It might hep if you actually shot the baddies too.

It says COD but it tastes more like Marmite.

This title is certainly going to divide opinion. Ever since the Gamescom trailer reveal, and the announcement that it was Nihilistic, and not either Treyarch or Infinity Ward or even an in-house Activision team working on the title, the poor game has been lamented and derided before it even hit the shelves.

It also doesn’t help that Activision have been reluctant to discuss this at any real length, nor released any new screens or footage. I was even told that there was enough information on show and that it was ludicrous that I would suggest that the title was being hidden. I can’t even take new screen shots for you to look at because it has been disabled from the game.

It might help if you actually shot the baddies too.

But there you go, that’s all in the past now and what we do now have is a Call of Duty title on the PlayStation Vita, arguably the biggest juggernaut gaming franchise there is these days, the series that ploughs through everything in sight. But how is it? Is it like a Ronseal product and does exactly what it says on the tin, or is it like the cheaper own brand imitation that’s not quite as good?

I suppose that comes down to what you are ultimately expecting. I came into the title having not played a Call of Duty game for about two years since the first Black Ops, with a little scepticism and not holding out high hopes, and as a result I am pleasantly surprised. But that’s not to say that corners haven’t been cut and sacrifices made. And believe me, there have been some serious cutbacks here.

The best place to start is Multiplayer, as this is ultimately what Call of Duty is renowned for, and before I go any further I should tell you that the game doesn’t support NAT 3, so if you do have that type of connection then you will either need to find a workaround or pass.

The game ships with six maps which cater to 8 player matches, either in free for all of 4v4 in team based matches. Many of your favourite game modes may be missing, as you can choose from the aforementioned Free for all, Team Deathmatch, Kill Confirmed and Dropzone, with Team Tactical being a playlist rotation of the three team modes. Series regulars are conspicuous by their absence. No Headquarters, no Domination and no Search and Destroy. Whether they will be added later as DLC or not remains to be seen, but releasing a title with the modes you would expect is a little short sighted.

It does have different enviroments. I only have four screens.

As you have heard and may expect, the maps are pretty small catering for the reduced player count, although this doesn’t reduce the tension as you will encounter players very often as a result. This is also a negative point, because as you run and gun you will encounter players respawning frequently which can disrupt what would be a naturally flowing game with impromptu deaths because someone reappeared behind you. It also isn’t always clear why you died or the direction from as there are no kill cameras either. The maps vary in appearance somewhat from a snowing research facility, A container dockyard and a quiet 1950s street which is basically Nuketown from the original Black Ops, but cut in half, When it was already a tiny map. The maps are all inpsired or homages to previous maps in the series.

What is good to see is a whole stash of weapons, attachments, kill streaks and perks, including a few new ones for the series all of which unlock through a levelling system as you would expect, complete with challenges and prestiging. The matches themselves are very fluid and I haven’t encountered much lag at all, but I have been the victim of a few random disconnects and being kicked from the matches with no real obvious reason.

The game is also the beneficiary of a 450+MB day one patch, which also adds Ad Hoc multiplayer, I didn’t get a chance to test this out only having one Vita to play with, but it says that basically every single customisable aspect of the game is unlocked and free to use, but you won’t earn any experience points. The patch also addresses balancing issues but it doesn’t elaborate further.

You can choose to use public matchmaking or party matchmaking, making full use of the party application that the Vita has, which is also incidently why Nihilistic have limited the number of players to 8, due to limitations with the chat. Through this option you can choose to have a public or private match with your friends.

Surely facepaint would be better in this heat?

The large selection of weapons available allow you to really set yourself up well with shotguns, assault rifles, sub machine guns and sniper rifles all present although how much use you will get is debatable. You can also customise up to five different classes in addition to the standard 5 generic ones available too. A great use of “Near” is also present as you can create and share a class and also download others this way if you are struggling to come up with something useable yourself. You can only keep one “Near” class at a time though.

When all is said and done, the multiplayer is great fun. It definitely has a sort of Call of Duty feel to it, but it this will never stand up as a realistic alternative to the real thing on consoles. It’s an absolute blast and you will enjoy it in short bursts either with friends or online and that is all it is really suitable for in its current form. Just remember it’s very light in content overall.

Which leads us on to the next section, which are the single player offerings. The campaign is called “Operations” and is actually a series of ten short missions, which are supposed to bridge the story between the first and second Black Ops console games, but in reality are a series of very short challenges, similar to the Spec Ops missions from the Modern Warfare line. You are treated to a short cinematic before being thrown into to missions which can be played on Regular, Hard or Veteran and earn stars accordingly. There are no check points and the enemies positions and AI seem to be set in stone, so once you learn the placements you can breeze through it pretty quickly, but the longeivity aspect of this mode is set from the repeated frustration of dieing. A lot. It also has a set of 5 time trial missions for you to attempt.

