|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: NoWay Studio||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Graffiti Entertainment||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 11, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
First-person shooters work, and often work reasonably well, on the DS. But the portable platform is not the first choice that often comes to mind for those seeking a great first-person shooter experience. In some ways, the handheld's various limitations force developers to get creative in how they attempt to wow players. Without flashy graphics and other high-tech accoutrements to rely on, game designers who take the meat and potatoes approach with nothing particularly unique to spin into the mix are likely to fall short of their intended mark. This is one of the problems C.O.R.E. suffers from.
C.O.R.E. hearkens back to the days of Doom-like simplicity, which intermittently hampers its momentum at different points in the game. Dark, depressing environments, a touch of horror-infused creepiness, and a parade of ghastly foes to obliterate punctuate small high points in this otherwise mediocre shooter. A little too much simplicity mixes unpleasantly with a bevy of other gameplay issues to quickly tank what little mindless retro entertainment can be squeezed from this stone.
Originality is not this monosyllabic game's strong suit. The story initially resembles the plot found in Renegade Kid's first-person sci-fi adventure shooter, Moon. In C.O.R.E., the futuristic Earth government has built a research base at the site of an impact crater in an attempt to locate the center of the meteor and uncover the secrets it believes lay within. 20 years of drilling results with little progress, until a news blackout is suddenly declared and rumors quickly spread about an important discovery at the site. Then communications simply cease altogether. You're called in as part of a special forces team assigned to find out what happened to the base and the people stationed there and get to the bottom of the mysterious radiation now emanating from the compound. What you find there is predictably eerie, dangerous, and requires substantial firepower to resolve.
The answers to these mysteries unfold gradually as you explore deeper-and-deeper into the maze-like infrastructure of the scientific base. C.O.R.E.'s gameplay revolves mainly around shooting everything in sight that is not you or your comrades, though you'll likely bemoan the inability to turn your gun around and pull the trigger when all is said and done. Your opponents - both human and inhuman - are sneaky bastards that take cheap shots and pop-up in your face and start blasting away every time you turn a corner or open a door. Enemies possess freakishly good aim, and there's no way to dodge their fire. They also give little visual indication of your weapon's effectiveness on them when you're pumping lead into them - at least not until they drop dead.
While normally the prospect of encountering foes in a first-person shooter in order to gleefully mow them down is part of what makes such games enjoyable, it quickly becomes something you'll dread. This is mainly due to the extremely limited quantities of health and ammo lying around and the great length between save points. Well, that and the fact a simple misstep - like opening a door at the wrong moment or failing to notice something lurking in a corner - can cause foes to whittle away the bulk of your health and armor within a matter of seconds.
C.O.R.E. features the same mouse-look style controls used by pretty much every other first-person shooter on the system. Everything works relatively well, except when it comes to side-stepping and maneuvering quickly during close quarters combat. Movement feels unnecessarily slow and clunky in these instances, making it hard to get away from dangerous opponents or target them efficiently as you attempt to escape. Much like other similar games that use it, the double-tap jumping is also hit or miss. Control issues only seem to make themselves known when the action gets intense and you're frantically trying to avoid getting killed. The rest of the time they're not much of a problem.