Platform: PS Vita

Video games cost a lot of money. You can find a video game, depending on its popularity, ranging from anything from £10 to £60 at launch. When a game comes out, you demand a certain amount of content and substance, something that will at least give you an entertaining as you whittle down the hours in the day. So, when a game lasts roughly under 2 hours and you've just spent £39.99 on it, you damn well want your money’s worth, right?

Wrong! Welcome to Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified – the videogame that literally eats your money.

If your familiar with the Call of Duty series, then you know there’s not much to it in terms of finesse or variety– it's a testosterone filled, burly soldier bro-dude shouting fest of cuss words, bullets, terrorists, bombs that blow up doors, slow-mo entries and a multiplayer which seems to be the only thing people care about in this game.

Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified is based on “deniable” events that have now been declassified. They fit between the events of the Call of Duty: Black Ops series. Many of the stories are horribly told with little to no relation to the actual missions themselves. To explain this further, you will need to understand the campaign mission structure.

PhotobucketThe campaign consists of “Operations”. There are only 10. Each operation acts and feels like a 3 minute time trial - on the bottom left of the screen there is a ticking clock and I managed to complete every operation in roughly 3~4 minutes. So the single player campaign is essentially 30~40 minutes in length.

Operations feel and play out like the Spec Ops missions from the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series, with a map loudly placed on the bottom left of the screen multiplayer style and +100 XP points for every kill you get. Although this is a single player mission, it feels really like a multiplayer game. But lonelier.

The most frustrating part of the operations is how incredibly short they are. The developers use two things to delay the player from completing the missions too quickly–an obtuse difficulty and no checkpoints. When you die during an operation, you go back to the very start of it. You even have to watch the mini vocal cutscene at the start each and every time. Like I said, the difficulty is very obtuse and even on the easiest setting, many of the enemies and situational balance can sometimes be overpowering.

Not to fear, however, because the aiming are already so stiff that you might aswell use the auto-lock as an exploit - simply tapping the left shoulder button brings your gun’s iron sights up, however it also snaps to an enemy soldier in your view automatically – just tap left and shoot, rinse and repeat and you can clear a room easily in no time.

The controls weren't very well implemented. There was no button to cycle weapons, instead you can only have one gun at a time (which is even worse than Duke Nukem: Forever!!!). There is a setting for you to automatically run after holding the left movement stick forward for long enough – perhaps an admission from the developers that the awkwardness of hitting the DOWN D-Pad button just to sprint was a bit of a pain. It also doesn’t work well with the speed of the gameplay, especially multiplayer were sprinting can make or break your game.

There is only one level that utilizes special button functionality (hitting RIGHT on the D-Pad) that turns on your night vision – after that solitary mission it’s never seen again.

As for touch screen controls, you tap the screen to stab an enemy. You hold your finger on the grenade icon and then choose where to let go to throw a grenade – or just tap the grenade icon to throw the damn thing. The back touch screen is only used for steadying your aim when holding a sniper rifle.

Like I mentioned earlier, the story is messy and feels like there is no relation between what you're hearing in the briefing cutscene and the actual gameplay – maybe this is because the gameplay and visuals are so bland that the verbosity of the briefing speech simply just doesn’t reflect the situation that is being described.

When you finish the last operation in the campaign, no custscene plays and there are no credits – that’s it. After completing a ludicrously short campaign it begins to sink in that this series might not care any more about the single player experience. So we might as well talk about the other features.

Outside of the single player campaign there is a Time Trial. Ironic. It largely consists of an obstacle course where you're trying to compete to get the highest score and rating during a mission – not much different from campaign mode which rates you at the end of the level anyway.

The main focus of this game is on its 4 vs. 4 multiplayer – what’s there to say about the multiplayer? It’s basically just another Call of Duty multiplayer map fest.

PhotobucketI found it laughable that I was walking into my first multiplayer match at level 21 because I had gained so many points from the campaign already. Suffice it to say I’ve never really been won over by the “ranking” in COD as it feels largely immaterial to your ability. I only acheived that rank because I died so many times just trying to complete the game, and killing waves upon waves of enemies every time helped be level up. Not really a challenge when you have to start each operation from the very beginning.

I felt the multiplayer suffered from the same problems as Resistance: Burning Skies – my experience was frequently cut short with PS Vita freezes.

Frustrated I moved on to the game’s “Hostile” mode. This is basically an attack challenge, where your aim is just to survive the many waves of enemies and challenges that come at you. Difficulty is increased each time you succesfully repel repelling the enemies. This mode is satisfying, but with not many other challenges on offer, the fun soon runs out.

Graphically, the animation is good, however it's all for naught when you notice that enemies will run into cover and then proceed to shoot at you even though they are facing the wall. You will hear endless gunfire and then realize that a nearby enemy is wasting all his bullets into the box he is cowering behind – which can sometimes bend space and time to hit you.

My main critique graphically would be that the anti-aliasing is quite bad but not horrific. This I know is quite difficult to iron out when trying to bring a console/PC experience to a portable system whilst keeping a consistent frame rate.

I was surprised to hear how quiet and unbalance the audio in this game was. The general music, sound FX and voices are all very low on the PS Vita’s speakers at max volume – at first I thought my own hearing was the issue (I suffer from Chronic rhinitis all year round), however at one point during a mission, a random enemy started screaming in Russian which completely drowned out all the other audio. His scream at least was at normal volume in relation to how maxed out I had set my PS Vita’s volume. I needed subtitles for this game at times, however sometimes the subtitles turned off randomly without provocation.

It was nice to see a realistic depiction of a helicopter shoot enemy soldiers in the cranium with a full barrage of machine gun fire before they even reacted to the effects (!) It was also doubly amusing to see one of the soldiers fall over the balcony he was on and bounce off the map in front of me – what fun! At least they were trying to have fun in their own demented way.

Oh and before I forget, if you're fan of Call of Duty style door breeches, let me tell you, this game has one in almost every level. I have never been so exhausted by slow-mo killing so many terrorists and random Russian guys; I felt like I was overdosing on all the infinite C4 my guy was placing on the doors.

I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m trying to keep my cool here. I’m trying to keep my cool because this game is an absolute train wreck in terms of value for money and quality of entertainment. A shoddy insultingly short campaign, no save points, featureless game mechanics, broken enemy A.I., lackluster graphics, at points unfair difficulty, useless story, same old same old multiplayer, unutilized control schemes and an overpriced price tag.

PhotobucketSo what saves this game? Being a die-hardcore fan of this genre? Do you have too much disposable cash? You desperately want a first person shooter game on the PS Vita, or are you just interested in a multiplayer experience?

I will say the only answer should be the latter. If you are interested solely in multiplayer and maybe the pick-up and play aspect of the game, find entertainment in the “Hostiles” mode or even Time Trials, then by all means be my guest and play this game.

Do I feel this justifies your £40? No. I don’t care what argument is out there for this game or its series; in no way does this sort of price tag justify the game that was delivered.

Ultimately the best description of how I felt after playing COD: Black Ops Declassified is this: you know those cash grab movie-to-game adaptations that are sometimes made? Well, this game feels just like that – a cash grab based loosely on a much superior gaming experience.

For anyone with an ounce of sanity, please take a second to think about your hard earned cash and the possibilities of using it on something that won’t make you wish the events in this game hadn't been declassified.