is the saving grace in every other game in the franchise, but, even if some of it is passable, everything surrounding the act of pulling the trigger is pretty shaky. Besides the faithful weapon choices, everything else concerning a gun is thrown together in a slapdash manner. Enemy AI is almost completely braindead and among the truly stupidest digital “intelligence” I’ve ever seen. Tired of shooting at someone? Just wait thirty seconds and he’ll either commit suicide by unloading into the car in front of him or explode by tossing a grenade at himself. Not even the AI wants to be in Declassified.
Kamikaze techniques aside, everything else is broken about enemy behavior. They’ll walk right past, beeline towards you, be shooting at nothing, stand completely still, and generally be no fun to fight. Spawns aren’t even handled well and levels are extremely cramped, allowing foes to pop up right behind you. And, of course, checkpoints are absent, so every you perish, be prepared to re-watch scenes over and over again.
If crappy, short cutscenes are’t your particular slice of pie, then you could try the other just-as-shallow solo modes. Hostiles is a wave-based survival mode and Time Trial is just what it sounds like. Hostiles mode points out the incredible shortcomings in the combat and is just plain to boot and Time Trial only has a few maps that aren’t half bad. Of course, they are barely half good, since, once again, it feels unfinished and deceptively shallow. Charging $20 would have been robbery for this package, but $50 is almost worthy of a felony in most states.
Declassified is a bad game, but what twists the knife a little more is how it squanders its potential. This could have been the Vita game to have and small episodes of the shooting faintly show it along with the familiar weapon selection and menu appearance. Alas, every aspect falls to pieces once you actually start playing. A downloadable-only title would have trouble escaping the criticism of the short campaign, stupid AI, and general incomplete nature of the package, but a premium-priced Vita game deserves to be wrung out for such a blasphemous proposal. Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified breaks new grounds only by having two colons in the title and feeling like it was also produced by two colons.
Call of Duty:
+Shooting shows potential
+Menus are slick and weapons are faithfully recreated
Pool of Dooty:
-Feels completely unfinished and every mode looks like the Alpha version of shippable code
-Broken, repulsively stupid enemy AI
-Extremely tight level layouts
-A terrible value especially given the $50 premium price point