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Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified

Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified

This is not the same game as the Treyarch developed Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Far from it.

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I'm confronted with a squad of hostile troops looking straight at me as I make my way around a corner. I fear this is the end. But they remain idle and simply stare at me. I shoot one of them, as the others look on. I shoot another one, no apparent reaction. I even manage to take out the third one. But that does it. The sole remaining enemy pulls out a grenade, throws into the wall next to him so it bounces off and lands at his feet. He remains calm for the three seconds of his life that remains as dies at his own hands. Welcome to Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified.

Ever since Call of Duty 2 was released on Xbox 360 I've been hooked. Originally hooked on the singleplayer and starting with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare on the multiplayer. Credit to Activision who went to extreme lengths to ensure 60 frames per second on console, something that puts the game above the competition.

Even if the singleplayer has felt more like some sort of necessary evil, I truly enjoy the quick arcade fundamentals of multiplayer and it's one of the games I love to boot up for a bit of braindead shooting. Simply put, it's fun, and that's why I've looked forward to Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified. There isn't a first person shooter better suited for portable gaming.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified
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The only problem is that my excitement has decreased gradually ever since the game was first announced at last year's E3. First due to the fact that Treyarch was not developing the game and that Nihilistic Software was instead responsible - a team that has delivered their fair share of disappointing games. To make matters worse it took an age for the first screens to arrive, and our review copy was not delivered in time for the release. A sure sign that the publisher would rather not see any reviews. And after spending some time with the game it's easy to see why - this game blows.

The problems appear as soon as you hit the menus. They're cluttered, ugly, and poorly thought out. After just 40 minutes I've finished the singleplayer campaign. Have I missed something? Was that all there was? 40 minutes? Apparently so...

The campaign consists of ten levels that take a few minutes to complete. In an effort to make them last a little longer all checkpoints have been removed, something that makes some of them extremely frustrating at higher difficulty levels. The levels are horribly designed. It seems as if Nihilistic have used some kind of random generator to conceive, and in spite of the extremely linear design I find myself stuck several times.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified
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Thankfully Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified is also home to some of the most brainless artificial intelligence ever seen. Something that appears a necessity as the controls are far from the sharp, fluid controls we've grown used to with Call of Duty titles. Part of it has to do with the framerate that has been reduced to 30 frames per second. This combines with a general sense of floating around that makes it feel more like controlling a small boat through narrow corridors than a n in shape soldier ready to do battle.

The horrible artificial intelligence seems to be there to compensate for the poor controls and the awful level design. Part of this is that you often find the enemy standing still as you first see them as if to give you a better chance of getting them in your crosshair, and part is due to some enemies starting to shoot at you well before you can see them so you can use the sound to guide you through the environment.

In short, Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified would have been an even worse experience had it offered some kind of working artificial intelligence and that is, of course, an alarming sign. In order to flesh out the game a bit, Nihilistic Software has added a few alternative game modes and the option of running through some training courses where you shoot wooden targets on time, and a rather crude Horde knock off. None of these offer any trace of redeeming features, and add to the overall frustration.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified

Everything about the singleplayer is basically a disaster and for the game to reach a passing grade the multiplayer needed to be spectacular. But no such luck. During the first day I fail to even log into a single game. Weird error messages are all I'm getting, and I decided to wait for the 0.5GB patch that was on the way.

The game isn't much better after patching. About half of my matches are prematurely terminated. Either I'm thrown back into the menus, or I'm getting network error messages, or there is some bug that forces me to restart the game. When the multiplayer actually works you get six maps to choose from. Fan favourite Nuketown is there, but it has been reduced to about half the size of the original and it feels claustrophobic in Declassified.

To spawn and die in less than a second is not unusual, and you routinely get enemies spawning right in front of you. With such fundamental flaws it matters little that you can tweak and change settings (still not as fleshed out as in the main series), and play in handful of different modes. It's simply not fun to play.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified

I'm well aware that I've spent the entire review complaining, and I still haven't gotten to point out the horrendous sound effects and voice acting, and the fact that the singleplayer campaign doesn't appear to have a coherent story, the fact that the graphics are gruesome, and how grenades and sniping have been turned into painful chores as Nihilistic decided to use the touch screen and rear touch pad for these features.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified held the potential of being the most important title to grace the platform, and it could have been the killer app the Vita sorely needs. But it appears Activision has put as little effort as possible into the game to satisfy some deal made with Sony. It ranks among the worst games I've played this year and it's a shameful low for the biggest video game franchise of them all.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified
02 Gamereactor UK
2 / 10
+ Box looks great. + Lots of weapons.
- Useless singleplayer campaign. - Ever worse multiplayer. - Horrible graphics. - Awful sound. - Short campaign. - Non-existant artificial intelligence.
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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