Review: C.O.P. The Recruit (Nintendo DS)

C.O.P The Recruit
Developer: VD-Dev
Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Action
Release Date: 11/03/09

It is easy to get excited about C.O.P. The Recruit. The game proudly displays that is was the recipient of multiple E3 Awards. The box proclaims that this is the “first 3d open world on the Nintendo DS.” It boasts an city environment with an area of nearly 6 miles. The game’s basic premise seems to be Grand Theft Auto except you’re a cop. All of these things would lead one to the conclusion that this game was at minimum fairly awesome.

After playing it, though, I want to slap C.O.P. sharply and without apology.

It’s the sort of game I want to grab by the shoulders, shake, and scream “what the hell is wrong with you?!”

So, let’s see what the hell is wrong with this game.

1. Story
The story of C.O.P. The Recruit consists of a bunch of cut scenes similar to those of the Trauma Center games. That’s fine, and it’s not without its charms. I’m particularly fond of the “previously on C.O.P.” intros that play when I load my game. All in all though, the story falls flat, managing to be both confusing and uninteresting. There is a lot going on, and very little of it means much of anything.

The main character is called Dan Miles. The manual describes him as a “former underground racer turned cop. He is strong, fast and has an appetite for bad jokes.” Dan is a surprisingly bland character who wears a Canadian tuxedo and occasionally says something goofy. He doesn’t seem particularly smart or talented. He doesn’t do Kung Fu and I doubt he knows how to properly apply a Scorpion Deathlock.

Dan was recruited to be a cop by Detective Bradley Winter. Winter ends up in jail for some reason I must’ve missed. Now it is up to the rookie Dan to look out for the Lieutenant’s mischievous son, track down assassins, conspire with Winter, join a new underground racing ring behind the lieutenant’s back, and stop a terrorist plot by a group that hilariously refers to themselves as the Bomb Zombies.

This being an open world/ sandbox game means that you sometimes get to decide the order in which you complete the missions of the entirely predetermined story. You want to move on with a terrorist sub-plot? Screw you! You need to deliver a fortune cookie to the State Prison for no good reason!

So despite this ostensibly being a sandbox game, the story is somewhat more linear than that of the original Legend of Zelda.

2. Graphics
C.O.P. gives the Nintendo DS a workout. There is a bunch of detail packed into a huge New York City environment. There are a bunch of different cars, different sections of the city are distinct, and the cut scenes have some nice drawings.

However, what C.O.P. has in details, it lacks in personality. Stylistically, the game is downright insipid. And while the backgrounds are great, the actual characters have a number of problems. Dan moves like he has a flagpole shoved up his colon.

The problems don’t stop there. If Dan commandeers a vehicle, the game can’t be bothered to show him get into the vehicle; rather, the screen goes white and then cuts to a shot of the vehicle. If a character gets shot, there is no blood. When a character dies, he simply fades away. A burning truck seemed less like it was on fire and more like it had set up all around it animated fire gif.s from an old Geocities page.

The general rule of thumb here is that the graphics of C.O.P. are great, save for those graphics necessary for immersion and enjoyment of the game C.O.P. In other words, the graphics are good only when it doesn’t matter.

3. Sound/ Music
C.O.P. is full of ambient city noises, but generally no music plays when Dan isn’t in the middle of a specific mission. The soundtrack of the missions is decent enough, but nothing that will be remembered after the DS is closed shut.

Generally, the same sound effects are overused. Shooting civilians, shooting cars and driving into crowds all seem to elicit the same voices uttering the same noises.

4. Control / Gameplay
To give you an idea of what is wrong with C.O.P., I need only tell you how it uses the buttons on the DS.

I need to tell you this thing, first: I am not making this up.

If Dan is walking around the city, here is a list of what the DS buttons are used for:

L Button: Centers the camera.
R Button: Usually nothing, but can speed up the dialogue if there happens to be some.
Y Button: Rotates the camera.
A Button: Rotates the camera the other way.
Control pad: Moves Dan
B Button: Causes Dan to move more quickly for about half a second, and then nothing.
X Button: Gets Dan into a vehicle, provided Dan is next to a non-moving vehicle.

As you can see, there are more buttons dedicated to moving the goddamn camera than to actually DOING THINGS! Wouldn’t buttons that do things be useful in INTERACTING with this giant city model you guys spent so long designing? The name of the game is NOT Virtual Tour of a Virtual New York City, but that is all this open city environment is good for.

