Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified interview – Behind the scenes with the PS Vita FPS


One of the biggest names in gaming makes its PS Vita debut today. Developed exclusively for the system, Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified strives to offer the full blockbuster COD multiplayer experience on your handheld, alongside a bespoke mission-based single player campaign that serves as a companion piece to Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 on PlayStation 3.

Considering the series has one of the fiercest and most passionate fanbases of any major franchise, it’s safe to say that developer Nihilistic Software has taken on a huge responsibility. We sat down with studio founder Robert Huebner to find out how it’s dealt with the pressure and what players can expect from the title.

What was your mission statement for Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified when you first began development?

Robert Huebner: There were three core pillars that we wanted to follow. The reward structure was one – keeping the rich set of XP rewards for special kills, the Challenges tracking system in multiplayer, and so on.

The second goal was, for single player missions, to capture the unique feel of short objective-based missions, where the player wants to replay the mission repeatedly to improve their time and score, effectively trying to achieve that “perfect run.”

And finally, we wanted to make sure that all the core multiplayer systems were kept intact from Call of Duty, so that playing a multiplayer match on the PS Vita was just as feature-rich as playing on console. So keeping things like Killstreaks, custom load-outs, ranks and perks was a top priority.

What did you learn from your experience developing Resistance: Burning Skies?

Robert Huebner: I think the biggest shift we made between the two was how we approached the single player mode. In Resistance, we tried to create a full story-driven single player mode that was similar to what players would get in a home console version, but ultimately, mobile players are looking for a different experience. Games like Unit 13 showed how a single player mode could be more mission-based and be effective and suitable for mobile play styles. We still wanted the single player to explore more of the Call of Duty lore, but we also realised that trying to out-story the console versions was not the right approach.


Call of Duty is one of the biggest entertainment brands out there – have you been feeling the pressure of satisfying the fan base and adhering to the franchise’s stamp of quality?

Robert Huebner: Every product carries with it a lot of pressure, and Call of Duty in particular because of the size of the fan base. But many of the development team are also avid fans, so it was easy to determine which features were the most important to achieve the unique feel of Call of Duty in general, and in particular what features were must-have to make multiplayer feel right.

What were the main challenges bringing the Call of Duty experience to a handheld?

Robert Huebner: Obviously it’s important to try to capture all the elements of an epic franchise that has evolved and expanded over so many years. PS Vita players have very high expectations, so determining the most important features from a massive franchise and fitting them all into a handheld game is far and away the biggest challenge.


Which elements of the game are you most proud of, and excited for gamers to experience?

Robert Huebner: I think the controls feel very faithful to Call of Duty. Obviously some adjustments had to be made – for example, replacing some of the Dual Shock buttons with touch controls – but any skilled Call of Duty player should feel right at home with the controls.

Can you explain exactly how the single player component is structured? Is there a single story to follow? Will we see any familiar faces?

Robert Huebner: Single Player Operations are a blend of story missions and short objective-based missions. They are tight, fast-paced and meant to be replayed to get higher scores and better times. Similar to story missions, they weave together and tell a story, including cinematic moments that feature dialogue and reveals. And yes, familiar characters do appear, and the story fleshes out the events that take place between Call of Duty: Black Ops and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.


Multiplayer is a pillar of the COD experience – how have you approached it in Declassified?

Robert Huebner: The experience is really quite robust. We looked at what elements people loved most about Black Ops multiplayer and made sure we included those features. This way, players can customise and upgrade their weapons just as in the console version, earn killstreaks, use the mini-map, complete challenges and so on. We also have a very wide array of the most popular weapons from the original and a few new ones as well. We even incorporated a few features that players liked from other Call of Duty titles. Once you get into a match, it’s easy to forget you’re playing on a portable.

How have you used the unique features of the PS Vita?

