|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: V.D. Dev||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 3, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Robert VerBruggen
There are GTA clones, and then there are GTA clones. Where some developers take Rockstar's template and fill it with fresh ideas, others are content to ape just about every aspect of the popular series.
Despite its lack of blood and death (pedestrians jump out of the way of your car, and criminals you shoot simply disappear), C.O.P.: The Recruit belongs in the second category. If anything, it out-GTAs GTA, playing more like the franchise's big-console outings than last year's Chinatown Wars did. That alone makes The Recruit remarkable, but the style is weak and the gameplay is a mixed bag.
This game pulls off something similar to what GTA IV did: It recreates New York City in its entirety, allowing players to drive wherever they like without dealing with load times or other glitches. Where Chinatown Wars pulled the camera into the sky (for a look reminiscent of the old 2-D GTA games), The Recruit's camera stays close behind the character, at ground level. The Recruit follows the GTA IV expansions in offering instant restarts upon failure, and in giving players medals for accomplishing missions quickly and efficiently.
Still, the DS's power (and, presumably, the developers' lack of GTA IV's $100 million budget) does limit the game in a few ways. There are no radio stations, the dialogue is written rather than spoken, passersby on the street don't talk, etc. This would be completely forgivable had the developers found other ways to give the game style and flair, but instead, they released one of the most emotionally flat titles in memory.
Take, for example, the atrocious cutscenes. The cel-shaded visuals ape mimic the cartoonish look of Chinatown Wars, and the writing is simply bad (here's a taunt: "I hear Jersey needs idiots . . . you should try out"). These scenes tell a story about a former street racer who was arrested and given, instead of jail time, a job helping the police catch terrorists. Rockstar would have loaded such a story with colorful characters, interesting stories, and crazy missions, but the unfortunately named V.D. Dev can manage only awkward dialogue and lame plot twists. Never once did we feel anything, even amusement, for a character in The Recruit.
Of course, once you stop comparing The Recruit to GTA, none of this matters too much; plenty of great games have poor or even nonexistent stories. When it comes to gameplay, The Recruit does deliver in some ways. Most of the missions involve shooting, stealth, or driving, and those in the first two categories fare quite well.
The shooting mechanic is new to the DS, and it's definitely something other developers should look to for inspiration. You move forward and back (and strafe) with the D-pad, shoot with the L button, and turn and aim by moving the stylus across the touch screen. It's basically the two-joystick setup, with the D-pad serving as the left joystick and the stylus as the right. We wouldn't have minded a little more sensitivity in the stylus, as it's a little hard to turn quickly, and we also would have liked a cover mechanic, but overall it's an intuitive and workable setup. Most of the shooting missions are a joy to play, forcing you to rely on twitch reflexes and precise aiming. Sometimes you even get to call in and direct around other cops.
The stealth missions are pretty much straight out of the Metal Gear playbook, requiring you to navigate between various enemies' vision cones. Usually, it's easier to play these missions by the map on the touch screen, not the third-person view on the top one. It's nothing earth-shattering, but it's fun and represents a welcome break from the GTA mold.