Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified Review
Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified Box Art
System: PS Vita
Dev: Nihilistic Software
Pub: Activision
Release: November 13, 2012
Players: 1-8
Screen Resolution: 544p Blood, Drug Reference, Strong Language, Violence
Disappointment Now Fits Conveniently Into Your Pocket
by Josh Engen

I don't think any of us were expecting Black Ops Declassified to be a life-changing piece of artistic brilliance. In fact, all we really wanted was a pocket-sized Call of Duty title that could be played in-between rounds of Black Ops 2. But Nihilistic Software, the developer behind Declassified, has created something that manages to disappoint those with even the lowest of expectations.

The game itself bears only a passing resemblance to Treyarch's signature franchise. But if it weren't for the character names, it might have no similarities whatsoever. Sure, the developers have cobbled together a campaign of sorts, but what Nihilistic is calling a "storyline," I prefer to call "a string of incoherent video clips and pointless mission objectives."

Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified Screenshot

The developer was obviously trying to create a storyline that felt like a collection of top-secret, recently declassified Mason and Woods missions. But the campaign's framework is terminally flawed by the pointlessness of each operation. It jumps from character to character without explaining its reasoning and forces you to repeat the same brainless mission-type ad infinitum. It's disjointed, to say the least, but that's not event the biggest problem.

The worst part is that I polished off the entire campaign in under and hour. It consists of ten disappointingly short operations that are introduced by a video clip, which I guess is intended to setup each mission. However, there's no real story being told here and each mission can be completed in just a few minutes. So, considering Declassified's $49.99 price tag, the per minute cost of single player campaign ends up being more than one of those psychic hotlines.

What makes matters worse is that the missions themselves are more frustrating than entertaining. The enemy A.I. is nonfunctioning, so it's common to see enemies firing their guns ferociously into an object or facing the wrong direction entirely. I also watched several enemy soldiers get blown to bits by a friendly grenade. The only thing that adds any difficulty to the missions is the fact that the enemies have X-ray vision and are typically firing their guns long before you round the corner.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified Screenshot

Unfortunately, that's not where the disappointment stops. The game also includes a survival mode that is more a test of one's patience than actual skill. As with most survival modes, players are tasked with quashing wave after wave of enemies until the player is eventually overwhelmed. Typically, in this type of game mode, the enemies become incredibly difficult, and/or more numerous. But with the artificial intelligence being almost completely broken, nearly any reasonably intelligent person should have no problem surviving for an endless number of rounds. (Protip: don't just run around in the open). Plus, instead of steadily increasing the number of enemy units, the developer just changes the type of weapons they're carrying from round to round.

More often than not, Declassified feels like an unfunny comedian doing a bad celebrity impersonation. Only, in this case, he's impersonating the wrong celebrity. Most of the pieces that make Declassified feel like a Call of Duty game have been lifted from the Modern Warfare franchise, not Black Ops. The campaign uses the same star-based scoring system that Modern Warfare's Spec Ops missions use. And there's a distinct lack of zombies in the survival mode. In fact, survival mode has clearly been lifted directly from Modern Warfare 3, only MW3's was fun and challenging.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified Screenshot

The only part of the entire game that doesn't feel like a bad interpretation is the multiplayer mode. The loadouts, perks and gun selections are classically Call of Duty, and, if you can ever get connected, the experience isn't entirely unfamiliar. However, the game's matchmaking system and netcode are perpetually broken. Connecting to a game is difficult, and when you actually to manage to get connected, you might find yourself alone in a server.

On the rare occasion that everything goes smoothly and you manage to connect to a sever full of people, you'll instantly become frustrated by Declassified's impossibly small map designs. I commonly found myself spawning directly in the crosshairs of enemy players or quickly picking off recently spawned players. If you can manage to stay alive long enough to actually take a few steps, the experience isn't entirely unenjoyable. Actually, it can often feel like a genuine Call of Duty game, but the fact that the game's most fundamental mechanic, spawning, is broken will quickly become annoying.

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