Call Of Duty Vita And The Irrelevance Of Game Reviews

call of duty vita

There are 32 ‘critic’ reviews on Metacritic for Call of Duty on the PlayStation Vita, with an average score of 32%. That’s 32 out of 100, with an almost unilateral panning across the board from game reviewers. The highest is a 56% from a site called Digital Chumps, the lowest a 10% from PlayStation LifeStyle. It’s not, according to those that like to pronounce such things, a good game.

And yet, it seems like the buying public literally don’t care. The photograph above, taken this morning, shows the game, which is a staggering £45, is the best selling game on the PSN. I don’t know the criteria for this in terms of timespan and I’m assuming it’s legit, but that’s a remarkable state of affairs whichever way you look at it.

It’s not just sales, either – that’s a 4/5 rating from those that have bought it, from over 500 ratings. If it was terrible, that star score would reflect that, right?

  • “Black Ops: Declassified is an insult to pretty much everybody and everything in the videogame industry” says Destructoid.
  • “A disjointed mess of meaningless missions” says Giant Bomb.
  • “Awful” says Edge.
  • “Declassified is such a laughable attempt at capturing the Call of Duty formula that it borders on self-parody” says EGM.

Well, it looks like the public either don’t care what the reviewers say and buy it anyway, with the slightly ignorant (and probably nonsense) notion on-board that if you’ve bought a game for £45 you’re likely to perceive it to have a somewhat higher set of qualities, or – you know – it’s not actually as bad as everyone’s saying.

Now, I’ve not played the game – and that puts me in something of a neutral position. I’m also not exactly the world’s biggest FPS fan, but from what I’ve seen anecdotally, the game’s hardly top tier but it’s not 10% bad either. That’s just from opinions of gamers I’ve seen around the web, of course, but that’s the thing – why is there so much diversion between those that write about the games and those that play them with this game in particular?

[drop]With all the discussion about ethics in the industry (such as its somewhat laughable state is these days) it’s perhaps worth noting that I’m not suggesting any agendas here from anyone involved, and it’s clear that this is an Activision game with one hell of a brand behind it, but the difference here is nothing short of staggering.

For reference, Amazon has the game at number two in their top selling charts at the time of writing, and it’s £37 there. That’s still (in my opinion) far too much money for a mobile game, especially given the rumoured development budget, but at least it’s cheaper than on PSN.

It also charted at number 16 in the all-formats chart this week in the UK, second only to Uncharted: Golden Abyss in terms of Vita exclusive.

We’ve been called out on reviews in the past – comments have suggested we’ve scored too highly or too low – and that’s fine (reviews are, after all, just one opinion, objectively as possible), but with Call of Duty: Declassified it seems like it’s just one of those games with such a powerful license that it transcends anything anyone else has said about it, regardless of the size of their readership or industry clout. That says more than you might think.

It’s almost a common internet meme now that the Vita has no games, but right now that’s simply not the case. Sure, it’s currently missing that AAA system seller (hi, Monster Hunter) and sales are on a downward slope in the east, but I’ve still got plenty to play so I’m not totally sure where that comes from, and this week’s introduction of Plus is hugely exciting.

Is this a indicator that the power of reviews and reviewers is waning? Probably not, there’s still a massive emphasis on the likes of Gamespot and IGN’s scores when a game rolls around, but in this case perhaps it’s more that such a big game can move beyond the low scores and still perform admirably at retail.

Nihilistic might have re-branded and opted out of this one, but it seems like they might just have gotten away with it.



  1. I think personally reviews are irrelevant, it is good to hear someone’s opinion on the game but the fact that its an individual opinion & you are paid for that opinion makes the review pointless plus that number stuff is just confusing in my eyes a 7 is a good number but apparently 8 & above is what is expected.

    I think they should do something like a gamer’s review, something like on amazon were people post their opinions about their purchase & give it a star rating, depending on how many people rated the game high that alone sways me to buy the game cause those are personal reviews from people who spent their hard earned mom money on that game :)

    • The problem with things such as ‘gamer reviews/user scores’ though is the fact that people let fanboyism and brand hate blind their judgement. This is very regular in gaming, and it is alot more absent in other industries and products where users get to submit a small review.

