First-Person Shooter Players:
July 6, 2005Written by:
Konami has prided themselves are bringing the best gaming experience to the forefront of the industry for more than 10 years. And with the launching of the Sony Playstation Portable (PSP), they felt it was time to do something that seems very impossible to do, release a First Person Shooter (FPS) within Japan, let alone on the PSP. This was a shocker to gamers and the industry seeing how most FPS titles were made by American companies, and the fact that Konami was releasing their pending title, Coded Arms, on a newly uncharted handheld. In Japan, gamers are heavily into RPG titles, whereas in the states, we favor shooting titles more, and this was the mold that Konami was trying to break with Coded Arms.
Coded Arms has a unique story behind it. Set within a futuristic world, a virtual reality program by the name of A.I.D.A. was used to train professionals in case of alien threats towards earth. One day, all of a sudden, the program went terribly wrong due to the fact that AIDA was becoming self aware and was running by herself, so they shut the program down. But before this could happen, AIDA created her very own world within the simulation, and this is where you come in. If you were into the Matrix movies at all, then this part may interest you. AIDA’s own world is seen as the “ultimate videogame”, but the huge problem with the whole situation is that if you die within her world, you die in real life. Beyond this point, the story takes a dramatic hit in the since that there is nothing really that keeps the story flowing (no cutscenes) and keeps the gamers interests all the way until you reach the end (unless you just love FPS titles).
Seeing how Coded Arms is a level-based FPS, you would thing that there would tons of things and situations to experience, but once again, this title comes up short. Having more than 30 weapons at your disposal (pick them up collecting various strains of computer data) is something rather nifty, but due to the overall level design, some weapons hinder your mobility or just make you feel out of place. There are several worlds, of which are broken down into multiple levels. Your object is to get from one level to the next, and once you reach the end, destroy the gatekeeper in order to complete that world. You will come across some very heated battles along the way, but after awhile, everything seems the same and very repetitive. What keeps gamers fairly interested is the fact that each level is randomly generated. So if you die on one level and come back to it (or just redo that work you just completed), you will partake on a whole new series of corridors. But even the randomly generated areas, coupled with the futuristic style of gameplay, isn’t enough the save this title from several key mistakes or blunders.
Since Konami is known for RPG titles, it’s fitting that you would find RPG elements within their FPS titles. Well, in the case of Coded Arms, you build your character’s health by collecting several patches, which must be decoded just like the weapons. And throughout ever level, you will come across patches for rifle bullets, grenade launcher rounds, etc., but they can’t be decoded until you collected all the patches require to gain access tot hat particular weapon. This is one of the main ideals of Coded Arms that keeps gamers interested, the drive to collect every single weapon within the game. But due to the level designs and maps, most of the weapons aren’t either used or needed to beat the game. You will learn quickly that you really only need 7 of the 30 weapons to get the job done, but it doesn’t hurt anybody to have a little fun with the other weapons.
Under the options menu, you will be able to toggle an option known as “Free Look”. This allows you to lock onto various enemies and items simply by moving your cursor near the object at hand. If you are rather skilled at FPS titles, then you can toggle this option off, which will not allow your target window to lock onto any enemies or items. There are two other settings, “Loose and Tight”. With the Loose setting, the targeting window doesn’t lock onto anything, but it will slow down around the enemy/item, thus allowing you get more accurate shots off. And then there is Tight. There are two different settings within this feature. “Tight 1” will allow you to lock onto enemies, but not anything else, whereas “Tight 2” will let you lock onto enemies, items, signs, barrels, the whole shebang.
I wish I had a riffle.
This feature alone will help gamers get use to the control scheme, but the only time when targeting will be somewhat of a problem is when you are locked into the “danger rooms”. When stuck in these rooms, AIDA takes over and pins you against six enemies at one time. Now if you are using the targeting system on tight, you can run through the random rooms shooting at your enemies with ease, but without it on, you have to be more stationary and precise to hit your targets before they kill you.
But if you had to question any aspect of this title, then all fingers will point to the control scheme. The reason for this is because a FPS title has never been successfully presented on a handheld. These titles evolved form a keyboard and mice, to videogame controllers that feature dual analog sticks, so when Konami announced that Coded Arms was for the PSP, many gamers wondered if it was indeed possible, or will things just fall apart. But when you first boot up Coded Arms, you can customize the controls to your liking. You get four present control styles, but I found that customizing the controls even more, will help you out in the long run. With testing out several different setups, I have found that the following is you bets bet for this FPS:Control Setup
L= Turn left
R= Turn right
Triangle= Look up
X= Look downD-pad
Up= Zoom in/out
Left= Previous arm
Right= Next armAnalog Stick
Up= Move foward
Down= Move back
Left= Move left
Right= Move right
But like with any FPS title, whether it is on a videogame console, PC, or Handheld, with time, you will get use to the control setup, thus improving your skill.
You sure are ugly!
But the true shinning moment for Coded Arms comes by way of its graphics. Konami did a remarkable job detailing the menu setups to make them seem very futuristic and similar to a high tech computer interface. But as far as the in-game graphics, they could have been better. Don’t get me wrong now, the enemies and a few of the surroundings are highly detailed, especially for a portable, but the overall feel and look is just too plain. Seeing how the title takes place in the future, you would expect flying cars, robotic doctors, or something, but all you get are levels that look like the insides of a dungy warehouse. The lack of creativity, which hindered the gameplay, also hinders the graphics, though will come across interesting use of graphics (like when you kill an enemy, the disintegrate into binary code, or when you shoot the wall or floor).
When it comes down to the musical score and sound effects, Konami did an ok job. A lot of the sound effects just seem like they have been heard within several other titles before, not offering up anything new considering this is suppose to be a futuristic title. As far as the musical score, it’s very repetitive, and often annoying if you aren’t in to metal and techno music. Don’t get me wrong, some of the music works for the given situation, but Konami could of chosen a better selection of soundtracks to encompass the score. Whether Konami decides to change things up if they plan a sequel or not, they need to realize the importance of music in the telling of the overall story (it worked wonders for Beyond Good and Evil).
The gatekeeper is no more.
But what keeps this game from being a total disaster for Konami would have to be its multiplayer mode. You can either start multiplayer mode straight up once you turn on the game, or you can go through it to unlock extra levels to battle on. Within the multiplayer mode, you can compete within Deathmatch; Keep the Mark, and Last Man Standing via 4-player connectivity (Ad hoc Wi-Fi). This also provided a fresh breath of air to gamers who were getting tired of shooting one robot or bug after another throughout the whole title seeing how you can now shoot your fellow brethren. This is also where you can see the randomly generated levels come in handy, seeing how no one know what to expect in the same room, it keeps you and your opponents on your feet. Also being able to bring in your own arsenal of weapons you’ve collected throughout the single-player mode, adds a little flavor to the overall experience, but still comes up shot in comparison to FPS titles many play on gaming consoles and pc’s.
I commend Konami for being the first ones to test the waters of providing the PSP with a FPS title early time within the cycle of the PSP. Though it had its high notes (upgradeable weapons), this title was just plagued with too many small and correctable mistakes (monotone level designs, lack of cut-scenes and/or plot twisters) that could of made for a better overall experience. Whether or not Konami turns this title into a series or not, this was a great step in the right direction for many developers out there of what works and what just wont cut it.7.2/
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