With two analog sticks built into a powerful handheld for the first time ever, the PlayStation Vita is the perfect platform to bring Call of Duty to the mobile gaming masses. So will developer Nihilistic's treatment of Black Ops make fans salivate at the prospect of carrying Call of Duty wherever they go? The short answer: No. The longer answer: Nooooooooooooooo.
Let's get this out of the way right from the start: Black Ops Declassified could have been great. It wears its promise on its sleeve, but then expediently takes its shirt off, douses it in gasoline, and sets it ablaze while mumbling in an unintelligible, grizzled voice. All the puzzle pieces of a quality portable gaming experience are here - bite-sized missions, a robust multiplayer offering, and solid visuals - but the speed at which the game abandons all semblance of playability is really quite astounding.
Like all Call of Duty titles, Declassified is a first-person shooter, so the only part of your own character you ever see during gameplay is your hands holding a weapon. Put simply, your task is to shoot and/or blow up everything that moves. This isn't a terribly complex concept, and to the game's credit the gunplay does feel like Call of Duty, but that's where Declassified's accomplishments end.
The story mode isn't really a coherent narrative, but rather a collection of loosely connected events that put you at the start of a long, winding murder hallway where you're constantly being timed. The timer rarely has any significance, and in most cases it's just there, in the corner, ticking away. At the end of each short mission you are given a score and your final time, but there's really no incentive to replay any of the levels.
In theory, the various missions are supposed to flesh out the seedy Cold War dealings of various characters from the first Black Ops title, but aside from a few familiar voice actors, none of the objectives seem to have any real connection to the already confusing Black Ops storyline. The levels are embarrassingly linear, with next to nothing in the way of branching paths or actual choices.
There are almost zero opportunities to use any kind of tactics or trickery when approaching a group of enemies because the environments are so cramped that you quite literally have no room to plan an attack other than simply running forward with your finger on the trigger. In the rare event that you come upon a slightly more open room or courtyard, there is always one piece of cover to hide behind, and one bottleneck through which to proceed. Choosing which nameless, faceless soldier to shoot first is the closest you'll come to a meaningful choice.
The enemy combatants pour out of random hallways at every turn, and while the term "monster closet" is used quite frequently to describe enemies that seem to come out of nowhere, Declassified breaks new ground. In almost every mission of the campaign you'll find short hallways that produce anywhere between 5 and 15 enemies. After taking the dimwitted warriors out, you can actually walk down these corridors and find a small, plain-textured room, with no additional doors or other openings whatsoever. At best, it'll break your immersion, and at worst you'll wonder why the developers didn't just skip adding enemies altogether.