Of the near countless hundreds of games already released or in development for the Nintendo DS, a very, very, very small percentage belong to the first-person shooter genre. This insignificant number is really surprising when you consider how well the Nintendo DS system's touch screen can handle the precise controls required of the game style…even if the 3D hardware can't come anywhere close to what console and PC designers are doing for the genre on those systems. Graffiti Entertainment's upcoming C.O.R.E. will join the elite few FPS games to hit the Nintendo DS, and in anticipation of the game's release the publisher let us delve into the latest version of the action game.
As the story goes, in 2028 a meteor slammed down into North American desert, and an underground facility built up around ground zero to perform experiments on the meteor. However, 20 years after the event, all has gone silent in the C.O.R.E. laboratory, and you're dispatched to find out what's gone wrong. Oh, and survive that, too.
Like most of the first person shooters on the Nintendo DS, C.O.R.E. utilizes the touch screen for "mouselook" controls. Within the game's option menu you can change the controls to fit your playing style, including a sliding adjuster that sets the sensitivity of the mouselook speed. And for you freaks that can't handle 1:1 direction, yes you get inverted controls as well.
The game's single player campaign doesn't stray very far from the formula of straightforward FPS games: you run around the 3D environments blasting at anything that blasts back. Most of the enemies we've found are either floating robots, sentry guns, and "generic humanoids" that each have their own pattern of attack. Because Health Packs are a rare commodity, it feels that C.O.R.E. puts heavy emphasis on defensive play – diving behind cover, for example. You can replenish lost health and ammunition with pick-ups that are strategically placed in wall-mounted vending machines. You'll also find giant pods that'll fill up your meters to the brim in even rarer instances.
Besides the standard "look around" controls, the touch screen also provides input for a variety of different things: swiping key cards, entering in passcodes, and switching from one camera to the next via touch-panel input. The game's story unfolds through text on the bottom screen, and you'll be able to pull up your mission briefings by tapping on the icon as they come up.
Visually, C.O.R.E runs smoothly, though we've only experienced the early portion of the game where you're only ever ambushed by one or two enemies at a time. The framerate remains a steady 30 for much of the action. It does run into the usual Nintendo DS problem of being a bit too dark for the standard handheld system, but you do have the ability to raise the brightness if you're still on the original dual-screen portable.
C.O.R.E. also has a multiplayer component that can be played via single or multiple cards – our first hands-on with the game explored the deathmatch portion so feel free to check out last year's preview here
C.O.R.E. has very little competition on the Nintendo DS – it's one of the few games willing to give DS owners mature-rated first-person shooter action. It's too early to say if the developers are successful in its design, but at the very least we appreciate the attempt. Our full review will hit when the game ships, currently scheduled for late February.
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