Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified Review

Developer: nStigate Games
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: November 13th, 2012
Available On:
PlayStation Vita
Genre: First Person Shooter

When the PlayStation Vita was first announced a lot of people realized that the two analogue sticks would do a great job providing for first person shooters. Activision saw this and with the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 decided to give the Vita its own spin-off game with Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified. Meant to bridge the two Black Ops games, is this spin-off worth it or has Call of Duty finally put out a call not worth answering?

While Declassified is supposed to take place between Black Ops and Black Ops 2, it really doesn’t have any story. The game is basically just 11 unconnected missions that talk about some vague stuff that Mason, Woods, and Hudson did between the two games. The only honestly important story element doesn’t happen until the very last mission, everything else is just filler.

Declassified is split into three game modes. The meat of the singleplayer is in the Campaign mode, which is further split into two more modes. Operations is where the majority of the meat is: these are the game’s 11 missions that make up a real campaign. Each mission is only about 5-10 minutes long, and there are no checkpoints in any of them. Get killed? Have fun restarting the mission. Despite this the campaign only took me maybe about an hour and a half to finish. During this time I got to run through some extremely dull levels. Declassified lacks the strong set piece moments of other Call of Duty games, and most levels are basically just “get from point A to point B and shoot enemies along the way.” The game can barely get that right though. Controls are awkward, some vital things like throwing grenades and melee attacks are assigned to the touch screen and it’s really easy to do one when you mean the other. Aiming sensitivity feels sloppy, and I was often overshooting my targets. Enemy AI is dumb as bricks, basically just going to their assigned location and standing around shooting at me from there until they get killed. Despite this the game can be unfairly difficult, as enemies have almost 100% accuracy and the game adds in a really strong kickback when shot that caused me to miss often. All of this leads to one of the most disastrously awful campaigns I’ve ever played in any Call of Duty game, or even of any first person shooter in general.

The other single player offerings don’t really make up for this. The second option under the Campaign section is Time Trial missions. If you played one of the first two Modern Warfare games you may remember the shooting range tutorials where you ran through and shot up cardboard people. It’s basically exactly that but for some reason it’s expanded out into its own game mode. The second game mode is Hostiles mode, which is basically just a single player survival mode. With the AI as dumb as it is, and the controls as bad as it is, I can’t see any real reason to actually want to play in this mode.

So then we come to the game’s multiplayer. Maybe this saves the game. I have no clue, I could never get it to work. It’s not that there’s no one playing, much to my surprise I could find players rather consistently. It’s that every time I get to the lobby one of two things would happen: Either everyone (including myself) would suddenly get kicked out of the lobby and I’d get stuck in an endless “searching for games” cycle, or the game would start, I’d cut to the loading screen, and then find myself back in the main menu after the game loaded. I can only assume the other players were having the same problem as I was constantly reconnecting with the same players. At the very least I can tell you that Declassified has an 8 player multiplayer offering with a couple of the most popular Call of Duty game modes. It has a create a class system similar to Black Ops, and the menus look like they’re right out of a Call of Duty game. That’s about the most I can say, unfortunately.

Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified isn’t just the worst Call of Duty game I’ve ever played, but it’s also on the short list for one of the worst games I’ve ever played period. I am completely baffled how Activision could look at this game and decide this is how they want to represent their brand. If you absolutely need an FPS on the Vita then it should be Killzone: Mercenary, or even the extremely average Resistance: Burning Skies. Just by God don’t let it be Declassified.