Robert Huebner: The biggest thing is the dual analogue sticks, obviously. Without those, it’s really impossible to make a legitimate Call of Duty experience. But beyond that, the OLED screen gives a very nice crisp image and the touch screen allows us to simplify some controls, such as killstreak activations or targeting that can be a bit tricky on the console version.

How does multiplayer map design differ for a portable game compared to a home console title?

Robert Huebner: We decided to target eight-person maximum match sizes for Declassified, which allowed us to also support things like Ad Hoc mode and Party mode easily. The maps have been optimised to suit a portable experience. But the most important elements of a good layout remain the same, good flow patterns, fair but useful hiding spots, multiple levels in spots – all those things still make for a fun re-playable map.

PS Vita COD Limited Ed. Bundle

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68 Comments 1 Author replies
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Would like to buy the game but the high price is putting me off :/.

DanteofSmeg 13 November, 2012 @ 3:11 pm   2

great game and enjoying it.
Thought you would have told people its been uploaded to the store to get a digital copy.


if this Game be a free vita plus game.

I will physical (CENSORED) my pants. 🙂


I’m not a fan of Call of Duty at all. The franchise has grown old and weary but I’m glad the Vita version seems to hold up. Might shut up some the haters.

lengendaryboss 13 November, 2012 @ 3:16 pm   5

4 why in gods name would anyone pay that price.
No launch trailer, just a launch interview, WTH Activision.
Assassin creed 3 Liberation got a launch trailer (sorta), why do we still have that old trailer to stare at. Why does Activision do this?


Hi Fred

I want a Vita, two things putting me off, one the feeling that as soon as I do, a better version with a better batt or bigger internal storage memory.

Two I can no longer justify buying game (I’m now a home owner and daddy to be). But I can live with the first off putting feeling.

So the lady has said if this plus deal includes a free Vita game she will get me one for crimbo 🙂


Nice interview! I realy like this “behind the scenes” topics! Thumb Up and keep going!

Anyway… Question: Where we have informations about PS+ on our Vitas? 🙂

ManicMitch1 13 November, 2012 @ 3:22 pm   8

£44.99 incredible!!!!!!!







When are we hearing about ps+ for the vita? Looks like tomorrow is never coming!


5# Well today is not over 😉

TINTINTB303 13 November, 2012 @ 3:26 pm   12

@ lengendaryboss

What are you on about??

Activision had NOTHING to do with this game!!

lengendaryboss 13 November, 2012 @ 3:26 pm   13

7 are you really suprised, it is Activision
Fred do u know if theirs going to be a launch trailer


Fred, speaking of vita, arent we due some news. If we aren’t getting any can you tell us coz this site kills my data allowance. You need a mobile site like the US.


7# More like £36.85


Unfortunately the game fails to overly impress. I happy with mine, but I’m afraid that’s because it’s the only COD available to me on a handheld.

The Campaign plays out like Spec Ops missions did, and the replay value to “achieve that perfect run” is practically none existent.

Clever use of words also by saying “CORE” multiplayer. Because that is essentially what it is. A stripped down Call of Duty experience.

Trying to “out-story” console version shouldn’t have been an issue for them, so long as there had been a story I doubt most would have minded. What we are left with is disjointed missions that I’ve been playing through without having any fleshed out story.

The controls although are suited to the vita, they are not ‘best suited’. The touchscreen for grenade would have been better as a rear touch rather than front. The AutoSprint does make a lot of sense though.

The MultiPlayer is very much a COD-like experience, however it is a Black Ops 1 experience. The Studio should have worked with Treyarch and shared information on features such as Pick 10. Having bought both the console and handheld version I find that when I load up the VITA version I am playing a dated version of Call of Duty.

lengendaryboss 13 November, 2012 @ 3:30 pm   17

11 they are the publisher and owner, they had to be involved some way. I know Activision is like the devil and most likely dont care about customers.


I cannot agree with the comment stating that the OLED screen gives a very nice crisp image. For your weapon and arm yes, however environments are washed out and feel very rushed and sub-standard.

