|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|
Battling isn't the only thing you will be doing. Since the game takes place in a lot of underground corridors and factories, there are plenty of doors and terminals to hack. The hack system present in Coded Arms: Contagion is relatively easy to pick up and you will be unlocking those doors with ease early on. However, it is easily the most frustrating and repetitive aspect of the game. When hacking a door you will have two display screens, with numbers on both the left and right side. Your job is to find the number that is on both sides of the screen as quick as possible (you are timed).
As you come across higher security, the number of rows increases, forcing you to select multiple digits at an even quicker rate. Failing these hacks can lead to traps, more enemies, or even worse, having to do it all over again. Even though a lot of the aspects of the game sound a tad dull so far, there are a couple of surprises. The Upgrade system is new to the Coded Arms series and offers a way for players to double their firepower. As you progress from level to level you will find "upgrade points" that you can spend at the occasional save station. Depending on the amount you have, you can choose to upgrade your weapons' firepower, clip size, rate of fire, range, and much more. It doesn't just end there; your defense can get a boost as well through armor and health charges. Though you may not need all these improvements to get through the game, it is certainly fun having more options at your fingertips.
Tired of wading through waves and waves of aliens and bugs? Then head online for a little eight man, multiplayer action. Coded Arms: Contagion features both an Ad Hoc (local) and Infrastructure setup, which means that you can either connect directly with a friend or someone from the internet. With the lobby setup, similar to that of Halo on the PC, getting into games is relatively simple, assuming you can find someone to play with. Once you get a game going, you can choose a free-for-all or team match, as well as one of five unique maps. From my experience with the multiplayer, the lag differed from match to match, but was fairly consistent. Had a few disconnects, but then again that is apparent in all competitive games out there. Probably the only negative to take from this mode has to do with the earlier mentioned control scheme. The lack of lock-on and awkwardness of the analog stick usually forced players to get up close and personal. I don't mind a good melee but the poor long-range combat just turned most confrontations into mindless "run-and-guns."
You have to give credit to the PSP though. It certainly knows how to push the limits of what a handheld system can do and Coded Arms: Contagion is a prime example. Despite the overabundance of underground and hallway type levels, both the environment and character models are quite detailed. Objects can be destroyed, most notably boxes and barrels, which adds a bit more immersion to the adventure. There probably could've been a bit more variety in atmosphere from stage to stage, but for a portable title it is certainly forgivable. On the other side of the coin lies the audio aspect of the title and is where Coded Arms: Contagion shines the most. Guns, explosions, and death cries all sound as they should, but it is the voice acting that helps move the rather cliché plot along. One can't help wondering why this series wasn't placed on the Playstation 2, where the developers could've taken advantage of the higher processor power.
Coded Arms: Contagion just doesn't do enough from its predecessors to really stand out. From the awkward control scheme to the lack of diversity among stages and adversaries, there isn't really anything extraordinary to take out of the experience. The multiplayer is solid, as is the presentation, but that alone isn't enough to make Coded Arms: Contagion anything more than mediocre. If you are a fan of the first, then give it a shot. The inclusion of a storyline and Upgrade feature makes things a little more interesting, and though it isn't saying much, Contagion is better than the original. For the rest of you, just sit this one out and hope that a breakthrough title in the genre makes its appearance sometime in the near future.
CCC Freelance Writer