From the moment Sony announced the PS Vita's second analog stick, you could hear Call of Duty fans around the world scurry about with excitement. Finally there would be a portable game system that could accurately recreate competitive first-person shooters. And just in time to piggyback with Black Ops II, Activision has delivered on the promise with an exclusive Call of Duty title for the handheld market. Boy are longtime fans of the series going to be mad when they play Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified.
After releasing seven different versions on modern game consoles, you would think that Activision might know how a thing or two about making a Call of Duty game. At this point the formula is so obvious that even a C-list developer should be able to hammer out a workable Call of Duty game. Apparently that is not the case, because Black Ops Declassified is an unmitigated disaster. Not just a disappointing Call of Duty spin-off, this PS Vita exclusive is one of the worst games of the year.
Expanding the fiction of Black Ops, players switch between Special Forces operative Alex Mason and Sergeant Frank Woods. Set between 1975 and 1982, Black Ops Declassified is meant to fill in some of the gaps and further the mythology of these two characters. We see these men sabotaging missiles in Russia, meet up with a Stasi defector in Germany, snipe hostage takers in Nicaragua and recover the CIA analysts in South Vietnam.
Although each mission starts out with an obnoxious cinema, there's really no story tying everything together. There's no overarching bad guy to fight against or even an ending once you've completed the game, Black Ops Declassified is just a series of one-off missions. Perhaps all this has resolution in Black Ops 2, but as a standalone Call of Duty narrative, Declassified is a complete failure.
If inept storytelling was the only problem, then perhaps I might give Black Ops Declassified a pass. But we're only getting started. The ten missions only take five or six minutes to complete, some are as short as 120 seconds. It's possible to complete all ten stages in less than an hour, making this the shortest first-person shooter I've ever played. The game wants you to speed through these stages; there's even a stop watch keeping time in the lower corner of the screen.
This is one of the few times where I wish there was more padding. There are times in the pathetically short single-player campaign where everything feels rushed for no reason. Take the first stage, which has you fighting through the rain-soaked streets of Saigon, Vietnam. After spending five minutes following the narrow path, players will complete the mission and be told there's a helicopter en route with an ETA of three minutes. In most Call of Duty games, we would spend the next three minutes fighting off bad guys while we waited for the evacuation chopper to touch down. But not here; instead of waiting three minutes, we're rushed off to the next stage.
To make things worse, the developers opted against adding checkpoints throughout the stages. It's not that any of these levels are particularly long, but the average stage will contain a few different objectives to complete. Because dying at the end of a stage means starting it completely over again, you'll creep through the level with a new awareness of your mortality. All it takes is two armed guards to rush out and the last five minutes of your life will immediately go up in smoke.
Part of the problem is that the artificial intelligence is wildly inconsistent. There have been times when I could jump up and down in front of a bad guy for a full minute before he took a shot, while other times the enemies start shooting long before they can see me. Sometimes the character can take ten bullets without dying, yet other times I'll get pegged twice and instantly die.
Even if you can ignore the non-stop technical problems, Call of Duty's first PS Vita adventure is not worth taking. The single-player campaign is pathetically short, the multiplayer is broken and the visual presentation is below par. Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified is a game that both disappoints and frustrates on every possible level!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!