As for the maps, most are simply Black Ops 1 maps cut in half. This does in theory make sense, and it’s nice to play maps that feel familiar on a portable, but it does show there wasn’t enough thought put into the multiplayer map design. The smaller Maps do suit the smaller teams, this is true but with such a small amount available I would have expected a higher quality of map.

Whilst I am writing this, I’ll also state that not including the killcam is a poor choice. Also, load times for MP games, disgraceful when other mobile FPS games available on tablets are much quicker.

I don’t mean to bash the game, what I have played so far has been enjoyable enough. This is definitely a game that uses the COD name, but is not a fully fledged COD game. However at the end of it all, this is the closest thing we have to a COD experience on a handheld available. So I will continue to play when I am not playing on the main console. For those undecided about purchasing the game, I would recommend trying a friends out first.

TINTINTB303 13 November, 2012 @ 3:31 pm   19



Activision had NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS!!!

UltimaDTG 13 November, 2012 @ 3:32 pm   20

This is slightly off topic but does any one here know whats going on with the hardened edition unlock codes for black ops 2? I keep getting an error whenever i try to use mine and several other people are having the same issue. Any feedback would be appreciated, thanks

lengendaryboss 13 November, 2012 @ 3:34 pm   21

18 Ok whatever

dirtyCAT79 13 November, 2012 @ 3:35 pm   22

ElWaster. I find your opinions very hard to trust seeing as the game has hardly been available for more than ten minutes!!!


The price on PS Store is always high as publishers put the RRP there. You’d want to be a fool to pay what some ask for. Get them on disc/card for cheaper.

I will certainly be buying this in a couple of days as BlOps2 will demand my time for a while. It appears to be better than I had expected giving how Activision have put zero effort into promoting it. If it was an Xbox portable you can be damn sure it would have been pushed!

I wish Nihilistic all the best in it’s new guise as a digital only developer/publisher.

Downloaded COD BOD on my PS Vita this morning and haven’t stopped playing since. The MP is really good and the game is not that expensive as well. Job well done Nihilistic & Activision.Thank you!


looks not so bad, but why no demo?

soon? today?, tomorrow?, next week? the week after the the next week?…

the game will bomb just like Resistance Burning Skies, goodbye Nihilistic Software


21 – I’ve had it since Friday, so I’ve had the full weekend to experience it. Luckily for me, my local games shop doesn’t appear to respect the release dates of games.


Things would stay closer to topic if you told us when soon was

Things would be more clear if everyone stays on topic and keeps calm as the day is not over yet.


How would they be more clear?

mike_291990 13 November, 2012 @ 3:56 pm   31

Looks quite good. Not a big fan of the series (or shooters in general) but this looks like it would be a lot of fun.
The digital price puts me off however so I may wait for a price drop.


just bought my second vita at GAME with assassin creed, COD and a 4g memory card included for only £229.00.
Congrats to nihilistic for a job well done.
I can finally play COD anywhere.


It would be more clear when he would say anything (excluding his “soon”) to this highly anticipated service.


Lol as much as I desperately need a new Vita game as I have barely used it at all. There is no way im spending £35-£40 for a portable game, its utterly ridiculous.

I know people say you don’t get the same experience as such on a mobile platform Android/Iphone as you do a vita due to lack of buttons. but I get a experience for a £5 or less. Anyone who’s played Dead Space/Infinity Blade/9MM/Dungeon Hunter/Gangstar/Shadow Gun Knows what I mean 😉

XDerKleineX 13 November, 2012 @ 4:10 pm   35

If it was 5 – 10 euros, I would buy it. The sad thing is that Modern Combat 3 and espechially the upcomming Modern Combat 4 look miles better than this. And those are smartphone games.

Why do they have a full campaign with a propper story and this doesn’t?
Why do they have big multiplayer maps for up to 12 players, maybe even more in MC4 and this doesn’t?
Why does this game cost 9 times as much?


