Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified Preview

For a handheld console with dual analogue sticks, you’d certainly expect there to be a few more first person shooters on it by now. As it is, all we have is Resistance: Burning Skies and that title – from Nihilistic Software – didn’t exactly set the world on fire. An unremarkable single player campaign, which felt rushed and incomplete, and a multiplayer mode which seemed quite fun but I personally found to barely work.

So with Nihilistic back for a second crack of the whip already, can they deliver a more polished product? The disappointing trailer shown at the end of Sony’s press conference doesn’t inspire much confidence but that could all be down to the edit.

I didn’t get to see the single player in action but can confirm that it’s set in the years between the two home console Black Ops titles, featuring a mixture of objective based operations, alongside time trials and survival missions. It certainly sounds like it’s more of a bite sized and portable experience, more akin to Unit 13 than a lengthy plot-driven campaign. We’ll have to wait and see what other details emerge over the final few months on this front but I did get to see some multiplayer.

[drop2]Every Call of Duty game lives and dies by its multiplayer and they have tried to bring as much of the Black Ops experience across to the Vita as possible. There have been a few concessions to the handheld, with the player count having been cut down to 4v4 and a smaller selection of just 6 maps but the rest of the experience looks to have been transplanted quite well. Game modes will include Free For All, Team Deathmatch, Kill Confirmed and more.

Additionally, you have Create-a-Class, Prestiging, Killstreaks, Challenges, Care Packages and all the other things you’ll know from Call of Duty titles. One extra thing that the Vita has is the ability to share your load-outs with your friends, using Near. Doing so can give a buddy a decent jump up the food chain as, even if they haven’t unlocked these weapons for themselves, they’ll be able to use your load-out.

I didn’t have hands on with the game but the brief 2v2 demonstration did look quite accomplished. A standard Team Deathmatch saw two pairs of players huddled around a table, muttering directions and information to one another, as all four Vita screens were being beamed to TVs for us to watch.

During gameplay, these pairs were sticking together well and a closely fought battle unfolded. Grenades were being thrown through doorways, using the touchscreen capabilities to throw precisely where they wanted, and the teams worked closely to move around what seemed like a fairly large and well-featured map. My main criticism of the graphics on show would be that textures seem to be rather muddied and the palette quite dulled.

Additionally, I can’t provide screenshots at PS Vita resolutions but it doesn’t really seem like it’s currently running at native resolution, another of my pet peeves with games on the Vita.

Back to the match and maybe a bit predictably, it was the man with the shotgun that broke the stalemate, embarking on a killstreak. First he unlocked the spy plane to show enemy positions, and a few kills later a mortar strike. This was handled using the touchscreen, with a touch button on the left hand side to activate killstreaks, and the mortar interface showing the entire map on the full screen, letting you prod exactly where you want to be bombarded with mortar shells. A simple thing integrated quite nicely.

All too soon the demonstration was at an end and while it left a much better impression than the press conference trailer, I still haven’t seen anywhere near enough to be convinced. For a title just a couple months from launch, which is bound to be as big a seller as the Vita has seen so far, I find the caginess surrounding this title just a little disconcerting.

We all want a good FPS on the Vita and we’ll just have to wait and see if Nihilistic and Activision can deliver one that beats expectations. I really hope they can.



  1. I was really excited about the possibilities of FPS when I knew the Vita had twin-sticks. Yet now I’m really not fussed about them, I think that Resistance was ok and Blops (so far) don’t look that great, and a FPS (for me) is better enjoyed on my PS3, especially when both new versions are to be released at the same time.
    I hope the touch-screen icons don’t sit on the screen like they did in Resistance, spoiling the view, but the mortar strike placing seems like a good and accuracte way of delivering the killstreak. I’ll keep an eye on this but I may need a demo before I’m convinced.
    Nazi Zombies could make it a certain purchase though!

  2. It really doesn’t look like they’re pushing the Vita enough. I know Call of Duty games aren’t known for their graphics but seriously… look at the ground textures.

    • Looks crappy even compared to PSP standards… What are they thinking?

  3. “It certainly sounds like it’s more of a bite sized and portable experience, more akin to Unit 13 than a lengthy plot-driven campaign”

    There is a Call of Duty game out there somewhere with a lengthy plot? Blimey.

  4. I know this will sell, but it doesn’t look all that to be honest. Fingers crossed for Vita gamers.

  5. As long as the gameplay is solid and the textures aren’t too bad then I think it will be ok. Looking forward to Killzone more than this to be honest

  6. Sounds OK I guess. I am actually looking forward to this COD title as I would love a solid FPS on the Vita. Let’s hope it get’s a bit better.

  7. How many FPS is it running at? If it’s not the smooth 60fps that COD fans adore and want as standard, fans aren’t going to jump on it without the slick controls.
    At least its got prestigie mode and create a class, that should keep people coming back to play, but forcing it to be wi-fi only could annoy some, although I’d prefer that over dodgy 3G connections.

    • I don’t have any info on the frame rate.

      WiFi only is a necessary evil, which applies to all MP Vita games. As you say, 3G just isn’t absolutely reliable enough to allow online play. There’s no way to block people off from trying to play CoD on the train, and that’s just asking for trouble.

  8. I’ll be skipping this.

    I know I was being overly optimistic when hoping for at lease 6v6 TDM because that’s what i’m used to. With 4v4, it’s not bad i suppose but they need to include Team Tactical mode for MP to make it worthwhile.

    I don’t really want to dilute my COD experience as I’ve enjoyed most of the MP’s through to MW3 to some degree.

    6 maps is not enough for me. I’ll get Blops 2 on the PS3 and invest in Killzone Vita instead.

    (Cod or Killzone? Killzone every time)

  9. I fear the same critical reception that Resistance received. Something just isn’t lining up for me with this title…

  10. Looks like a PSP game tbh. Need a good developer to make a game that actually looks and plays great.

    If it’s 4v4 MP, then this game can fuck off.

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