I’ve previously postulated that Call of Duty, the stalwart modern combat shooter might just be the game that reverses the Vita’s fortunes. Now that I’ve actually had a good look at Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified, I’m a little less convinced.
Activision, for some reason has pawned off the development of one of its most important handheld titles to Nihilistic Studios – the very same people responsible for the rather terrible Resistance Burning Skies. Nihilistic has the opportunity to make amends for that soulless cash-in, and they’re trying to do so by doing all they can to make their portable Call of Duty a true Call of Duty experience, by stuffing as much of the main game’s content in to the bite-sized shooter.
So yes, you’ll find all of the things that make Call of Duty Call of Duty; customizable kill streaks, care packages, Prestige and idiots knifing you even though you’ve filled them with bullets.
It contains a (probably very short) single player campaign, that’ll have you shooting the AI in snack sized, covert objective based missions, coupled with a narrative that wedges the gap between the last Black Ops and the one coming this year. If you’re a sucker for canon (not a joke about fellatio, I swear), it’ll keep you up to date on the exploits of series heroes Mason and Woods.
It’s got some interesting new features though that attempt to make use of the Vita’s unique controls. Kill streaks are activated, as you’d expect, via the touch interface, which’ll also allow you, for example to, to touch on the map where you’d like your airstrike to be called in. Grenades too are activated via touch, allowing you to cook your grenades by holding the screen with your off hand, and even directing where it’ll land – so you’ll be able, should you have three hands or the dexterity of a ninja, to shoot in one direction and throw a grenade in another.
Of course, most play Call of Duty for the multiplayer, which comes to the Vita mostly intact. Don’t expect huge firefights though; it’s limited to 4v4. One rather interesting Vita-specific feature is the ability to share your created classes and load-outs via the system’s Near functionality over Wifi.
Activision and Nihilistic, as I’ve said, have tried to do all they can to pack an authentic Call of Duty experience on to a handheld – but I’m not sure they’ve succeeded. Like Burning Skies, it seem to be a soulless affair. All the right elements are there – they’re just not nearly as cohesive as they should be. You’d hope that Nihilistic has put its experience with portable twin-sticked shooters to work – and they have. In fact, in many ways it looks like they’ve just taken a Call of Duty skin and plastered it over Burning Skies – with the same sort of muddy textures and choppy frame-rate (don’t be expecting the buttery smooth 60 fps of its console counterparts). You could say that it’s a hardware limitation – but Bend Studio, who did launch title Uncharted: Golden Abyss has certainly proven that it’s possible to make exceptional looking titles for Sony’s sexy handheld.
It’s a pity – and I sincerely hope that the title just needs, and will receive that much needed dab of polish. With just a little over 3 months until release though, I’m not sure it’ll be getting it.
Last Updated: August 16, 2012