Was Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified really that bad on the PS Vita?
November 2012. I was living in Chambery, France, in a nice hotel that had apartment suites. It was a temporary set-up – I was only to be there for six months before moving on to Vienna for another six months. I didn’t have a home console during that time as I’d decided against lugging my PS3 and Xbox 360 around Europe. Instead, I put my misplaced faith in the PS Vita. I was sure that Sony’s mighty handheld would be enough to do my gaming. During that time I worked through LittleBigPlanet Vita (my first ever review!), Assassin’s Creed Liberation, Uncharted Golden Abyss, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, and much more.
Most games stood out as brilliant distractions after spending my days getting my head pecked by Frenchies and the Other Germans (the Swiss) but there was one that had me shaking in quiet fury. Of course, I’m talking about Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified, the first – and last – Call of Duty game for the PS Vita. It wasn’t the first portable effort, mind you, as Roads to Victory had released on the PSP some years before to middling reviews, but since Declassified’s release, Activision hasn’t put out a new Call of Duty game for any handheld gaming system – only for smartphones. Even the capable Nintendo Switch has been left out in the cold by Activision’s overlords.
I paid full price for my copy of Declassified and it cost almost as much as a proper home console Call of Duty. I remember being excited to get my hands on it and I remember that excitement fading away during the very first mission in the game’s criminally short campaign. But was it really that bad? Like, really? Did it have no redeeming features? This is something I wanted to see. So, after letting the dust settle for almost a decade, I’ve spent the last few weeks dipping in and out of Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified on the PS Vita. The fact that I’ve been doing it for a few weeks is a hint to the answer: No, it’s not that bad, but you need to come at it from a different angle.
Back in 2012 the PS Vita was positioned as the home console on-the-go and Sony was extremely bullish in its approach to marketing the PS Vita, and even more so in making money off the thing. The console itself was as expensive as a home console, and the memory cards were – and still are – stupidly expensive because Sony loves nothing more than shafting its players with expensive proprietary memory cards. “For the player“
But, for all of Sony’s faults, the console was amazing and I was confident that it would be good enough for me to make it my main console for a full year. Big-name ports were still happening, and Call of Duty was among them. This was 2012 and the first year of the PS Vita’s life – expectations were still sky high. Little did any of us know that in just a few short years, Sony would abandon the Vita.
Black Ops Declassified released and it dragged the good(ish) Call of Duty name through the mud. The game was painfully short, a little on the ugly side, and a poorly produced bit of media. The campaign was laughable and I remember getting through it while my partner made dinner. I was done before supper was served. I had time to try out Hostiles and the online multiplayer, both of which annoyed the boiling piss out of me. Hostiles was single-player only and the online multiplayer barely worked.
I think I kept hold of the game for all of about 24 hours – I had a physical copy and you can bet your nips I took that shit straight back to the store and demanded a French refund, AKA – le refund. I got my money and promptly forgot the game existed.
Sometime between then and now, I bought Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified again on the PS Vita, digitally, but for the life of me, I can’t remember when or for how much. I doubt I’d have paid full whack for it. Fool me once and all that. The lowest price, according to my friends at PSPrices, is £6.99, and that was back in 2018. I probably got it then but didn’t actually bother to play it.
Now, here in 2021, I’m locked up at home with not much else to do, so I’ve been giving the PS Vita a bit more love. I’ve been going through my download list and playing some games from the library I forgot I had, and of course, one of those is Black Ops Declassified. I wasn’t even sure if I should bother downloading it, considering how much space it takes on my meagre 16GB card – no, I’m not paying stupid prices for a bigger one – but I downloaded it anyway out of morbid curiosity. And you know what? It’s not as bad as I remember. Oh, it’s shit, don’t get me wrong, it’s still massively shit, but context is everything.
At the full asking price, Black Ops Declassified is insulting. But if you can get it for less than a tenner, either digitally or on a Vita cart, it’s actually not that bad. It’s still naff, sure, but for the price of a cinema ticket you’re getting an hour or two in the campaign mode, and longer if you play for the trophies. You get a wave-based horde mode that’s actually not terrible – it just needed online co-op. And of course, you get multiplayer which, much to my absolute surprise, still has people playing it in 2021. You can still get into a few games and while it’s not a scrap on the home console games that came before and after, it’s a decent enough way to spend an hour in the bath – my preferred location for PS Vita sessions.
I reckon if you can get your hands on this for less than a tenner, you won’t regret it. Or you might because it’s still a bit shit, but whatever. You’ll only be out a tenner, not £45.