This game is flop…The biggest mistake of my life when I bought this game 🙁

Curtis620 13 November, 2012 @ 4:26 pm   37

COD = amateur kids game

Panos_GRE 13 November, 2012 @ 4:32 pm   38

The game does not look bad at all and I was expecting a lot worse.
However this is only for hardcore multiplayer fps fans and it is very light on content.

Asking the full price tag is ridiculous when all you get is 6 multi maps, 5 operation missions and 10 really short 2-7 minutes long single player stages. We are talking about 1-2 hours of “campaign” (without checkpoints btw-they are THAT short) and multiplayer here without any plans of DLC. How long can someone play in the same six small maps before it gets boring?

There are much better value for money games now, like AC Liberation and NFS Most Wanted.
Persona 4 Golden is coming too.

GigaBowser007 13 November, 2012 @ 4:54 pm   39

Didn’t really want to spend €50 for the game, however having it digitally would have its advantages.
Went to check the retail price at Saturn today and to my surprise, it was only €36,99. So I caved.
If you don’t want to spend that much for the game visit some retail stores and compare prices. At least one store should have it at a lower price.

Goffeentl 13 November, 2012 @ 4:56 pm   40

I was hoping that Nihilistic would provide DLC support to expand the game, but since they’ve changed name and gone mobile, I guess that won’t happen now, which is a shame.

Yasir_Said 13 November, 2012 @ 5:09 pm   41

£45 ??

For 6 maps, no bots and no future support.

Seriously aggravating your userbase on the vita with subpar quality at over full price.

Coody-Baroody 13 November, 2012 @ 5:20 pm   42


Er….AGAIN, Activision might not have developed the game but they are the publishers! They had as much to do with this as they do with Modern Warfare & Black Ops when theyre developed by Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer & Treyarch.

Its got Activision on the COVER… HELLOOOOOO?

SuperJag86 13 November, 2012 @ 5:22 pm   43

I think @38 sums it up best. It doesn’t look terrible but it is extremely light on content.
When compared with the likes of Unit 13 (which had way more missions and huge replayability) and Uncharted (with its full game feel) COD just feels like a poor attempt.
Even Resistance had a decent if uninspired attempt at a full campaign, which I for one enjoyed and I hoped CoD would improve on that.
I kind of wish Gameloft bring their fps mobile games to the Vita because with proper controls and a low price point I reckon that could be a recipe for success.
Oh well, at least Killzone Mercenary should be the real deal, hopefully anyway!

supersmith2500 13 November, 2012 @ 5:23 pm   44

So did it fail like Resistance: Burning Skies then?

What’s worse. IGN didn’t even review it. -_-

Coody-Baroody 13 November, 2012 @ 5:32 pm   45

@21 Legendaryboss…..

Isnt it just? Its all you can say to people like that isnt it. By TINTINs reckoning Activision dont have “NOTHING TO DO” with the games they publish, they just leave it all to the developers to actually get the games on the shelves.

Their Top Boss must be laughing all the way to the bank, having the biggest gaming franchise EVER but they dont lift a finger!

Yasir_Said 13 November, 2012 @ 5:34 pm   46

^ IGN didn’t get a copy to review, not wondering why – severe lack of content, full price.

XDerKleineX 13 November, 2012 @ 5:42 pm   47

@44, @46 I don’t think any of the review sites got a coppy, and that can only mean bad things.

Stonesthrow 13 November, 2012 @ 5:44 pm   48

This was on my list but it looks too much like Resistance on Vita, which wasn’t an instant classic either imo. Waiting for Killzone to restore the glory of FPS on Vita.

Panos_GRE 13 November, 2012 @ 5:45 pm   49

Mr Dutton, if you’ll be so kind please relay this message to the publisher of this game (and most others).

Your digital pricing MAKES ME SICK!

Thank you so much 🙂


Will this title tell me about the numbers?

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