Although the PSP made a big splash upon arrival, there's been quite a bit of dead space after the initial wave of software. Sony has done a good job of releasing a surprisingly large amount of feature films on its proprietary UMDs, but for those of us who don't really care about watching movies on the glossy black handheld, there are still quite a few holes to be filled in its library. Coded Arms is the first FPS (first-person shooter) to come down the pipe, and it fills its role—barely.
Coded Arms is somewhat unique in that it establishes a perfect framework for a story to be set. Instead of taking the standard route of creating some characters and including some cutscenes, it presents itself as a computer interface for me, the real-life player, to "jack into" its futuristic world. Once there, I assume the role of a hacker trying to break into a runaway military simulator network. This "hacking" is visually represented by shooting robots and giant bugs which are assumed to be hostile programs or viruses.
It may sound a little cheesy, but I actually think this approach and style established by the Coded Arms team is the best thing about the game. When entering new rooms, they materialize instantly after a blur of numbers and letters appear on screen, as if the data is being loaded before me. When items explode, they "de-rez" into lines of code. Further reinforcing this cyberspace world, weapons are represented as filenames like "Shotgun.arm_ver.5" or "Landmine.cbx_ver.1" and referred to as plug-ins. It may be a little on the Matrix-y side, but the concept is cohesive and works well.
It's a good thing that the Konami team spent so much time and effort making sure that their world was well-realized, because there's not much else to differentiate it from about a million other FPSs. However, I do give credit to Konami for turning out an extremely solid product, especially since the PSP is lacking a second analog stick. The action is completely dialed-in and runs like silk. It took a little bit of adjustment to use the face buttons for looking up and down and turning, but it became second nature before I knew it. Toss in the fact that there is an aim-assist function as well, and I have to say that control wasn't really an issue.
So, Coded Arms definitely meets the basic criteria for being an action-packed shooter, but it still feels only half-done. For example, there are three different sets of environments, but they're all little more than hallways and boxy rooms with a few elevators thrown in for a variety. I'm extremely glad there were no key fetch puzzles or stupid locked doors, but I was shocked that there were no minigames or tasks to change up the pace. I thought it was a complete no-brainer to have some sort of hacking challenge or some small diversion relating to computers or data, but there's no such thing in the entire game. And because Coded Arms is presented more like an interface that an actual adventure, there are no cut scenes, characters to be developed, or story segments. I can certainly understand the choice, but I have to admit that it made the experience into something a little more dry than I was used to.
It took me about eight hours to get to the end, and although there is an extended "infinity" mode available to players who want to continue leveling-up their weapons and armor in randomly-generated levels, I was ready to put it down by the time I saw credits. Coded Arms felt good in my hands and it moved fast enough to keep my attention from moment to moment, but it became too repetitive and I started craving something a little deeper to sink my teeth into.
The kinetic running and gunning is there and it has the right style, but Coded Arms in its present form seems more like the first few pieces of something larger, rather than a complete product. I'd be very interested in a sequel that expands upon everything established here, but right now the kitchen's closed and I'm still waiting for the main course.