"Some Things Should Remain Classified"
It's going to be hard to not look at the big console versions of Call of Duty and try to compare it to Call of Duty: Black Ops - Declassified. Still, the Vita has impressed me with its "home console series" titles so far. Though both Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Dynasty Warriors Next weren't great, they were pretty spectacular in matching the home console releases on a portable system. So where does Call of Duty: Black Ops - Declassified stand in the world of Vita?
Let's chat about the story first, since that will be the reason a lot of CoD fans even attempt to give this game a shot. Black Ops - Declassified promises to deliver a yarn that connects Black Ops and Black Ops 2. Unfortunately, CoD:BO:D story doesn't seem like much of a story. Whatever plot was to be had is lost in a muddle of pretty bad bro-dialogue. So for you, CoD fans, looking to see any sort of plot arc or major character development or rich building to the mythos of the series, you'll be out of luck.
As far as gameplay, Declassified's is overall pretty shaky. For a game which has typically been based heavily on slick controls and well designed maps, Declassified lacks both. It quickly becomes clear that is the "cash-in" game for Vita: an attempt to reach the fingers of the CoD franchise to the portable console. The Vita's controls don't do much for the game, nor does this Black Ops take advantage of the wonderful control setup the Vita has.
What Call of Duty: Black Ops - Declassified lacks is creativity in gameplay or design. You will be pushed through a mission (rescue a hostage, shoot some poor sucker in the head, hit the checkpoint, yadda, yadda), all through some pretty bland, under-designed maps. Don't forget to add in a ton of fairly pointless and wonky A.I. enemies that have no rhyme or reason to what they are doing and usually end up shooting through walls to kill you. "Thankfully", you'll find most of these foes jammed or stuck in between some wall or wrecked car, blasting ammo uselessly. Levels are short to boot, making the single-player campaign unbearably short.
Multiplayer should be better (after all, CoD is usually built for this type of thing), but it suffers from plenty of its own problems. I had plenty of buggy twitches within the multiplayer games, and the maps lack what make a good multiplayer arenas (they are also much too small). Multiplayer is usually what I revert to on games if their campaign / story mode isn't beefy enough to entertain me. Too bad Black Ops - Declassified's multiplayer is actually worse to play than the normal single campaign. It was hard to plow through it for a few hours just for a review, especially with the horrible spawn points and the claustrophobic skirmishes. The hostiles mode (much like Modern Warfare 3's survival mode) is hardly worth playing due to the game's poor controls.
Underwhelming designs, jerky graphics, voice-over that travels from bland to annoying, and repetitive gameplay plague Cod:BO:D. It is a stripped down, soulless, churned out piece of work. Fans have been critical of Declassified since its initial showing, and though the devs tried to fix some of the issues they had (such as graphics, which still don't look great anyways), the game is a long way from anything decent.
There isn't really much reason to give CoD:BO:D a chance. If you are a completionist or are suffering for a military shooter (regardless of quality) on the Vita (I'd say try to find a copy of Unit 13 first), then those might be reasons to pick it up (when it goes on sale). Other than that, the truth is Call of Duty: Black Ops - Declassified is an unfortunate cash-in for those unknowing enough to purchase it on brand name alone.
GameDynamo's Score for Call of Duty: Black Ops - Declassified (PS Vita)
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