Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: July 29, 2005
Many feel that there cannot be a full 3D first-person shooter on handhelds, unless they are primitive clones of early Wolfenstein, Doom, or Quake releases. If you look at what has by and large emerged on handhelds up to this point, that pessimistic perspective is decidedly confirmed. But the incredible power of the Sony PSP opens the door to blasting through this limitation, and — sure enough — now there is an original 3D first-person shooter, developed specifically for this platform and not cloned from another one. Konami Digital Entertainment has taken the risk and released Coded Arms to fill this void. But is this novel venture a success?
The story is high-tech science fiction. In the late 21st century, planet Earth has been fully computerized. A military-industrial mega-conglomerate began developing a combat simulation program named A.I.D.A. for a war against extra-terrestrial life forms, but abandoned this project before its completion. However, the program persisted, evolved, and expanded, malfunctioning in the process and spreading into every part of the Earth’s computerized networks. Access to the program was then banned, but enterprising hackers called “Coded Ones” still tried to get in to acquire rare valuable data, despite the proliferation of digital foes deadly to intruders. You are one of these hackers, and you “jack” into the system to overcome the odds. Although as you play along there is not much progression to the story, this constitutes an enticing plot setup.
Coded Arms consists of six worlds consisting of three separate areas — City, Base, and Ruins. You run through these three levels once relatively easily, but then the second time around everything gets a lot more challenging. As you progress, the level design gets better, even though it is pretty much limited to right-angled enclosures and does not contain the architectural flair and complexity of the top first-person shooters. I like best the Ruins environment, an organic setting that includes, among many other features, huge Venus Fly-Traps.
The selection of enemies in Coded Arms is excellent. Some are metallic, reminded me a bit of those in Descent 3; while others are organic. Even on the tiny PSP screen, I will never forget my fear when this giant crab-like foe reared up on its hind legs ready to rip me to shreds. Enemies attack you from every direction; in one of my favorite cases, I was going up an elevator, and a foe was at the top shooting down the shaft to get me. Perhaps the most pleasantly annoying foes are scooting exploding mines that seem to be everywhere (including trapping you in elevators), and I also liked the foes that emit poisonous gas that eradicates you if you stick around. The boss enemies in Coded Arms may be few and far between, but they are among the most fun and most challenging I have ever encountered in a first-person shooter; the boss battles are both lengthy and truly memorable. For those with moral qualms, not only do you not kill any humans but also you do not actually kill anything, rather you simply “delete” your foes.