For the umpteenth year in a row, Activision is gearing up Call of Duty for another blockbuster release this November. Treyarch’s Black Ops II has been garnering tons of positive press, and for good reason. The near-future setting is genuinely interesting, while the changes and additions to the series’ iconic multiplayer seem downright innovative, haters be damned.
So to see Call of Duty’s Vita debut, Black Ops Declassified, in such disarray is genuinely disappointing. Last year at E3, all we were told was that Call of Duty was coming to Sony’s new handheld in some shape or form, and at this year’s show all we got was a logo. It wasn’t until Gamescom earlier this month, with just three months before its release, that we got any footage of the game. To top it all off, it was announced that Nihilistic Software, developers of the ill-received Resistance: Burning Skies, were working on Declassified.
That’s an awful lot of red flags.
It should go without saying that Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified is an important title. Not as much for Activision – Call of Duty will march on regardless of Declassified’s quality and success – but Sony really needs the game to be a winner if they want the Vita to be taken seriously beyond this year. There are plenty of quality first-party offerings already on the system, Resistance not withstanding, and Vita sales aren’t exactly lighting the world on fire. The system needs great third-party support, and it’s vital that a portable adaptation of the world’s most successful franchise doesn’t falter its first time out, lest it be its only time out.
So let’s try to get this crazy train back on the rails. The game could use a lot of features that would do just that, and hopefully they’ll announce something along the lines of our suggestions below.
Make the PS3 and Vita Talk to Each Other
Sony would be able to swing more than a few Black Ops II sales their way if there were any sort of cross-functionality between the PS3 and Vita games. Meanwhile, CoD superfans would love the idea of always being connected to the game regardless of where they are.
Probably the most effective way to do this would be to allow for any and all XP earned in multiplayer to carry over between versions. The idea of taking the progress made in Black Ops II with you and then adding to it as you play via Wi-fi on the road is simply too good to pass up. Even more, casual multiplayer fans would love to be able to hit Prestige away from home.
As an extension of that, your loadouts should be able to carry over between versions too. Treyarch is throwing the conventional system by the wayside and introducing the Pick 10 system, and it would be great if Nihilistic put it in Declassified as well. To be able to tweak and test your loadout combinations wherever you are seems like an obvious decision…so long as your XP carries over, too.
Finally, it would be fantastic if completing Declassified’s campaign unlocked a Prestige token that you could redeem in either the PS3 or Vita game. Players would appreciate a little love from the two developers for having plunked down the dough for two new Call of Duty games at once, so why not let us have a weapon unlock or a day’s worth of double XP?
Buy Black Ops II on PS3, Get Declassified for Free or Cheap
As long as we’re talking about tying the two games together, buying both should net people some sort of discount. Sony took the obvious and necessary step of introducing cross-buy at Gamescom earlier this month, where buying the PS3 version of upcoming games such as PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale also scores you a voucher for a digital download for the PS Vita version.
Of course, Activision is under no obligation to follow suit as a third-party publisher, but at the very least they should entertain the notion of offering a discount for Call of Duty players dedicated enough to buy both Black Ops II and Black Ops Declassified. Before introducing cross-buy, Sony offered a $20 discount to anyone buying both the PS3 and Vita versions of MLB 12: The Show, an offer I personally was happy to take them up on.
It Has to Include Zombies
Amazon and GameStop each have Declassified listed at $50, making it only the second Vita game to release at that price point (Uncharted: Golden Abyss was the other). Declassified will need to be fully featured to justify that price point to anyone, especially if Activision fails to offer any sort of discount for those also buying Black Ops II.
This obviously means including Zombies, the most popular Call of Duty mode outside of the core multiplayer. Zombies has even been successfully been sold on the Apple App Store as a standalone game two different times, so to exclude it from the first “true” portable Call of Duty – especially one tied to a Treyarch game — would be ridiculous.
From what little we’ve seen, it’s obvious that Declassified just needs more time. It’s unclear how big of a studio Nihilistic Software is, but they just released Resistance: Burning Skies in May. From an outsider’s perspective, it seems as if Resistance was rushed out so that they would be able to slap Declassified together in time for a November release. Unfortunately, both games seem to have suffered for it.
Not terribly impressive.
Burning Skies was a great proof-of-concept that showed that first-person shooters were possible on the Vita, but failed to be interesting beyond that. The Vita has been out for over six months now, and the time for tech demos is long past. What it needs is compelling software, games that strive to be more than simply functional.
If Declassified isn’t great, it’s not only Sony that loses, but Vita fans, too, whether they’re invested in the franchise or not. If Call of Duty can’t push Vitas, then what chance does anyone else stand? Who would want to release games to such an anemic install base, even just one year from now?
Also, the staggered release between Black Ops II and Declassified wouldn’t have to adversely affect any sort of discount. You could simply insert a coupon or download code with every PS3 copy of Black Ops II, redeemable whenever Declassified releases.
That’ll cure what ails Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified, we reckon. How would you improve the game to make sure it isn’t a flop? Let us know!
Written with contribution from Phazon117.