C.O.P. The Recruit Review: Open World Action Comes To DS In Full 3D

by Mike Bendel November 13, 2009 @ 4:00 pm

In many respects, Ubisoft’s C.O.P: The Recruit is a landmark title for the Nintendo DS. Delivering a fully realized open-world environment in 3D, developer VD Dev has crafted a one-of-a-kind experience that no other DS effort to date has managed. From a technical perspective, to pull off this level of visual acuity on a handheld that admittedly is not renowned for its 3D rendering capabilities is an impressive feat. Does C.O.P. set a new standard for the open-world genre on DS? Read on and find out.

Without question, the visuals in C.O.P. are spectacular considering the limitations of DS hardware, but a question no doubt looming on many minds is if the gameplay stacks up. While it’s fair to draw parallels between Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto franchise and C.O.P. at first glance, the reality is that the two are quite different, at least in terms of pacing. Despite boasting a open-world environment, C.O.P. takes a linear approach, essentially forcing players to follow the main story line. While side missions are still present, they offer no real connection to the main story, appearing on the player’s CCD PDA device at random intervals. Opting to take on these predefined missions can net you more weapons and ammo upon successful completion, as well as achievements for bragging rights. This approach works well as the portable format is better suited towards pick up and play sessions. Having one clear path to the story keeps things moving at a steady pace.

As we’ve seen on the visual front, C.O.P. takes advantage of the DS hardware to its fullest. In certain respects, the same can also be said of controls. Using the stylus, players can aim freely with their weapon of choice while using the control pad to move around, making movement fluid and responsive. By default, the action of firing your weapon is tied to the left trigger, but this behavior can be changed via options to tapping the stylus twice in rapid succession. Although opinions are bound to differ, we actually preferred the stylus method of firing shots. Additionally, certain missions in C.O.P. employ use of the DS’ built-in microphone in a rather effective way, having players shout “Hey” to divert attention from surrounding guards and remain undetected.

While solid, the combat system in C.O.P. offers no real surprises. Firearm switching is seamless as players can simply choose their weapon of choice with the touch of the stylus. One nuance we encountered was that the hit detection system felt a bit touchy. There’s no real indication that an enemy is being hit when firing, making combat less satisfying than we would have liked. While it was obvious that Ubisoft did not want to include blood to keep this a teen-friendly game, adding a secondary life bar for the opposition would have been helpful.

Missions in C.O.P. are varied. While a bulk of the game involves running errands for local law enforcement across the city, as well as your falsely accused mentor Brad Winter in an effort to prove his innocence and uncover a terrorist plot, it’s the way these scenarios play out that mix up the gameplay and keep things fresh. There’s never a dull moment in C.O.P.

Pushing the DS hardware to its limits does have disadvantages, however. C.O.P. suffers from a slight degree of pop-in on screen, a visual artifact that often plagues this genre, making textures appear right before your eyes. In the case of C.O.P., this phenomenon is very minor, however, mostly limited to cars far out in the distance. Could it have been eliminated? Most likely, but at the cost of no longer maintaining a smooth 60 frames per second. There’s always a trade-off.

Regardless of minor faults, C.O.P. is a compelling action experience for DS. Impressive 3D visuals backed by a silky smooth rate make for a quality production. Although the gameplay could have used sprucing up in certain areas, VD Dev has created a technological achievement that is not only fun but rewarding to play. Any DS owner in the market for an enjoyable action title should give C.O.P. consideration. It’s a fun action romp that doesn’t let go until the end.

– Breaks new ground in terms of visuals for DS
– Use of secondary DS hardware features in non-gimmicky ways
– Story is engaging, keeps the player wanting to push forward

– Not as ambitious on the gameplay front. Combat system is solid but feels somewhat antiquated

Review copy provided by Ubisoft. A Nintendo DS exclusive, C.O.P. The Recruit retails for $29.99 and was released on November 3.

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