Call Of Duty: Black Ops Declassified is a divisive beast. Depending on which review you read scores can range from extremely low to extremely positive.
I would like to start this review by saying that Declassified does not capture much of the Call Of Duty experience. This is more like an upgrade of Nihilistic’s last Vita FPS ‘Resistance: Burning Skies‘. Not necessarily a bad thing but if you’re expecting a Call Of Duty game on your Vita this isn’t it.
I was in the minority that actually quite enjoyed Burning Skies, it certainly had some issues but on the whole I enjoyed it. From what I can gather Nihilistic finished that in May and then cranked out Declassified in about 4 months.
That appears to stem from problems with the company previously handling the port who, it sounds like, were trying to cram Black Ops II from the PS3 onto the Vita.
If Nihilistic did indeed have less than 6 months to turn this around then surely no-one can be surprised to know it appears to be based on the Resistance code with a few minor upgrades.
The main difference here is that there is no story mode to further the overall Call Of Duty experience. The single player game is one of frustrating, one life levels and time trials. Levels in which you have no checkpoints and only one life can serve to heighten tension (see Unit 13 for a good example) but these should be scattered through the game – not used on every level.
While some of the campaign was enjoyable the overall feeling was one of stress and not in a good way. I wouldn’t say avoid playing it but be prepared to face some tough and often unfair deaths. Alongside the campaign are time trial and survival modes which, while not spectacular, will give you some further challenge.
Graphically it’s not great. There isn’t really much I can say in this respect, it’s passable but not one of the Vita’s better looking games. The AI is also a bit erratic – enemies will just as often blow themselves up as hunt you down ruthlessly.
Where Declassified saves itself is with it’s online offering. Patches make this a different experience to what was originally reviewed elsewhere at the time of release. Stability is much improved – you do still get kicked to the main menu on occasion but it is a lot less than previously.
The main downside is that because the maps are smaller (to accommodate the 4v4 player cap) you’ll often find you spawn only to be killed straight away. To be honest though that is something I regularly encounter in the PS3 versions of the game as well so perhaps it won’t bother regular COD players as much.
There is a fairly fleshed out perk, weapon upgrade and killstreak system which allows you to unlock new stuff as you progess. Most of these seem nicely balanced and players seems to be using a variety of different set ups – always a good sign that the game is well balanced.
A nice touch that uses the Vita’s technology is that you can upload your loadouts to Near for friends/players close by to download. And you can use these regardless of whether you’ve unlocked the weapons/perks yourself. It’s a pretty cool feature that I’d like more games to adopt.
I’ve had a few rounds online that have genuinely rivalled some of the experiences I’ve had on PS3 in terms of excitement and tension and that is a big positive for me.
Certainly it fills me with hope that if someone can step up to the plate and deliver a great looking, great playing FPS for the Vita some brilliant experiences could be on the horizon. Could Killzone Mercenary be that game? I hope so but that’s a debate for another time.
So, Declassified is a tough one to rate. The single player experience is frustrating and doesn’t add much story-wise but is enjoyable in places. Counter to that I had a great time with the online, despite a few technical issues. I’d say try it – if you like the way the game handles (or enjoyed Resistance Burning Skies) then you’ll have a good experience with it but if you dislike how the engine plays then avoid.