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Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified

Score: 30%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Nihilistic
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1; 2 - 8 (Online)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

I pity the folks who will inevitably buy a copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified. The PlayStation Vita seems like it might be a good fit for the shooter genre, and shooters don't get much more popular than Activision's bread and butter. I'm even seeing Vitas being bundled with this title, as if they know that they will sell based on the name alone. Well, the joke is on the consumer: Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified isn't just a bad Call of Duty game, it's badly overpriced, as well.

The Vita is still in its infancy, and it will undoubtedly take some time for developers to unlock its full potential. That being said, Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified is a decent first step towards that potential. It isn't nearly on par with the recently-released Black Ops II, but it's light-years past the PSP's Roads to Victory (which is conspicuously included with this game). The action is smooth enough and the engine doesn't buckle too much under pressure.

There's really not that much to say about the sound in Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified. Gunfire and explosions have been done again and again and again and again in this series, and all you need to know about it in Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified is that it's mostly the same. It's pared down with the reduced scope of the action and the quality of the sound itself isn't up to snuff.


Gameplay:

Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified claims to be a midquel that reveals the details of a handful of classified operations that took place between Black Ops and its recently-released sequel. Since the storytelling in Black Ops was uncharacteristically not awful for the series, my interest was mildly piqued. Were we going to see more of the downward spiral of the criminally-insane Alex Mason, or what became of the cynical Frank Woods? No. I'll sum up the campaign in three words: dudes get shot. That's it.

So what if the story sucks, though? Call of Duty's storytelling has been on the side of Bay-esque lunacy since Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, but the gameplay was still strong. Well, the transition isn't so successful with Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified. It all starts with the content, or glaring lack thereof.

The campaign is an uninteresting series of incredibly short and linear operations. There are no checkpoints: if you die, you start the mission over. You can finish the whole thing in under an hour. And you won't want to do it again.

Time Trials give you a small handful of shooting galleries -- you know, the kinds that always show up at the beginning of every Call of Duty since Modern Warfare.

Hostiles is the standard survival mode that has you holding your own against waves of enemies that increase in number as you progress. No surprises here whatsoever.

The multiplayer has a bit of staying power, but only because it keeps the classic Call of Duty formula, which is inherently addictive and fun. Build your classes, earn some experience, get new gear, and bring the war to the online space. It's cool, but it certainly doesn't live up to the experience offered by the much more complete console and PC experiences.


Difficulty:

Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified's difficulty levels are identical to those in other Call of Duty games, with the exception of Recruit, which has been axed. Each offers the challenge it claims to, with the exception of Veteran, which once again recites the baleful prophecy, "You will not survive."

There are a few things franchise regulars will have to get used to, but it won't take much time to do so. However, everyone will be wrestling with the controls in more than one way. Some will struggle with movement, while others might struggle with aiming. Others still will be trying to make sense of the poorly-implemented touchscreen mechanics.


Game Mechanics:

Dual analog sticks are ideal for non-PC shooters, but the Vita's analog sticks feel a bit too loose for the fine-tuning required by console players. Maybe that complaint should be levied at the system itself, but it's still a factor in your enjoyment (or lack thereof).

Most of the Call of Duty controls make the transition reasonably cleanly, but the PlayStation Vita's lack of four shoulder buttons or clicking analog sticks requires certain mechanics to show up in expected places. By that, I mean the touchscreen. If you wish to melee an enemy, you must poke the front screen anywhere. If you want to throw a grenade, you must tap an icon and drag it to the general area where you want to throw it. It's extremely clumsy, and even more so when you're on the receiving end. You must tap a specific icon to throw it back. Sprinting is automatic, though you can customize that on your own.

Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified is an egregious show of bad faith in the intelligence of its audience. It is an awful, stripped-down mess priced at $49.99, a gross overestimation of the game's worth. Software drought or not, no self-respecting gamer should buy this.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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