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Call of Duty Black Ops Declassified: An instant declassic?

CoD on Vita breaks cover; first details and opinions inside

So here it is then - the game Sony hope will put a claymore underneath the struggling PS Vita system.

It's easy to see why their eggs are in the Call of Duty basket. The Vita is designed to deliver full-fat console experiences on the go without compromise, and there's no experience more popular or enduring on console than Call of Duty's iconic multiplayer.

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Concessions however have been made on the part of Resistance: Buring Skies devs Nihilistic. Team Deathmatch games are capped at 4 v 4, and there will be just six maps at launch, albeit six all-new maps designed specfically for Vita. (Although one map we saw bore more than a passing resemblance to Black Ops' Nuketown - a compact map that would translate well on the small screen).

In other respects though, Black Ops Declassifed's multiplayer pulls the pin on concessions and throws them into the wind. Create-a-Class, kill streaks, XP, perks and the option to prestige are all included, and there's even a new Share-a-Class feature which allows you to pass your loadout on to friends via Near. they can then use that loadout regardless of whether they've unlocked the items themselves.
Confirmed game types include Free-for-all, Team Deathmatch, Kill Confirmed and 'other classic multiplayer modes'. Domination had better be one of them, or we riot.
In a behind closed doors session, Sony showed us more of one of the six new maps, Shattered, in a live four-player on-stage demo.

Shattered is set in a bombed-out South-East Asian city, and it's typical urban CoD multiplayer map affair. It's a winding chain of tight back alley paths, with good sight lines throughout but little in the way of open spaces to breathe in. A prevalence of rubble makes navigation rugged and tricky; it looks like one of those maps you'll have to learn inside out before you can be good at it. In so many ways, those are the best maps.
With only four players on the field, it was difficult to judge how the map flowed, but its small size comparative to the PS3/360 maps mean there were few lulls in play, despite the lack of players. It looked and moved as smooth as its Call of Duty counterparts, although with fewer dramatic sound cues or commander chatter, it did seem eerily quiet at times.

Grenade and melee attacks are activated via the touch screen; in the case of the former, Sony says, this opens up new tactical possibilities since you can now lob a grenade one way while facing the other. True in theory, but it sounds like our index fingers will have to go a few rounds with a torture rack before that becomes a realistic proposition. Being able to direct mortar bombs or air strikes by tapping on the tactical overlay however, is an inspired piece of design.

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For all the focus on multiplayer, it's the as-yet unseen single-player that piques our interest. It's an original story that bridges the gap between BLOPS 1 & 2, featuring the continued antics of BLOPS 1 protagonists Woods, Mason et al. Our prediction: Vietnam, baby.

The single-player campaign is tailored for gaming on the go and will be structured as a series of short objective-based missions, including time trials and survival challenges. So it's not quite Call of Duty on handheld without compromise then, but you'd be foolish to write it off on that basis alone. We'll be the first to let you know if we manage to crowbar more information out of Sony's mouths as Gamescom thunders on.

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