With the much-touted reveal of Black Ops II multiplayer information here at Gamescom 2012, there's a tendency to think of Black Ops as a thing of the future. But the Black Ops that the world went crazy for two years ago is not as far in the past as it might seem. With Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified, you'll be able to catch up with Mason, Woods, and Hudson from the original game and see what happens to them before the year 2025 finds Mason sermonizing in a senior center.
The single-player missions in Declassified are designed with short play sessions in mind. Many, if not all, will be framed by certain objective types, like time trials and survival missions. Call of Duty veterans are no strangers to speedily progressing through an area or holding out against waves of enemies, but the fact that the campaign is being presented as having these specific types of levels made us wonder what other mission types are in store.
The demo we saw, however, focused on a multiplayer match. Declassified will support up to eight players in competitive action over Wi-Fi. Developer Nihilistic is taking great pains to replicate the full Call of Duty multiplayer experience on the Vita, and so far, it seems to be succeeding. We only saw team deathmatch in action, but were told that free-for-all, kill confirmed, and "other classic modes" are included as well. The create-a-class system appears to be identical, including primary and secondary weapons, three perks, and lethal and tactical grenades. Killstreak rewards, experience points, and multiple prestige levels are all in place, and even the font used in menus and mid-match XP reward messages appears to be the same one used in Black Ops.
There will be six multiplayer maps to play on, and the trailer showed one that looked unmistakably like fan favorite Nuketown. The match we saw took place on Shatter, a dingy, bombed-out village with interlocking streets and a few multistory buildings. As we watched the match play out on televisions connected to Vitas by HDMI cables, the pace and feel of the action seemed very reminiscent of Nihilistic's previous Vita game, Resistance: Burning Skies. The core multiplayer mechanics in that game were solid, despite suffering from network issues, which bodes well for Declassified.
We could also see Nihilistic's fingerprints when the demoers showed off the touch screen controls. Like in Burning Skies, you use the front touch screen to melee attack or aim a grenade throw. The back touch screen is used for sniping, we were told, but the players in our match stuck to AK-47s, a FAMAS rifle, and a SPAS-12 shotgun. Killstreak rewards are also deployed by a virtual button, so plan to give your fingers a bit of a workout when you sit down with Declassified.
Thus far it looks like Nihilistic has checked the kinds of boxes you'd hope for on a portable Call of Duty checklist. There's even some Near functionality that lets you share created classes with friends. But competently delivering expected features doesn't guarantee that Declassified will capture the taut combat, exciting pacing, and addictive multiplayer that have made recent console Call of Duty games so electrifying. Burning Skies fell short of replicating the excitement of the Resistance series, so here's hoping Declassified can do its source material proud.