(DS)

Game Review

C.O.P. The Recruit Review

USA USA Version

Posted by James Newton

Cop a load of this.

With the DS now nearly five years old, you’d think there’d be no surprises left inside that flip-top wonder box, but here comes Ubisoft with something we probably didn’t even realise was possible on DS, under the rather off-putting title of C.O.P. The Recruit.

The very talented (if unfortunately named) V.D. Dev have succeeded in creating a fully 3D city, running at a remarkable 60 frames per second, with full freedom to roam its streets and all on the diminutive DS. The opening flyover of the city is typical of the game’s scope: other DS games would be happy with a static shot or top down map, but C.O.P.’s camera weaves in and out of buildings, through parks and straight into the heart of New York City.

To create such a smooth engine you’d expect the graphics to be barebones, but there’s plenty of detail at every turn in-game: steam rises from drains, bus stop glass shatters if you run into it, pedestrians and other traffic behave realistically (i.e. get out of your way fast) and the whole game is crammed with tiny touches. Between missions you’ll often see animated cutscenes, although these vary drastically in quality, being at best stylish and at worst blocky and almost amateurish. Thankfully they’re few and far between and do little, if anything, to detract from the rest of the game’s visual quality: technically, you absolutely cannot fault the game, and it puts the vast majority of the console’s output in the shade easily.

You play Dan Miles, a former street racer who becomes a recruit in the “Criminal Overturn Program,” letting him use his driving skills for the pursuit of good, not evil. This essentially gives you free reign to hijack any vehicle – including taxis, fire engines and police cars, each with horns and sirens – and generally ignore the rules of the road, causing havoc and never having to face the consequences.

As you progress through the story, you gain more and more choice over which objectives you wish to complete. Using a PDA-style device, you can keep track of your pending missions and their status: red missions are story-critical, whereas blue ones are optional, often very difficult missions that pop up depending on whereabouts in the city you find yourself. These range from chasing stolen cars, taking down armed gangs in their hideouts, catching speeders and many more; each has its own risk and reward, and how many or few you clear is completely up to you.

Even if you decide not to take any missions and simply drive through the city, there are smaller objectives too: green camera icons throughout the city indicate sight-seeing spots where you must take a photo of a particular landmark, for example. With a huge map and this level of freedom on display, there’s plenty to do if you ever want to take a step away from the story and simply soak in the Big Apple.

The plot does enough to keep you playing too: it’s fairly by-the-numbers, with Dan getting drawn into shady conspiracies, exposing terrorist groups and generally cleaning up the lowlifes of New York City. It isn’t quite as ambitious as the engine driving it, but it provides decent impetus to keep you hopping from one objective to the other, with a good range of varied missions along the way.

If ever you find yourself lost or stuck, you can turn to your PDA for access to maps, navigation, objectives and keycodes that let you interact with various city services. Police stations, hospitals, car parks and more all have unique three-digit keycodes, which you can type in at any time – whether near the service or not – to interact with it in a pre-determined way. It doesn’t have quite the freedom evident in the rest of the game (you can’t call for police back-up any time) but it’s a rapid system designed to minimise a lot of the “go here, go there” gameplay the designers could so easily have resorted to. There’s also an in-depth encyclopedia available at any time, giving you background information on characters, weapons and vehicles, as well as revealing your progress in various “awards” categories. These include 25 camera icons, 50 crash barriers and nearly 100 extra collectables or destructibles throughout the game, with stars awarded for completing certain missions stylishly. All-in-all, there’s no shortage of depth to back up the graphical grunt and that’s a real rarity.

Even though Dan is a speed racer by trade, with all the handbrake turns and drifting skills that brings, he’s still handy with a handgun: equipping one of the game’s weapons lets you use the stylus and touchscreen to aim, firing with a tap of the L button (or R, if you’re a lefty) whilst still moving with the d-pad. It’s a well-handled system but it becomes difficult when shooting in confined spaces: Dan’s head often obscures part of the screen, with no transparency effect or first-person view; not ideal against a room of angry mobsters. Your bullets also seem to vary in power: at times they’ll take someone down in an instant, other (unarmoured) enemies can take half a dozen or more shots before they keel over. While you can advance to more impressive firepower as you progress through the game, there’s an initial discrepancy in power that makes you avoid confrontation: not something you want to say in a game like this.

There are a few irritating problems elsewhere that combine to stop C.O.P. fulfilling its lofty ambitions. You move your character with the d-pad and can pan the camera with A and Y, but you can’t walk and rotate the camera simultaneously: it does auto-centre behind you quite nicely, but it’s still annoying to walk, stop to adjust the camera and move on.

A bigger problem is the game’s use of objectives, maps and waypoints. When you’re given a new objective, it appears in your PDA device with a description, for example, “receive riot gear at the CCD School.” Ideally you’d be able to double-tap that to set a waypoint on your map and start your way, but instead you go into GPS, then 3C, your Directory and then double-tap CCD School, which sets a marker for you to follow. Once you’ve got that far, it’s plain sailing, with on-screen arrows and maps combining to get you to your destination very quickly, but there’s just one too many steps between receiving your objective and getting to it.

Conclusion

Whilst it’s clear the game engine has received a lot of attention, elevating it way beyond the majority of DS and even PSP in terms of graphical quality, the game flow is mostly every bit as smooth. There’s plenty of variety in missions, both optional and compulsory, and enough touches along the way to distract you, extending the game even further.