The driving parts control well enough, but aren’t anything special. The main problem here is that the driving is boring and poorly designed. Getting from mission to mission requires a lot of driving from one end of the city to another. Walking out of the question, as it would take just as much time as walking across the real NYC.

Dan doesn’t seem to have his own vehicle. At the beginning of the game, you are prompted to steal his landlady’s car. The rest of the time, you just have to walk Dan out into traffic. Don’t worry; the cars stop automatically and Dan cannot lose health except when being shot. Once a car is stopped, you walk Dan over to the side of it, and press X. Then, you are driving that car. I don’t know what happens to the old driver. There is no possibility of the cops chasing you, or accidentally running of civilians or doing cool stunts. You steal a cop car, ambulance, taxi, city bus, or sports car, but there are no car specific missions. Dan’s superiors don’t seem to care if he steals a city bus, drives into parking meters and hops it onto a crowded sidewalk. Sadly he cannot shoot into the crowd while driving. (Not that it would matter. Dan can’t seem to hit any target not carrying a gun. Shooting at a civilian does absolutely nothing. We”Ëœll complain about the shooting later, though. )

Every time Dan gets into a car, that car’s life meter appears on the screen. Hitting things lower that life meter. If you are low on “car health”, and tap into a park bench, your car explodes and you die. The car shows no physical damage, mind you. It just explodes.

I should mention here that there are a number of optional and some mandatory missions that necessitate car chases. The first time I went on one of these, I pulled up next to a car and tried to force it off the road.

No dice.

The car didn’t seem to react at all. It just ignored me and went on its merry way. So, I sped up, pulled in front of the car and turned sideways in order to block the road. The car basically went through me. I managed to catch up to the car for a third time. At this point the enemy car started to go impossibly fast, and disappeared from my radar. Then the screen read GAME OVER and I was automatically restarted from the hospital.

Huh?

After that, I accidentally walked into a blue section, triggering a car chase mission. By the time I found a car to commandeer, the game decided I had lost the mission. It told me GAME OVER, that I “would not be the one to save the city!” and restarted me from the hospital once again.

Did Dan try to commit suicide because he lost a street race? What the hell is going on here?

Later on in the game, you are forced to chase an ambulance full of terrorists (or something). I followed the ambulance all the way to a bridge, and forced it off the side. I repeat: the enemy ambulance plummeted off of a bridge. I presumed that this would kill all those nasty terrorists or rogue EMTs or whatever the hell they were.

Instead, the ambulance immediately RESPAWNED in front of me.

Seriously, C.O.P.? Seriously?

Dude. The fuck.

In order to actually win the chase missions requires that you hit the enemy car’s rear bumper a certain number of times in order to deplete the enemy car’s life meter. This is so fucking stupid I strain to even comment on it.

Apparently, tapping a rear bumper can cause cars to explode. It happens a lot to the NPC cars in C.O.P. If they are tapped in the bumper a few times, they explode and then disappear. If you follow too close to a cop car, it will eventually explode and vanish. No one in this game seems to care about this thing.

If you think that all this is lame, let me describe the shooting aspect of C.O.P. Sweet, holy Batman, the shooting!

First, you have to tap the gun on the corner of the touch screen. Easy enough. This switches you combat controls. You can strafe and move forward with the control pad. A, B, X and Y do the same thing as the control pad. You aim with the stylus, and shoot with L.

This set-up is carpal tunnel waiting to happen.

It gets worse. The site, as determined by the stylus, does not match the direction that Dan’s gun points. Also, you can’t hit an enemy unless the site turns red. I can have the stylus right on an enemy’s head, and for some reason Dan can’t hit him. Shooting an enemy elicits no blood, and there is no sign of site specific damage. Dan’s Stun Gun is entirely useless, and his 9mm is slightly more powerful than the Nerf N-strike.

Dan also can’t do little things like punch, kick, duck, roll, or dodge effectively. Optional “stopping a robbery” missions will often be over before Dan can draw his gun. For some reason, the game refuses to let Dan start a mission with his gun drawn. He isn’t even allowed to start the second part of a multi-part shooting mission with his gun drawn.

