Hands-On Preview: Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified

Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified doesn’t have the blockbuster marketing of the usual Call of Duty title, and maybe there’s a reason for that.

I just had a chance to try the multiplayer and a couple single player modes, and I came out wondering, because I know that the Vita can do a lot more than that.

The visuals are “nice”, and I think the choice of word with the obligatory airquotes says it all. This isn’t to say that the game looks bad, but it just doesn’t look as good as a game on the Vita should look, as other titles demonstrated.

The resolution isn’t bad at all, but the palette is a drab mix of shades of brown, there’s quite a bit of visible aliasing, and, ultimately, the polygon count seems rather sacrificed. Character animations also look simplistic and robotic.

Hands-On Preview: Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified

Do things get better by moving to the gameplay? Yes and no.

The presence of the dual stick is definitely a boon for the game. It feels and plays mostly like a home console shooter, even if the limited size of the sticks requires a bit of trial and error, if you’re not used to playing shooters on the Vita. After a few minutes, though, I was already lining up head shots (and I’m not exactly the best shooter kid on the block) without any apparent aim assist.

A little problem appears due to the lack of a second pair of shoulder buttons, that prompted Nihilistic Software to move grenades and melee attacks (together with Killstreaks like sentry guns and similar) to the touch screen.

In single player this isn’t a terrible hindrance, and it’s actually pretty fun to tap the screen to slash an overly daring enemy with the knife. Unfortunately, this is due to the fact that the artificial intelligence seems to be made of half-tamed monkeys that will stare at you for a good while before registering the fact that you’re an enemy and, just maybe, they’re supposed to try and kill you.

Hands-On Preview: Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified

The control scheme can can get unwieldy in multiplayer, where every second counts — especially due to the fact that the Vita is bigger than the usual controller, so moving your fingers from the shoulder buttons to the sides of the screen can easily cost you a re-spawn.

Speaking of re-spawns, multiplayer suffers quite a lot due to the small size of the maps. While I understand that the limited number of players (up to eight) may make bigger maps too slow paced, spawning with the barrel of a rifle already aimed between your eyes is never too much fun. In all the multiplayer maps I tried, spawn camping was basically institutionalized and promoted to an art form.

On the positive side, the game includes a metric ton of different guns and weapons (including the extremely fun crossbow) and basically all the deep customization and progression that Call of Duty games got us used to. You’ll spend hours with plenty perks, prestige mode and a decent assortment of killstreaks.

Hands-On Preview: Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified

Is this enough to create a big hit on Sony’s shiny portable console (that can probably do a lot better)? It’ll probably depend on the pull of the Call of Duty name and on the strength of the single player campaign, that I, unfortunately, didn’t have a chance to try.

The biggest risk i can see, for the moment, is for it to be just a Call of Duty on the Vita. For some, it may very well be enough, but when a publisher like Activision doesn’t beat the every drum on Earth over a Call of Duty title, there must be a reason.

 

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