It has a few design flaws that detract from the gameplay, particularly in terms of simple usability, and to tell the truth there’s not really a huge amount of originality on display. If you’ve played any open world GTA off-shoot in the past ten years you’ll find little in C.O.P. to surprise you, but if you’re after a less-adult title in the genre then C.O.P. The Recruit comes highly recommended.

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User Comments (33)

nintendogamerftw

#1

nintendogamerftw said:

I was planning on getting this, but now I might reconsider since I'm on a very low spending budget right now :(.

smithers

#2

smithers said:

cool ill wait till price goes down (getting PS3 for christmas) it'll be my FIRST ps3

V8_Ninja

#5

V8_Ninja said:

Interesting score. Was guessing that the game was gonna be good, but the DS hardware would bring it down to a much lower score. Guess I was proven wrong. But that's not necessarily a bad thing though. :)

WolfRamHeart

#7

WolfRamHeart said:

Good review Prosody. Not a bad score either. This sounds like a pretty interesting game but I'll have to pick it up at a later date. There are still too many games that I need to buy before I even consider getting this one.

#8

said:

Is incredible how an apparently bigger budget game like GTA Chinatown wars received a mediocre treatment while a smaller game like this has way better effort. I think that explains how the GTA sees the DS audience, like something that is not worth to try harder.

JayArr

#9

JayArr said:

:( I was hoping for more blood, explosions, and all around debauchery.

Mingo73

#10

Mingo73 said:

@buffalobob
I disagree, GTA Chinatown Wars was an incredible game, one of my favorites on the DS that was clearly made with the DS specifically in mind. C.O.P. The Recruit was okay, but I much prefer GTA Chinatown Wars, as it has better physics and much more polish.

Ren

#11

Ren said:

@ Buffalobob
I don't get the comment there. GTA was far from mediocre and much better than COP. COP is pretty fun, too and more a direct clone of the traditional GTA games but Chinatown wars actually got an amazing level of attention considering that it's entire design was specifically tailored for the DS, rather than trying to cram the standard issue GTA onto a DS cart.
Are we even playing the same games here? Part of what gave Chinatown wars the critical acclaim it got was the fact that it DID get so much specific, detailed polish as a DS game with a new take on the series and NOT just a cheap port (which is kind of what COP is to GTA). The fact that they took the DS seriously as a platform and didn't scale back the adult elements at all is what made it's relatively low sales a dissapointment, despite great reviews.

dsijared

#16

dsijared said:

GTA DS did not do well because most DS owners don't buy M rated games for DS. I get my M games for 360 or PS3

#17

said:

GTA had 2D over the top graphics while is obvious that those games sell thanks to the graphics and the violence. They could made a 3D engine for it but they didn't want to not because the DS couldn't do it.

Kid_A

#18

Kid_A said:

You know, I think I'll stick with GTA: Chinatown Wars. It's great that this is 2-D and all, but the whole thing just sounds horribly unoriginal.

Odnetnin

#19

Odnetnin said:

Nice, informative review Prosody. I too will pick this up if I ever see it cheap.

bro2dragons

#20

bro2dragons said:

reading the review i thought this would be a 9 until the end... then i thought it would be an 8. pulled out the 7 on me, Prosody... such disappointing trickery.

Ren

#22

Ren said:

GTA is a top down viewpoint but not 2-d at all, and still very processor intensive. It's anything but simple in design. Doing an open world front view 3-d is obviously possible on DS but not interesting or neccesary for that platform. To assume that 3D is and must be what defines a GTA game is a shallow view of what makes a great title. Rockstar surprised even my cynical self buy not doing just that and delivered a fantastic experience that is completely different from the others and only possible on the DS. Not being a big fan of the GTA series, this is what so impressed me about Chinatown; that they were willing to go there despite all the shallow, rigid fans who might see it as too much of a departure.. But obviously some people view 3-d as the end all be all. Sometimes re-imagining a classic series is necessary to keep it relevant and fresh when the content isn't changing much (ex, all Big N games, Mario, Zelda, Metroid)

SwerdMurd

#23

SwerdMurd said:

Looks alright--as many have said, gonna wait til it's a budget title (I know developers hate to hear that)

but it'll give them time for the VD to clear up.

Mendoza

#24

Mendoza said:

Sorry, but I cannot recommend this game to people who don't like TPS or GTA like games. I dunno if there are any Dutch guys on this site, but I made my review on Nonly.nl

(btw this is not intended to be an advertisement, just a sharing of experience and the urge to give people my opinion about this game :))

JimLad

#25

JimLad said:

Yeah I also cannot recommend it. Truth be told I didn't get far, but if I got bored after such a short while (I was really hyped for this game) what chance do those who are only intrigued have.
Great technical feat, boring gameplay, and the restriction of not being able to kill innocent people doesn't help.
China Town Wars is a much better game.

Mingo73

#26

Mingo73 said:

@JimLad
I found the same thing to be true: Chinatown Wars is simply better. It's not the highest rated game on the DS for nothing! The missions in C.O.P. are boring and repetitive, but the physics are what killed this game for me (why can't my car leave the ground at a jump?!).

LEGEND_MARIOID

#27

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

GTA DS was excellent, though not my kinda thang. This is certainly mostly competent, but again, not my kinda thang. A friend of mine who has this has commented that the game simply isn't meaty or interesting enough.

the_shpydar

#28

the_shpydar said:

I didn't read their review yet, but i believe Nintendo Power gave this a lowly 4/10. Yikes.

Ristar42

#32

Ristar42 said:

I think its ok, the graphics are nicely realised for the DS at create a decent atmosphere. I like that people jump out of the way of the car, like Driver way back when. His big head obscuring the camera is a pain though.

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