|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Creat Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konami||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 18, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Branden Barrett
Ask yourself this question, "Do handhelds ever usually define a genre?" Though there are some exceptions, most of the time, the answer is no. Titles on a portable system will usually just try to bring that genre to a different platform, but in a condensed form. First person shooters are rarely seen on handheld systems, primarily due to the limited control scheme and poorer visuals. However, with the industry continuing to grow and new technologies being developed for it, the chances for the shooter field to thrive have appeared. One such title of this genre appeared two years ago in the form of Coded Arms.
It was a commendable effort, but the randomly generated levels and lack of story really put a damper on things. Konami learned from their mistake and attempted to add a little more substance to their new series. And while Coded Arms: Contagion does excel in certain areas, it could've been a whole lot more.
This time around, Konami wanted to add a bit more to the franchise in terms of plot. The last Coded Arms seemed rather dry due to the fact that there was no story whatsoever. You played as a rogue agent who basically shot things and hacked machinery. Non-stop action certainly is a good thing, but Coded Arms just doesn't have the right atmosphere for such a concept. Thankfully, the sequel offers a little more information on just who you are and what you need to do. Just like in the original, you take control of a cybernetic soldier by the name of Major Grant. What makes him stand out from the rest is his proficiency in weapon combat and hacking. The objectives you are given throughout the game all add up to entering A.I.D.A, a combat program gone wrong. You must download your very essence into the program to stop the simulation, and one wrong move inside the program can lead to death on the outside world. Definitely sounds like the Matrix doesn't it?
Now, there is a little rumor going around that first person shooters and fighting games don't play very well on the PSP for some reason. It wasn't until I logged a few hours into Coded Arms that I realized why: the analog stick is very frustrating. Probably the most troublesome detriment right off the bat is the lack of a comfortable control scheme. Though several options are available, none of them offer an improvement over the default choice. Speaking of which, the analog stick will move you around, the face buttons change your perspective, the D-Pad reloads your gun, and the shoulder buttons help you jump and fire your weapon. Maybe it's just me, but the placement of the stick and pad on the left side of the system just feels awkward, and may force you to adjust during tough situations.
Once you enter the simulation world you will find yourself thrown into the gauntlet almost immediately. Bug-like creatures, cybernetic soldiers, robots, and several other obstacles will make themselves apparent throughout your adventure. Unfortunately, no matter who you face, there is little challenge to speak of. Taking the control scheme into consideration, it is obvious that the developers compensated for it by making opponents a little less fierce. Though it isn't uncommon to see a lack of A.I. in portable games, it would've been nice if enemies did more than stand still and fire in one direction. Bosses though, especially the ones in levels nine and twelve, will pose quite the threat and force you to think on your feet. Weapons are numerous and varied, ranging from grenade launchers and pulse cannons to machine guns and pistols. Alongside your firearms, there is also a scanning system that acts in a similar fashion to the one used by Samus in Metroid Prime. With the push of a button you can observe terrain and spot enemies hiding behind certain objects. The scanner does have a limit though, so knowing when to use it and where adds to the thinking portions of the title.