      • Simple solution: Only let people who have bought the game rate it.

      • Yeh but also most critics are fanboys even if they claim to be “professionals” They are only human after all. The system needs re evaluating

  2. Reviewers seem to hate it, those who bought it less so but I think there is an obvious problem with the reviews – and indeed all Vita reviews.

    Reviewers have to bosh the entire game quickly to get the review. That’s not how the games were designed to be played.

    Take Resistance VIta. Play it in one go and its pretty awful, some dodgy graphics and endless waves of samey enemeies. Play it in five minute bursts on the way to work and you none of that matters, it’s a pretty darn good shooter in small bursts. I suspect COD is the same, bloody awful if you have to play it for more than half an hour, but for 5 mins on the move COD action it more than does the job.


    • Is the problem that reviewers don’t play games like gamers would? No-one’s saying “rush this and review it” but then there’s a pressure to get the game done and out for embargo/release/whatever, right?

      • Yes, thats exactly what I meant. Review codes come so close to embargo dates that reviewers sit through the whole game in a couple of sittings. For games that are designed to be played in short 10 min bursts then that’s going to cause problems.

      • With TC on this one. Something my friend likes to do is to read retrospective reviews which are far more like the real-world gamer who’s had time to chew, digest and cogitate over whether a game was any good or not.

        Saying that, there’s no getting away from the fact that we all tend to lap up some useless crap from time-to-time. Look at Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. With a score of 21% over at Rotten Tomatoes (and generally accepted as a complete tool-fest) it still managed to reap an unjust $836 million at the box office. Ho…ly…. SHIT! People buy The Sun. People watch Transformers. People buy terrible games… in droves!

        Some people are passed saving. :-)

        There’s none so deaf as those who will not hear.

    • Bang on TC. 100% understand and agree. If this were an RPG or something that is designed to suck you in and spit you out 12 nutritionally starved hours later it would be a different matter but for a game that is mobile and meant to be played on a bus or on a short journey then the reviewers might not have that experience available to them and certainly not the time to schedule it either.

  3. I’m sure many reviewers were comparing it with the main console versions, to which it is clearly a tinpot edition, tiny in all respects and rather bugged, that’s what’s got low scores from the pros .

    But since there’s little comparable to it on the Vita, those differences are unlikely to be noticed, so Vita-only gamers will be happier with it (I guess) and the bugs can be patched (look at all the complaints about bugs in any game, that get far higher scores).

    I’l wait for a patch and a price-cut personally, but is it really that bad? I doubt it.

  4. I agree with you – there are plenty of games for Vita. I have some I still need to go back to.

    Once a game gets to the scale of a Call Of Duty or Madden I suspect reviews from professional game outlets become less important to the public at large – the wider, dare I say, more ‘casual’ market will just see the name, get it and enjoy it for what it is.

    It’s unlikely most people buying that game will have checked out (or possibly even heard of) the sites you name check above. Obviously we would know them and respect (or not) their opinions.

    A huge amount of people out there with consoles just play COD and a sports game. If they had the money for a Vita, Declassified will probably suit them just fine.

    I haven’t played it either but I’m looking forward to giving it a spin – I thought Burning Skies was decent enough. I obviously want my Vita games to be the best they can be but if it’s fun I don’t mind them rough around the edges!

  5. Ok, it probably isn’t that bad, but it deserves to be canned in the reviews because it’s lazily done and could easily have been so much better. If people buy this stuff then there’s no incentive for them to properly cater for the Vita.

    I also don’t really buy the thing on being ok in short bursts. If you can’t play it for more than half an hour without getting bored, it’s not a great game.

    Even some phone games manage that sort of moreishness, to be a great game you have to have it.

  6. As far as professional critics go, I think what Al & TC touched upon above is pretty spot on. Those that issue reviews are held to schedules & timescales that gamers are not, which can sully the experience somewhat. As a pick up & play game it’s probably fine in short bursts whilst on the bus, the tube, or the throne, but it probably makes about as much sense as walking into Morrisons & wondering why they won’t accept your Tesco card to play through in one go in one day.

