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PSP  header logo

Coded Arms Contagion

For: PSP

The second most deadly game on PSP

Product: Coded Arms Contagion | Developer: Creat Studios | Publisher: Konami | Format: PSP | Genre: Shooter | Players: 1-8 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: US
 
Coded Arms Contagion PSP, thumbnail 1
Prevention has always been the best medicine. Taking vitamins to ward off a cold is far better than downing pills to cover up the pain of a sore throat, for instance.

It's equally as difficult to treat the symptoms of disappointment in a bland game. Avoiding the experience rather than risking the heartbreak will do you well in the long run.

Coded Arms Contagion
requires exactly that sort of disciplined prevention. Either resist its pretty graphics or risk infection from its uninspired first-person action.

The game puts you in the digitized boots of Major Jacob Grant, an elite forces operative assigned to secure the inner workings of a complex combat simulator known as AIDA. Grant is tasked with running basic diagnostics and engaging the simulation in low-level drills.

The simple exercise quickly devolves into a dangerous situation, however, as communications break down between forces inside AIDA and headquarters. You're left navigating the virtual sectors of the artificial intelligence construct, literally beating back bugs in the search for a means back home.

In total, 13 missions comprise the single-player campaign, with each taking anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes to complete. Thankfully, Coded Arms Contagion ditches the randomly-generated maps of the first game. Instead, missions occur on pre-designed levels that guarantee consistency and allow for specific objectives, as well as new mechanics.

Whether this expanded design is desirable depends on your level of appreciation for its highly generic gameplay, though. The game certainly improves upon its predecessor with bigger levels and more action, but it suffers from the same fatal flaw: uninspired play mechanics. Essentially, enemies aren't terribly intelligent and most can be levelled with a shot or two from a rifle or shotgun. A couple of boss battles provide a difficult challenge, but as with the rest of the action it's simply nothing memorable or particularly exciting.

The only thing sets Coded Arms Contagion apart from other, better military shooters is the fact it's the only original first-person action game on PSP – everything else tends to be a console franchise extension. Were it not for this, there would be little reason to embark on this largely unassuming adventure.

But even its exclusivity to PSP is a liability due to the limitations it places on the controls. While moving about is easy enough with the analogue stick and face buttons, the glaring omissions of crouching, sprinting, and a dedicated contextual action button hinder gameplay. For what it has to work with, the game manages fairly well but it's hard not to take stock of the shortcomings regardless of whether they're a factor of game design or hardware.

Clocking in around four to five hours, Coded Arms Contagion is one of the longest shooters to hit PSP. Helping to lengthen this are trials, which are unlocked upon completing each mission. For instance, a trial may require replaying a mission without losing any health or using a specific weapon. Beyond extending the game's value, it's a worthy addition in that you're always rewarded with a weapons upgrade at the end of each trial. More on that in a minute.

A few more than two dozen weapons are unlocked through the course of the Campaign. You start off with a basic pistol and graduate to other first-person shooter standards such as shotgun, semi-automatic rifle and grenade launcher during the first few levels. Obviously, as you delve deeper into the game, more exotic weaponry becomes available. But as you're only allowed to carry five weapons at a time (including automatically equipped grenades), there's a bit of strategy involved in selecting your arsenal before jumping into a mission.

What's great about the weapons in Coded Arms Contagion is their aforementioned 'upgradability'. Using points hidden throughout the game, you can enhance a weapon's attributes such as rate of fire, damage index, reload rate, etc. It's a simple system to be certain, but one that encourages exploration and adds depth to an experience that otherwise lacks any.

Separate from the Campaign are three multiplayer games for up to eight individuals in both ad-hoc and infrastructure modes. Online gameplay seems appealing until you experience a match firsthand. The problem lies not with the plain list of game types (deathmatch, team deathmatch, and last man standing) or the handful of inventive maps; rather, severe balance issues destroy the fun. In effect, it's entirely too easy to kill and be killed in multiplayer matches. Sure, logging on and finding a game is cake but the frag filling is utterly foul.

The greatest thing the game has going, then, is its graphics. Even if the sound is substandard and the gameplay is riddled with shortcomings, the visuals are undoubtedly impressive with The Matrix-like digital effects and a smooth overall performance.

It's surprisingly easy to gawk at the visuals and want a piece of the action Coded Arms Contagion promises. We did. Hold fast, though, because like that exceptionally beautiful girl you might have fancied at school, disappointment awaits behind the pretty facade. Too many substandard symptoms – limited controls, bland action, unbalanced multiplayer, and poor sound design – make it something you'll want to quarantine.
 
Coded Arms Contagion
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 1 October 2007
Do your part to stop the spread of Coded Arms Contagion and its uninspired strain of first-person action. Crippled controls and multiplayer malaise prove far too potent against its beautiful looks
 
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