Coded Arms PSP Review

Hyped quite heavily when the PSP was first announced, Coded Arms has ideas. That's the strongest asset. Those come through in its world, its enemies, and the graphics. None of that really changes the gameplay to any great effect, and it feels an entire generation behind as a result.

On paper, Coded Arms must have sounded fantastic. Player's drop into a virtual world sucked into turmoil. They're part of a system, most of which is guarded by rogue programs. Player's can upgrade armor, weapons, and health, much like a standard RPG. All of that should be the basis for a fantastic title, until you look at the PSP and realize it's not possible.

The control scheme, even with all of the customization options, doesn't work. It can't, sticking players with the buttons for looking. They can also be set to movement, reversing the controls that have slowly become standard. There is a mandatory training mission and the initial three easy levels to become accustomed to them. After that, you're on your own.

Auto targeting almost works, requiring a brief second to fully lock-on. If it misses and selects an enemy you don't want to shoot, it's difficult to get the game to recognize that. This doesn't seem like it's such a problem early on, but later levels toss far too many enemies at the player for this control scheme to work.

Saving the player from certain death is aggravating, yet life sustaining, slowdown. When the PSP can't handle it, the speed it cut in half (though the frame rate stays on target), almost like an unintentional Max Payne rip-off. This becomes the trade off to a wonderful graphics engine, which at a distance, is indiscernible from a PS2 title. There are certainly times where it's appreciated; other times it can kill your timing.

A sense of continuity would not have hurt either. Levels are rendered randomly, and that's the biggest problem Coded Arms has. Each stage is split up into different sectors, sometimes requiring certain tasks to be completed before advancing. There are levels where the exit is readily available after plowing through a few dumb enemies. Other times it seems like an eternity.

Each section ends up flat and boring. There's actually a lot in common here with Konami's PSP disaster, Rengoku. This is level design from the beginning of the PS One era, and there's no excuse for it. There are parts where you'll explore, only to find nothing, not even a power-up. Elevators are strewn about, leading to dead ends and scaffolding that doesn't provide anything worth using them. It's not tolerable, and in the time it took to create the randomly generating code, they could have created actual levels.

The audio stays in line with the rest of the title, holding off for active moments. You'll only hear the sound of your footsteps and some intriguing ambient noise (at times sounding like intercepted cell phone conversation). Music is loud and frantically paced, increasing adrenaline as the battle rages inside the virtual world. It does become annoying when it's the same theme for an entire level.

Even with Wi-Fi battles, Coded Arms is an average FPS, and it only ranks that high because it's on a handheld. If this were a console game, it would be ridiculed, though there's a chance dual analog sticks could make it worth a play. This is a classic waiting to be found, it just needs to get away from the handheld arena and find a level designer.

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