IGN Preview of C.O.P. The Recruit
C.O.P.: The Recruit may have a dumb name, but it's going to get some serious attention when it ships to stores in early November. Rockstar's GTA: Chinatown Wars provided a well-executed top-down open-world experience and C.O.P. looks to follow suit. Though the two titles make for obvious comparisons (drive fast, shoot lots of people, explore a giant metropolis), there are some notable differences. While Chinatown Wars is a top-down game, C.O.P. is fully 3D, takes place in a recreated version of New York City, and puts you in the role of a good guy, rather than a criminal.
You play as Dan Miles, a former street racer drafted to become a cop in the City Control Division. Things begin with a supposedly good cop taken down for being dirty. But was he dirty or just set up? That's something you'll investigate as you progress through C.O.P.: The Recruit. The story is told through some colorful still-shot cut-scenes that play out a bit like a single-frame animated movie. The art design and overall presentation could use some polish, but overall this is a nicely packaged game.
C.O.P. is impressive for its technology. After all, there aren't a ton of massive open-world games on the DS -- especially ones that take place at the ground level from a third-person perspective. C.O.P. runs well and really does allow you to drive (or run) where you wish in its virtual representation of New York City. There are pedestrians on the street and a decent amount of traffic as well. This isn't a ghost town by any means.
C.O.P. uses the touch screen mainly for your in-game Blackberrry-like 3C mobile device. It offers a map of the city and full GPS functionality, as well as access to the 3C database. The database offers info on everyone you've met during the game, the locations of areas of interest, and even security codes to access places around the city. On that last note, you will come across some locked doors or secure computer terminals. If you have the proper 3-digit code, you can enter it in by writing with the stylus. You can even use your 3C device to call in cops from nearby precincts to haul in the criminals you've caught.
Like GTA, your time is split between driving cars and fighting on foot. Driving a car is simple stuff, with the B and A buttons controlling gas and brakes respectively. There are a number of chase missions, even from the earliest points in C.O.P., most of which end when you ram your car into the back of the suspect's vehicle.
Of course, the real fun comes when you get on foot and take out your gun. Aiming control is handled with the stylus, while your movement is mapped to the D-Pad. The Left Button fires, allowing for a fairly fluid and sensible control scheme. Considering there's no thumbstick on the DS, this is one of the better and smarter ways to handle a third-person shooter. Lefties, don't worry. You can switch the controls so that the face buttons handle movement and the Right Button fires your gun. Being a lefty myself, this option works pretty well. The D-Pad would be preferable for controlling your character, but this is the curse all lefties must suffer.
The early missions are easy stuff, meant to train you in C.O.P.'s various control schemes. Things start to get tricky when you're forced to sneak into a casino. Guards are on patrol and if they spot you, it's an instant mission fail. You can see the vision cones of each guard on the touch screen and they follow simple patterns. Still, it's likely you're going to get caught a few times in this mission. What I found frustrating is that halfway through this stealth mission, there is a moment where you hack a computer and are told you've done a good job sneaking past everyone. This seems like it would be a checkpoint. It's not. And you have more stealth ahead of you. Fail in any instance and you have to begin the entire mission again. Yeah, it's a little frustrating.
When you're not catching crooks, you can spend your time exploring the city. There are tons of photo locations to find. These tourist locales (denoted with a floating camera icon on the street) are perfect for taking snapshots with your 3C gizmo. There are also destructible barriers in the game. Smash through these with your car to clear the city of annoying barricades. Completing these types of tasks earns rewards. Oh, and there are also plenty of optional missions, which pop up when you're near a crime in progress.
C.O.P.: The Recruit hits store shelves the first week of November. It may not end up being the GTA killer, but if you've already beaten Chinatown Wars, it might be worth a look.
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