Declassified doesn’t have a zombies mode despite the expectation that it might, as a Black Ops title. Nihilistic have said that it is down to Activision. What they have given you is “Hostiles”, a wave based scenario with increasing numbers of enemies. Once you have cleared the wave you have a few seconds to locate the care package to increase your arsenal. It never gets more than frantic, and the intelligence of the soldiers is laughable to say the least, in many cases they will stand there and let you shoot them. It’s very replayable, as you will no doubt want to beat some of your friend’s scores but it’s all very repetetive, especially when you are playing on the same maps from the multiplayer aspect.

That guy is clearly a bad shot.

The game has improved a great deal from what we have seen in the launch trailer at Gamescom and indeed from the screens that you can see on this page, as they are also from Gamescom. With an inability to take screenshots, I asked Activision if they could provide me with any newer screens and they said that they didn’t have any. It’s really not as impressive as you would expect from the franchise to be honest, and I would have thought that the Vita would have been capable of better. They are on a par with Unit 13 really, functional and they do the job. It all looks very COD-like, from the presentation to the games, all of the menus and screens all feel very familiar.

The audio in the game doesn’t sound the best, playing through the speakers doesn’t do the weapons justice, they all sound much better than you may have expected if you are using headphones. But in your match ups that is all you will hear, it’s all quite eeriely quiet except for the occasional crack of the weapons.

The controls are pretty much standard fare, left analogue stick moves you, the right looks around, the triggers are you aiming and shooting. Triangle changes your weapon, x is your jump and the circle is your crouch and prone. Square is your interaction button in campaign. Sprint is toggled on or off by using down on the D-pad in the absence of the usual practice. And it actually works pretty well. Any kill streaks you have set are also activated through the pad. Grenades and Melees are all brought into play through the touch screen, swiping the screen will use your knife and grenades are both brought into the fray by dragging across the screen. It works reasonably well, but the sticks are very sensitive and even on the medium setting they are very loose and may need some serious tweaking for you to find your preference.

All things considered then, it does do a close approximation on Call of Duty, but it is very much a COD lite. So, going back to my earlier question about doing exactly as it says on the tin or being a cheap imitation, it is easily an imitation, but at almost the same price as the former it’s hardly cheap. Although it does just about do the same job. You will be doing yourself a favour by not buying from the PlayStation Store as it is quite ridiculously priced there and not worth it.

The fact that it is fun saves it from mediocrity but this could and should have been better and only really fills a hole in the library for now. Over to you, Guerrilla.

  • Galvatron

    Finally; a Declassified review which actually merits the tag. Articulate, informing and fair.

    I’ll buy the title as comparisons with Unit 13’s single-player structure are, whilst not exactly inspired, certainly functional. Multiplayer…is it available on 3G Vita’s?

    Whilst Guerrilla will almost certainly blow it out of water next year, it’ll serve a need for a shotgun & sniper combo in tandem with recent high-profile releases.

    As for the utter petulance of ‘critics’ who have taken this as another opportunity to ‘kill’ the Vita (Metro’s review is as culpable as Pocket Gamer, the Game Informer toilet-tweeter and more), lest we remind you Sony historically do not give up on their hardware. Reassuringly, They have too many quality first-party dev studios for that 🙂

    Furthermore, increased social media means we gamers can begin to reply directly to corrupt, wannabe-literate, biased 45-minute playthroughs with equal disdain and laughter. So you had to buy the game to review it. As this site and it’s contributors demonstrate, that should not affect your score.

    Certainly not by the interesting duality of user comments on ‘numerous’ Declassified reviews who are saying exactly the same as Paul.

    Isn’t transparency a bitch 🙂

  • ico

    @galvatron (obviously given you’re the only commenter so far!): would be intrigued to hear your views after you’ve played the game for a bit – hopefully more than 45 mins.

    I also get maddened by critics constantly comparing handheld titles to their console cousins. Be refreshing to see some reviews like this who basically consider the game’ merits as a standalone title. However I do have some concerns and these seem to be semi reflected in this review. Regardless of quality I hope it sells blooming’ well and shifts some vitas.

    Really do think potential vita price cut is coming but my guess is it’ll be after Christmas. I think the vita is a fabulous piece of kit very fairly priced (aside from some iffy pricing on necessities, cough, memory cards, cough) and has some corking games. Sony really would not have needed to do much to get the word out there better. Here’s hoping with potential system sellers like cod and plus vita it gets a bit more love.

    Anyway galvatron please come back and post your thoughts after an initial shotgun / sniper combo blast through the camp(ing)aign and MP. Cheers.

  • Galvatron

    Will do, Ico. I’m picking up the title – armed with managed expectation – via an online retailer and will add my own thoughts by Tues / Wed on Paul’s review.

