Monday, 6 June 2016

[PlayStation Vita Game Review] Call Of Duty - Black Ops: Declassified

Platform: PlayStation Vita
Released: November 13th, 2012
Genre: FPS
Developer: Nihilistic
Publisher: Activision

Call of Duty has always had a bit of a rocky reputation on handheld consoles. The only title released on PSP was the critically panned "Roads To Victory" and the two games on the Nintendo DS were technically impressive for the system but hindered by awkward controls on a system that wasn't really meant for FPS games. The Vita was in many ways a new chance for Activision to prove they could release a good portable Call of Duty experience, as the Vita was heralded by many as a handheld PS3 and a powerhouse for console-quality games on the go. Sadly Black Ops: Declassified doesn't really live up to this standard, and let's discuss why.

As always, the game has a campaign mode although instead of following a linear narrative, the campaign is split into multiple "Operations", which act as missions to play through. To be perfectly honest the story isn't at all interesting and I barely remember anything of it other than going places, doing shit for some reason and blowing shit up. Which is par for the course for most CoD games but with games like Ghosts and the more recent Black Ops 3 offering really memorable narratives, it feels like a bit of a letdown and like a lot of older CoD games, the game seems a lot more centered on political black operations and agendas than exploring personalities. Similar to Black Ops you play as Frank Woods and Alex Mason during the Vietnam era, sent to complete varying missions or some shit here and there. It all doesn't really conclude in anything and the whole campaign can be finished in under an hour, which is laughably short, even for a handheld game. True, you can replay missions for achievements or to beat them on higher difficulties, but in the end, while the campaign is servicable, compared to the other titles in the series, it comes off as a joke. The nail in the coffin for me is the lack of checkpoints. You HAVE to play an entire mission from start to finish without dying, even on Veteran difficulty. While the missions are short, starting the entire mission over each time you die is a fucking disaster and just ends up being extremely frustrating. There's a REASON they added mid-level saves to the Killzone: Mercenary missions...

There are also two other single player modes. The first is Time Trial, which sends you onto a course where you shoot cardboard enemies with various weapons and you're scored for your time and efficiency. This mode feels a bit like some sort of training mode and isn't really all that fun unless you enjoy shooting cardboard enemies.
The second mode is Hostiles which acts basically as a horde mode where you fight increasingly difficult waves of enemies. It's the same mode as in Modern Warfare 3 basically and while it's fun if you're offline and just wanna play some simple multiplayer maps with bots, it tends to get very repetitive. The care packages you get between waves also only offer 3 different killstreaks which is pretty dull.

Multiplayer is also a bit of a letdown with a very limited weapon selection, an outdated loadout system, no calling cards or emblems, and while challenges are there, they offer no long lasting reward such as cool skins or calling cards. By outdated loadout system I mean it uses the old pick primary, secondary and 3 perks system and you can't use a slot system like in Black Ops 2 (which ironically came out around the same time), meaning you can't have multiple perks, you can't specialize in a weapon and you are pretty limited in loadout selections.
The weapon selection is alright, with a list of fairly standard weapons that all don't really look or feel all that special or memorable but function nicely. The FAMAS assault rifle is pretty cool looking though. What i miss the most is the akimbo attachment which is nowhere to be seen, a huge letdown as I am a huge fan of akimbo in Call of Duty games.
Surprisingly there are still a lot of people playing the multiplayer, though I've had tons of problems with disconnections and lag during matches, and a lot of players seem to be cheating, either hitting with perfect aim or running around with god mode, soaking up bullets like a bloody sponge. Thankfully those players have been few but they have been there and it's always annoying, especially on a console.
Some of the maps are ridicilously small, even smaller than Nuketown (in this game you have Nukehouse instead which is just a single building) and you often end up spawning right next to an enemy. On the larger maps this issue isn't all that prevalent but on the smaller maps it happens frequently so be prepared to fire as soon as you spawn.
While the multiplayer is perfectly servicable like most things in this game, it just doesn't feel rewarding to play and gets very repetitive quickly.

Graphically the game looks... okay. While nowhere near the quality of Killzone: Mercenary or even Resistance: Burning Skies, it looks okay though it suffers from a very drab colour palette, boring weapon skins, extremely simple lighting and at times resembles a PS2 game.
Models and textures are decent though and from what I hear they got so much flak during an E3 presentation of the game they worked on the game a bit extra to sharpen up the graphics. Shame it still kinda looks like crap.
Sound-wise it's alright as well. Weapons sound like they lack punch, music is forgetable and boring and all in all, not a very memorable experience.

All in all, this is far from the Call of Duty I wanted on Vita. Hoping for more of a Black Ops 2 experience on the go, to say this game is disappointing is putting it lightly. To this day it remains one of the most critically panned Call of Dutys and it's easy to see why, given how little value you get for your money. If you can get it on a sale, I'd say it's worth picking up as the multiplayer is still active and it's worth at least one playthrough if you're desperate for a Vita FPS that isn't Borderlands 2, Resistance or Killzone. But if you haven't played Killzone or Resistance first, I'd say grab those instead of this. Hopefully one day we'll get a Vita CoD game that's good but I won't hold my breath given the reception to this.

STORY: 5/10
Not that memorable, very short and not worth replaying much.

Tight controls, good ADS snapon but hindered by a pretty bad AI that at times has absolute perfect accuracy, which is highly annoying on higher difficulties where the lack of checkpoints really makes the game a frustrating mess. Multiplayer is servicable but a bit of a letdown compared to other games in the series.

Drab colors, uninspired weapon skins and bad lighting makes this game kind of horrible looking, especially compared to Killzone: Mercenary or even Resistance: Burning Skies which came out before it.

SOUND: 6/10
No big complaints really but can't say there was any of it I particurarily enjoyed. Weapons seem to sound weak and not that satisfying.