When the Vita was first announced, one of the first things that got many gamers excited about it was its dual analog sticks, because this said that FINALLY first-person shooters could be done right on handhelds. Everyone’s first hope for a FPS demonstration on the Vita was Resistance: Burning Skies, and sadly, that game was downright awful. As a fan of the Resistance series, I was really excited about it, and I wanted to give it an honest chance despite the negative reviews. Unfortunately, the game was plagued with a bad story and a horrific control scheme. Shooter fans and Vita owners alike had slightly raised hopes for the Call of Duty installment coming on the Vita next month, because if anyone can do a FPS right, it should be the Call of Duty franchise, right? Well, my hopes were instantly dashed when Activision announced about a month ago that the developer behind Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified is Nihilistic Software, the same studio that released Resistance: Burning Skies. It’s possible that Nihilistic has learned a lot since the disastrous release of Burning Skies, and for the love of God, I hope so.
However, the Nihilistic CEO’s recent statements to Dan Amrich on his One of Swords blog makes me think that if they have learned from their last disaster, they’re on their way toward a new disaster with Declassified.
Nihilistic has chosen to focus most of their efforts and most of the game itself on the multiplayer portion. This isn’t a huge surprise, especially considering that not long ago, Treyarch said that it “bugs the shit out of” them that people don’t play the multiplayer at all. What is a huge surprise is that Nihilistic is taking this game one step further and is really going to strip the single-player campaign.
The biggest difference is in terms of the game focus. Declassified is not about the big campaign storyline and huge cinematics, it’s more focused on the multiplayer essence of Call of Duty and bringing that to a portable device as completely as possible, and in bringing short, objective-based missions and score-driven gameplay with lighter story elements to create what we call the Operations missions.
So let me get this straight and make sure I have all of the bullet points in place:
- The Vita has not sold very well.
- Multiplayer games rely on lots of people owning the console and the game.
- Declassified will be mostly a multiplayer game.
Nihilistic and Sony both must be counting on Declassified and the Call of Duty Vita bundle to moving a lot of units, because if not a lot of people own a Vita, then exactly how much fun would the multiplayer portion actually be?
And if Declassified won’t have the full cinematic single-player campaign that most people expect from a Call of Duty game, then how many people will be interested in buying it in the first place? You need something to hook people into buying it, and that hook can’t be a great multiplayer experience when the possibility for multiple players is a little low.
Not to mention, how many people have purchased or will purchase the 3G version of the Vita AND buy the monthly data plan? Hardly anyone has activated the 3G data plans thus far, and it’s doubtful many will activate it in the future. As a result, this mostly multiplayer game will be relegated to Wi-Fi, something most people have at home. If they’re at home, won’t they play Black Ops II or another Call of Duty multiplayer game on the big screen?
There are so many flaws in this plan, I can’t help but think Nihilistic is setting up Declassified to fail. The Vita is flailing so badly as it is, and a Call of Duty game could help bring it back from the brink, at least for the holidays. However, trying to push a mostly multiplayer game on a console that has hardly sold will not succeed for anyone.
Of course, this is all assuming that the gameplay for Declassified is better than Burning Skies. If it’s around the same, then it would have failed even with a cinematic single-player campaign.
Under Fire is a weekly Gaming Angels column that celebrates the shooter genre of gaming, written by our beloved Keri Honea a/k/a crunchychocobo.