    Perhaps I’m a tad over-zealous with my critics critique. I bought the first issue of Edge whilst still in my final year of school and it remains a highly credible source for reviews, along with The Vita Lounge. Ironically, even multi-gizmo yet respectable websites like Trusted Reviews do much more in-depth, unbiased reviews a la Uncharted: GA, another title I don’t invest in on PS3 but cherish on Vita. I guess as the industry and 24-7 connectivity for everyone grows there’ll always be a rambunctious crowd who manipulate their positions to exert their own bias.

    You are right though; the Vita is an astounding beast of a handheld, and Sony still have the likes of Killzone, Uncharted 2, Pro Evo, Sine Mora, Bioshock etc en route. Given they’ve publicly stated they’ll support this system for years a la PS3, plus it’s potential for streaming PS4 content over Gaikai and current PSOne emulation, it’s far too early to pen it’s epitaph.

    As for Declassified, I’ll post my thoughts and look forward to Sine Mora, assuming Grasshopper are still bringing it both Sony platforms ‘in 2012’ 🙂

    • ico

      Indeed it appears the game industry more than many others have got themselves into rather a pickle with their ability to be unbiased and objective sans publisher pressure. Talking of Print magazines Edge is ok though feels a little pretentious at times. Games TM is my bathroom reading of choice games wise.

      Bioshock vita could be great but could be perpetually delayed or worse. Another uncharted would be good and looking forward to playing first one again on Plus.

      Must say I’m very impressed with the community here on the vita lounge since recently joining. Like the handheld itself, small yet perfectly formed!

      • I’m going to email Sony and see if they will let me have a Q and A with Fergal Gara to get his views on the matter.

        Probably not going to happen, but it would be nice to have an official viewpoint. It is of course only speculation and opinion from our part as Vita owners that there is an agenda against the Vita by the official mainstream press, and it could be countered that the bias is actually on OUR side as loyal owners.

        But something is not right.

        Thanks for the comments about the site! it’s not perfect but we are trying to build the best, must come place for the Vita. We will continually try to improve everything.

  • Avioto

    This is very dissapointing. I have 2 friends who bought this and already returned it, they hated it. I won’t be picking this up.. I don’t think they should let Nihilistic make these kind of games anymore.

    Also, the price on PSN is ridiculous.

    Great review though, I am glad I finally found a website who cares about this stuff 🙂

  • J26

    Don’t forget that it comes with Road to Victory which was an excellent psp game, probably worth $20 on the psn. The campaign missions could be longer and I miss the lack of zombies. But the multiplayer is as intense as the console version. I wouldn’t recommend it to everybody, but so far I’m having lots of fun with it.

    • I didn’t mention it as it does seem to be a US exclusive, but it’s a good point nonetheless. 🙂

  • Oliath

    @Galvatron – I agree with you entirely.
    I’m currently losing faith in most game critics. Their voices seem to be no better than the hordes of wining little kids on most game forums these days.

    I don’t usually post on these things – but recently – garbage reviews like this are winding me up.

    If a game isn’t a carbon copy of their favourite game then they won’t give it the time of day.

    More than this – As a reviewer – I can imagine you won’t have that much time to play through a game and properly enjoy it.

    Many games take time to get used to – Especially wen you are going to be comparing it to something else.

    Finally they all seem to want to jump on the same flame bandwaggons and destroy the thing that they supposedly love.

    Let’s get something out of the way first just incase people were too blinded by the bullshit press to have noticed:

    The Vita is excellent. It has an abundance of great games now.

    Black Ops Declassified is a bite sized COD experience – and an experience that does the job extremely well.

    The spec ops missions AREN’T a full story – Nope – We had been warned of this countless times before release – but they are incredibly challenging – and at least play them on the middle difficulty setting!

    Multiplayer is an absolute score for the Vita. Its a brilliant micro version of COD online and I have already logged countless hours with no issue finding games.

    Finally – Surivor mode is great if you are into horde type games. I loved this mode in MW3 and I love it on the Vita.

    The entire game is perfect for quick pick up and play sessions while you are away from your console / PC counterpart or laying in bed avoiding sleep.

    The ONLY criticism is the price. It could be a good 10 to 15 % less expensive – but THIS is not anything to do with the game and the quality of the game. This is something you should criticise Activision for.

  • Stonedcold

    The online is totally broken for most. I have an above average Internet connection and as I type this, I’ve been lying in my under crackers for about an hour trying to join games and I’ve got into about 2. When it works its great but these online issues are embarrassing. There’s nothing in this game outside of multiplayer and until that works correctly, I don’t think people should buy it.

    • That’s a nice mental image that I am going to strugle to shift!

