Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified – A Reason for Concern?

November will see the release of the eagerly anticipated Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified on Playstation Vita. It will be the debut for the monster series on Sony’s newest handheld, but is there really anything here to be excited about?

My excitement for new Call of Duty games waned after Modern Warfare 2 back in 2009, as I do not believe the series developed from a gameplay standpoint enough to keep me interested and the multiplayer began to get stagnated, added with the dated looking graphics engine and there were just other multiplayer shooters, both first and third person, I’d rather be playing, such as Battlefield and Uncharted.

However, with the introduction of the PS Vita, my interest in Call of Duty peaked yet again, the possibilities had me excited. I envisioned a world where the newest COD would be released simultaneously on both console and handheld and I would have that experience wherever I would go. I could play hours of multiplayer at home, then transfer all my progress to the Vita and carry on playing wherever I was that had a wi-fi hotspot. We knew Call of Duty was coming, it was just a matter of when.

When E3 2012 came around I could not wait to see Sony officially announce the debut of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 on Vita, but it never came. Instead, what was announced was an entirely new game in the Black Ops series called Declassified, and all Sony showed was brief glimpse at the games logo screen. I was disappointed and so was the gaming community. Questions needed to be asked, what was this game, where is it set within the storys timeline, why didn’t we see any gameplay, what is the games release date? Over the next couple of weeks all we found out was that the game was set for release at the back end of 2012 and that it’s being tailored to the Vita’s specific capabilities. This again raised even more questions. If the game is coming out this year then why haven’t we seen anything of it and most importantly, who was developing the game?

Those answers would finally come 2 months after E3 in August when the game was finally shown in trailer form at Gamescom, and first impressions were disappointing. It came to light that Nihilistic Software were working on the game. The same developers that made the critically panned Resistance: Burning Skies which was released on Vita just a couple of months before.

The game did not look good and as more details were leaked the promise of a fully fledged Call of Duty on a handheld looked less and less appealing. It was confirmed that the game would run at 30fps, instead of the super smooth 60fps in which the console games were so good at maintaining, even when playing online. The game will ship with 6 maps with a maximum number of 8 players across a variety of modes including Team Deathmatch and Kill Confirmed. It has recently come to light that there will be no Zombies mode, that any chance of DLC is up to Activision and that even the famous Kill Cam from multiplayer will not be included.

My issue at this point lies with Sony. I personally feel like they are trying to move hardware using the Call of Duty name alone, and not necessarily trying to make the best game possible. It’s starts with their choice of developer, Nihilistic Software. This is a developer that over the past 8 years and across 5 games have struggled to get an average rating of 70 of metacritic, so handing a franchise like Resistance, let alone Call of Duty over to them is a complete mystery to me.
The second issue is time the game has been in development. Less than 12 months it seems, and Nihilistic were working on Resistance at the same time, meaning the resources they had probably didn’t stretch far enough to get the most out of the games and the hardware which is what we saw when Burning Skies was released, and now with the hands-on impressions coming out about Declassified.

Sony are desperate for killer software for the Vita. The hardware is simply not selling well enough when compared to it’s closest rival the Nintendo 3DS, who have already secured the Monster Hunter titles for the foreseeable future, and it’s easy to see why. Consumers are not finding anything interesting on the platform, other than a select few exclusive Vita titles such as Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Gravity Daze. The rest are made up of ports from existing PS3 titles, which if you already own them on console wouldn’t necessarily make you want to splash out on the cash of new hardware just to experience the same games on the go.

Now that statement might sound contradicting, because I spoken about the possibility of having Black Ops 2 on Vita in full console form, but for me, the beauty of the Vita is that it’s a great platform to introduce new and exciting Ips of console quality but also it allows the ability of porting over the more multiplayer centric games. Call of Duty is one of those games. For so many COD players the Multiplayer experience comes first, which is why having that same experience on the go would have seemed like a no-brainer. No longer would you need to take time off work to play the newest Call of Duty, just take your Vita and hook it up to a Wi-Fi hotspot on your lunch hour. Never would you have to argue with the other people in your house about who’s watching what on the TV. You could just transfer that save straight to your Vita and continue ranking up whilst your girl is watching her soaps or The X Factor.

It may have been an issue of timing, maybe the team at Treyarch didn’t have the resources to make the game themselves in order to hit the November release date, but surely both Activision and Sony could have afforded to outsource the game to more capable developers. Instead we get an entirely new game and Nihilistic Software who have yet to prove they can make a great game. Resistance: Burning Skies was a capable shooter and shown that an FPS can indeed work properly on a handheld now thanks to the Vita’s dual analog sticks, but by all accounts it was a mediocre game at best, and effectively killed off any life the Resistance series had left in it.

Also there is no buzz surrounding the game. 6 weeks until it’s release and we have had one trailer and a handful of screenshots. there is no marketing campaign, nothing to get the Call of Duty crowd wanting to invest in this experience, other than the Call of Duty Vita bundle which Sony did announce. I think the game will sell moderately well, based on the name alone which is what I believe Sony are hoping for but it’s not a game that will have customers lining the streets for. Without real promotion the only people who know this game exists are those who seek out the information. Those who stay up late at night to catch any information they can from the different videogame conventions from around the world. To the less than enthusiastic, there is nothing out there to make them aware of this games upcoming release.

It remains to be seen how the full Declassified game turns out, but impressions from some of the major gaming sites are not positive, most claiming the less than ideal controls, the game running at 30fps, the much smaller maps and number of players allowed to participate all add to a game that looks like Call of Duty but doesn’t play as well or have that intense feeling you get when playing on consoles.

I hope the game does turn out to be good, but maybe my hopes for the world where I can share my Call of Duty experience between both my PS3 and Vita will have to wait until the inevitable release of the newest instalment next year.

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  1. I aint expecting much. Of course I’m hoping it turns out to be good, but what with the lack of gameplay, hype and details, combined with Nihilistic as the developer….I dunno. I got nothing against Nihilistic, but Burning Skies was a bit of a let down (still wanna get it tho, once it drops in price) and you would have thought a bigger dev would be leading the charge with something as big as Call of Duty.

  2. So this was actually playable this past week at a Toronto Sony event. I only found out day of so I didnt go. Went the past 2 years. Not upset about missing this but there was a good amount of games playable.

  3. Already made peace with the fact this will suck. Maybe in 8 months after release it will be free with PS+

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