Black Ops: Declassified Has A Promising Gamescom Debut, But The Jury’s Still Out

Still aching to scratch that FPS itch at school, work, on the bus, or anywhere that isn’t home? And not with virtual controls? Sony’s handheld Vita, with its twin analogue sticks, should have been the device to scratch that itch. Sadly, though, the handheld has been light on first person shooters even after six months on the market. Activision aims to change that with Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified, a Vita-only version of the most popular FPS around, Call of Duty. The game was unveiled with a gameplay trailer yesterday at Sony’s Gamescom press conference, and I got to see more of it at the show afterward.

Declassified is a traditional FPS in the truest sense-it’s fast, with full FPS controls and functions (plus a few not possible on traditional consoles). Declassified has everything to make COD players feel right at home, from Create-A-Class to perks to Prestige levelling. While Activision didn’t allow any hands-on time with the game here at Gamescom, the company did show gameplay of a live 2v2 match. The game is surprisingly fast-paced for a mobile game — still slower than other Call of Duty titles, but the almost frantic run-and-gun gameplay isn’t lost in translation. It does look more like Call of Duty 3 graphically than more recent COD titles, which is to be expected considering the Vita’s hardware.

Declassified tells a tale set between the first and second Black Ops titles, which Activision isn’t revealing just yet. The publisher claims that the solo campaign will be objective-based so users can easily jump into and out of a game without feeling lost. Multiplayer will feature up to 8-player competitive play over Wi-Fi across six different multiplayer maps. The major multiplayer modes, including Free for All, Team Deathmatch, and Kill Confirmed will all return, along with online matchmaking.

On top of that, Declassified improves on the traditional FPS gameplay using Vita’s front and rear touch panels. Sure, the Vita doesn’t have bumpers, but the touch screen controls grenade throws (for throwing, aiming, and cooking), melee attacks, sniping (both aim and zoom), and even the activation of kill streaks. And for the first time in a Call of Duty title grenades can be lobbed in any way the player chooses. Using finger swipes, players can completely control the throw, to the extent that it can be thrown backwards without turning around.

Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified looks like a promising FPS on the Vita, which is something that the console desperately needs. Developer Nihilistic Studios (best known for the roundly disappointing Resistance: Burning Skies) might not have the skills needed to make a game that will satisfy Call of Duty fans. Then again, this the first time a game developer has been put to the test with a major franchise on a new platform.

For the sake of the Vita, and mobile shooters in general, I hope Nhilistic delivers.

Black Ops: Declassified will be out this November.

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