Many developers have tried to create the high quality first person shooter on the DS that we’ve all been waiting for but most all of these attempts have fallen short of separating themselves from the ever expansive library of FPS titles to date. The Call of Duty franchise has seen some success on the DS with its Modern Warfare and World at War titles but still lacks the console experience that we’re used to from the series. Moon had a lot of hype and turned out to be a fairly successful title but key flaws as well as a lack of multiplayer hurt the game’s overall appeal immensely. Metroid Prime: Hunters, though being the first FPS on the system, is probably the most successful to date and yet still fails to maintain the same level of quality as the console Metroid Prime iterations (in this editor’s opinion).
Enter C.O.R.E., a futuristic FPS title that boasts “high-speed, action packed ‘classic’ F.P.S. gaming chock full of goodies.” Can it succeed where all other FPS titles on the DS have failed in bringing us the first “must-have” FPS for the system or is this merely an optimistic description of the game to hide its inherent flaws by labeling it as “classic” gameplay?
One of the first things I like to do after turning on a game is to check the available options. It’s become something of a habit or maybe it’s just the inner critic in me coming to the surface to see the attention to details that the developers have provided in terms of options, extras, etc. Unfortunately, though, options are not the only component to creating a strong FPS experience. The game itself needs to have strong controls, interesting level design with maps and/or compass-type features, smart A.I. and/or a large variety of enemies, and varied quests/operatives among many things.
After checking the options in C.O.R.E., it was fairly easy to be hopeful about the game’s quality, though, due to its large amount of options. Not only does the game feature multiplayer (4-player download play, at that) but it also features a wide array of gameplay options such as different controls, weapon auto switching, “invert look” (that we’ve seen added to many of the recent Wii and DS FPS titles), as well as 16 different sensitivity levels for aiming. Now this isn’t a large amount of options for a console title, per se, but it did seem expansive enough for a handheld FPS title.
M.O.R.E.? (of the same)
The controls of the game follow the same style of FPS titles on the DS, featuring stylus controlled aiming and jumping (by double tapping) as well as L/R triggered firing. The D-Pad is used for all movement/strafing of the character while Y/X crouches and A/B doubles as a second option for jumping (though it is not highly recommended). All in all, the game’s controls were fair enough and easy enough to allow you to control the game with a level of ease similar to mouse controls (though it makes the DS much more difficult to hold while playing).
Exploring in C.O.R.E. is not as easy to navigate as the controls however; with linear yet confusing level design as well as a lack of helpful directing and overly dark level design (even when turning up the game’s in-game brightness setting to the max and turning up the DSi’s brightness all the way), the game can become frustrating in a few levels and is always too uninspired in terms of level design. There are also many doors throughout your expedition but only a few are actually accessible (thus adding to the confusion). There was one level in particular (the caves) where I spent literally close to an hour trying to determine the next way to travel but actually couldn’t see it for most of the time. Due to a lack of a compass-type indicator as well as dark, confusing level design, I was forced to retrace my steps around 10-15 times before finally finding the next corridor.
To add insult to injury, you generally never understand the motive or direction of your operatives. Orders such as “find a way through the mess hall” or “reach the armory” are in no way helpful nor are they explained to understand the story implications (for the most part). Thus, you will not only feel lost most of the time but you’ll also have no grasp of your character’s motives or the “big picture” story points. There are small cut scenes where your unit lays down the plan and pieces of the story can be found throughout the game but I still felt a little lost throughout my entire experience.
Enemies are also a dull addition to the game’s overall appeal. Though there are several types of enemies, nearly all of them act in the exact same fashion: slow-paced movement with no covering and constant firing. Basically, the extent of the A.I. can be wrapped up into two small functions: They walk idly until they spot an enemy in which case they run aimlessly at it while firing. This makes combat predictable and uninspired as your basic strategy is to run in and mow down the enemy before his constant stream of fire takes down too much damage. And to make battles even less interesting, the enemies’ weapons are fixated at a set position and cannot be moved. If you hide in a spot where you can’t see their gun, they won’t be able to shoot you (this can be exploited on a later boss battle where the enemy’s gun is held to the right of his body; if you attack from the right side of an obstacle, it’s impossible for him to attack you).
The game does feature a decent arsenal of weaponry throughout your experience with eight different guns found progressively throughout the game. Weapons range from the shotgun and bazooka to a rapid fire electricity gun and alien developed weaponry, giving players a decent amount of variety when choosing their weapon. However, the ammo is sparsely placed throughout the world forcing you to spend too much time conserving your ammo to enjoy using your better guns. I remember running out of shotgun ammo on one level and not finding more for 3 or so levels. Finally, the weapon variety is large but the weapons themselves are not executed properly. Slow bullet velocities mar the overall quality of the weaponry available in the game.
The single-card download-play multiplayer would be a highly welcomed addition if the levels weren’t so small that the battle becomes more about who can get the first kill (and thus camp at the next spawn point). Also, the slow bullets are especially noticed in multiplayer as your opponent is generally more dangerous than the game’s artificial intelligence.