    As for user reviews (for those that have ever perused this section on Metacritic for example), how many times have you seen the comment “I have deliberately raised my score to battle the lower scores this title is getting” & I think that this may have come into play with the 4.5 user average. To put it another way, some people have to justify their purchase & most of the time, they are simply justifying it to themselves.

    Then you have those people that don’t care about reviews, don’t read them & so are not tainted by anyone else’s opinion of something that they might like. Fact is, CoD is a brand they recognise on a platform that they own, they have enjoyed shooting people in the face in every other CoD they have played & there aren’t exactly a lot of shooters on Vita at the moment from what I have seen. For those people, it’s a no-brainer.

    So is it a 10% game? I doubt it. Is it a 90% game (which the 4.5 average would be in percentage terms)? Also unlikely. It’s probably somewhere in the middle of the two, perhaps even verging to the 60% or 70% mark, depending on your personal preference to shooters & whether you want one on a handheld or not.

    As I always say to people, read reviews by all means, but pay specific attention to the pros & cons raised. Pros may in fact be cons to you or vice versa & it is that which you should base your decisions on (if anything). You should not be swayed by someone else’s opinion of a game if it contradicts your personal preference. If it’s something that you think you’ll enjoy & you don’t find the cons raised to be cons to you, why the hell not?

  7. It’s a Call of Duty title – and because it sells well, people have been unneccesarily bashing it since around the time of World at War, and now that Black Ops 2 is genuinely undeniably good, Declassified is taking that flack instead – and it’s a Vita title: it’s a simple fact of life that a bizarre number of sites and writers just slate everything to do with the Vita, not reporting anything positive, but then overblowing any tiny thing. It’s depressing. Plus Declassified has become somewhat of a target for poor reception since E3 – seriously though, for a game with a short but decent SP mode with a fair bit of re-playability, and a solid if unspectacular multiplayer mode, how could it possibly be “an insult to pretty much everybody and everything in the videogame industry”.

    Plus there’s what Tuff was saying – this is a score attack game (at in the single player), and there simply isn’t the timescale for reviewing that. Rush through it and it seems short, shallow and unsatisfying, but keep going back through as a normal player would, and the reviewer would call it stale and repetitive, and say they got bored of it.

    • I was thinking this. Because you can’t really fault Black Ops II, review sites want to satisfy those viewers who jump on the ‘I hate CoD’ bandwagon by directing their abuse towards the Vita title. People won’t be in outrage of it’s low score and abuse to them as it is just a Vita title, not a full blown console CoD.

  8. Some of the most critically slammed games have been the titles I have had the most fun with. I prefered Resistance Burning Skies to Resistance 2. It was more my speed. Remember the Superman game on xbox that got 5\10 as its highest review acores? I spent a rediculous amount of time on that game and loved it. Ive ignored reviews for a while now because my opinion seems to differ from most reviewers.

  9. I’ve long thought that when you make a decision to buy a game that either interests you, or you’re mentally invested in the franchise or the development studio with your own money that you’re in a different frame of mind to a reviewer.

    This is also why demos sometimes don’t impress people, or when you receive great PS+ content – Both situations are very different from forking out all of your spare money on something, you commit to it in a completely different way where you have almost no choice but to extract enjoyment from your purchase no matter how bad it is.

    There’s just a different frame of mind when you’re essentially being given something.

    I’m not saying reviews don’t matter at all though, but how many people follow a project that interests them like Journey, XCOM or next year’s Tomb Raider right from its inception to release and not buy it because of reviews, perhaps Journey & XCOM are bad examples because they’re pretty much the only contenders for GotY2012, maybe Resident Evil 6 & NfS: The Run instead, where both titles received nothing but middling reviews but sold very well.

    Of course even given a unanimous critical hammering some franchises are so strong like Call Of Duty and Star Wars that a stinker link Declassified or Phantom Menace can still be a huge success.

    • I’ve long since stopped trying demos for this exact reason cc (a decision made back when pc demos were huge),for games i’m intent on buying.

  10. Not really relevant to the article, but I fear this won’t do the Vita any good.

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