Worse than that, the directions to a mission scroll along the top of the screen after the mission starts. On more than one occasion, I had lost a mission before I finished reading what I was supposed to do on said mission. REALLY GAME?! You want to be that cheap?

Also worth noting is the fact that you are not allowed to quit a mission in the middle of a mission. You have to play until you lose or die. If it is an optional mission, you are respawned in front of the hospital after you do either. If it is a mandatory mission, you will restart that mission over and over again until you win or power down the DS. Stuck on a frustrating mission and want to try another one instead? You’ll have to restart the game.

Mind you, this is even the case with sightseeing missions. There are numerous green cameras laying around the game’s city. If you walk into one, the game forces you to take a picture. Not just any picture mind you, but exactly the one it wants you to take. You cannot escape until you take that specific picture. It is ridiculously stupid. Basically, you are forced to twirl Dan around with the stylus until your site turns the requisite red and you can snap a lousy photograph in order for C.O.P. to show off its graphical capabilities. Trying to stop a terrorist plot, eh? Fuck you, you need to take a picture of the bridge!

5. Replayabilty
I really can’t think of a reason to play this game all the way through, let alone more than once. It is a frustrating and unrewarding experience.

The game gives awards for completing certain missions within certain time limits. These are awards in name only. Maybe if you achieve all these awards, it unlocks the hidden “fun to play” mode of C.O.P.

I’m not willing to test that hypothesis for you, fair reader. I’d rather eat my own eyeballs than 100 percent this game.

6. Balance
I had to do most missions twice. Mostly because I didn’t realize that the mission had started as I was reading the instructions slowly scroll across the top of the screen.

I didn’t mention this before, but a number of “missions” require Dan to use his blackberry in order to telephone the nearest precinct or be allowed security clearance. The trick here is that the game tells you to write a three digit number, and then you have to do that thing. Exciting, no?

There are missions where you take control of security cameras, but these are generally easier than the sightseeing ones.

The shooting missions are super primitive, and often leave Dan a sitting duck. Lucky for Dan, though, is the fact that he has a mutant healing faster that would put Wolverine and Deadpool to shame. Each mandatory shooting go-round then consists of A.)trying to hit the broad side of a barn with the horrible aiming system, B.)taking about three bullets to the gut, C.)Running away and hiding for about four seconds to regenerate back to full health, D.) rinse and repeat. That is to say: not hard but not fun either.

The driving missions don’t often require much in terms of skill or speed. The only frustration here comes when your car explodes after you have won the mission, but before you get back to the mission start in order to watch the cut scene and kick in the auto save.

7. Originality
There isn’t another open world Nintendo DS game with driving and shooting and a semi-magical PDA. You know, unless you count Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. Of course, there hasn’t been a open world Nintendo DS game with driving and shooting and a semi-magical PDA before that sucks this hard.

So, yeah, GTA:CW without the money, drugs, or fun

8. Addictiveness
I played this game quite a bit. It wouldn’t call it addictive, though. It is more like seeing a bunch of shiny boxes underneath the Christmas tree and each time I opened a box it had socks inside. I kept on expecting something awesome, but kept on getting socks. Not even good socks, just those white ones that fall down because they don’t have to good elastic.

This game is as addictive as white tube socks.

9. Appeal Factor
I’ll say it again; this game looks awesome. (Don’t be fooled though!)

10. Miscellaneous
This game reminds me of an old Harlan Elison story called “Are You Listening?” wherein a man wakes up one morning and realizes that nobody notices him any more. His wife wonders where he is, even when they are in the same room. No one can see him or hear him. His actions have lost all consequences. He can punch his enemies in the face, and they just stand there with bloody faces going about there day. He can steal from stores without anybody complaining. While it seems like fun at first, you come to understand that without consequences there are no rewards.

C.O.P. Are You Listening?

The Scores:

Story: Mediocre
Graphics: Very Good
Sound: Mediocre
Control/Gameplay: Poor
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Poor
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Poor
Appeal: Great
Miscellaneous: Mediocre
Final Score: Mediocre Game

Short Attention Span Summary
It seems like somebody spent a lot of time conceiving C.O.P. The Recruit. The giant city, the variety of missions, the large cast, and the various back-stories would lead me to believe this thing. Then, it seems like a large chunk of the coding was left to lazy interns who haven’t played video games since the Commodore 64 was popular.

I’m just kidding; the Commodore was never popular.

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