      I’ll admit since writing the review I’ve had a couple of issues connecting online, but I generally do get disconnects in a few games, especially on the Vita.

  • Stonedcold

    For me, once I get in a game then it’s sweet as, I can stay in that same lobby over and over on different maps yet this morning I must have joined 10 games in a row where it connects, loads the map, you hear noise and then it just kicks you back to the main menu. At least 10 times in a row. Just gets really annoying because its a great online experience once you get going.

  • nat2604

    Been reading the comments on here with interest, picked up COD:BOD on tuesday, hoping that it would be a fun game, and whilst i have had some fun moments, overall i have been disappointed with the game, the cost of the game obviously plays a part it is not worth what activision are asking, especially if the rumours of a 5 month development window are true, whilst it can be fun in parts i was having a discussion with a friend and we both agreed that our favourite cod was 4, modern warfare, and if they did have a limited development time, why not just put out call of duty 4 modern warfare redux,after all i have been enjoying the hell out of metal gear solid 2 and 3 hd on vita, i would love to play through modern warfare again, on a portable with the full suite of multiplayer maps, with the addition of trophies (ps3 didnt have them so just copy the xbox achievements), even now the thought of playing all ghiled up on my vita or the ac-130 mission but with touch controls to target makes me sad as i feel this was a missed opportunity by activation. the assets for the game were done for ps3, and we all saw what capcom and kojima did by converting some ps3 assets to vita in just 2 short weeks. wonderin what other peoples thoughts are, would you like me have prefered a remake of modern warfare than the COD-Lite version we have received

  • Jason Berman

    Finally a reviewer who has not been upset by the fact they did not recieve an early review copy or are downgrading their review because they slayed the game prior to release. I think finally we have an honest review for the game. Yes it has its problems but as one review said, the MP is unplayable,this is just a blatent falsehood.I rarely get kicked out of games and it takes only a few minutes to find one. Yes their are bugs in the game, a classic being calling a strike helicopter on nuketown and seeing said helicopter half in the house and half out ( it made me smile not get annoyed) but you can send reports straight from your vita when problems occur so whats the problem. All in all this is fun to play and thats what I look for in a game.

  • Galvatron

    I’ve now had the game for just under a week and have to say that my sentiments echo Paul’s; however, it’s a pity because the fundamentals of a decent game are there, it’s the amount of content which helps it (pun intended) shoot itself in the foot. Had they given us a proper single-player campaign and larger maps, I would have loved this as an alternative shooter to Resistance, which was also below-par.

    I’ve got every faith though that Killzone will demonstrate exactly why the Vita’s twin sticks runs rings around any IPad or tablet device. The number of reviewers who state lose any credibility whatsoever in my eyes.

    I hope that this being a volunteer-run website, Paul, Jasper & co don’t mind me referring anyone who’s interested to my own review – my first ever, actually – on http://www.pushsquare.com.

    • I liked your review, and I’m not averse to people linking elsewhere anyway as I’d hope that people would link here if they felt the need. The Vita can do with not only a dedicated set of websites talking about everything but also a varied set of opinions.

      The makings are there for a good game, it just is really poorly executed. If we had a 10 point scale here I’d probably have scored it a 5 myself, in the absence of that it got a 3, purely because it was more a 3 than a 2 to me personally. That of course doesn’t mean I am right. It’s just what I felt when playing it and nothing has changed that for me in the last week.

      Great stuff Galvatron. 🙂

  • Galvatron

    Much appreciated Paul 🙂

    I agree fully with your synopsis; the 5 point scoring versus a 10 point doesn’t yield the same percentages and likewise, for me personally I tend to prefer more substantial single player content in most games so was disappointed with the breadth on offer.

    After months of inactivity I slotted Unit 13 back in yesterday and it’s interesting how after lauding – rightfully in my book – the Vita’s twin sticks and suitability to FPS’s – both Zipper Interactive & Nstigate have bit the digital dust. It would be a good time for Sony Cambridge to announce a release date for Killzone: Mercenary and with Guerrilla’s input make it third time lucky!

    The Vita deserves a campaign feature-packed, graphically resplendent FPS, and if they include the jet packs in multiplayer, that would rock on a richter scale 🙂

  • Pretty honest review Paul. It’s a real shame that Nihilistic totally ruined this big time and even the big reviewers gave like scores well under 5. It was rushed, no gameplay trailers or screenshots and development time was very short making it the worst Vita game of all time. And yes, every review I see always has these same old screenshots because Activision won’t even show us any gameplay. Let’s hope for a better CoD game this year.

    • Thanks for your comments 🙂 Let’sa hope they give us a COD at all, as it’s not looking too hopeful on that front at the moment…

      • JonofPDX

        I think we’re likely to see a COD4 or (maybe) Black Ops port before we see a new Vita exclusive COD (I’m sad to say).