Coded Arms: Contagion (PSP)
- Publisher: Konami
- Developer: Konami
In which you play as Rococo McSpuffers, a half-man half-killer whale who must defend Earth against the forces of evil using only four rubber bands and a coconut.
Of course that is not really about what Coded Arms: Contagion is about. That was just put there to get you to at least start reading this review. Would you still be reading now if I'd explained how Coded Arms: Contagion is about an elite Special Forces agent called Jake who likes to fire guns and hack computer systems?
Unfortunately that is of course what Coded Arms: Contagion is about. It's a first-person shooter for the PSP and the dullest game I have played since A-Train HX. (More on Rococo McSpuffers later, by the way - don't go.)
The plot revolves around something called A.I.D.A., an "abandoned combat simulation program". There is lots of nonsense about "bringing the system back online". You don't "quit" the game, you "jack out". Weapon upgrades are called "plugins".
Playing as Major Jacob Grant, who looks like a cross between Sam Fisher and someone who spends a lot of time in velodromes, you must trudge from boring room to boring room taking out thick enemies with boring weapons. There are crates to jump on! And fuel containers to blow up! And doors to open!
The door opening is particularly tedious. You have to "hack" computer systems, which actually means "look at two sets of numbers, and find the number common to both". Things do get more complex as the game progresses (sometimes there are more numbers! Sometimes they move!) but no more thrilling.
And that's it. Trudge, shoot, hack, repeat. You can always attempt to relieve the boredom with a bit of multiplayer action, either ad hoc or online. Eurogamer certainly wasn't prepared to cough up more than once for a copy of Coded Arms: Contagion, so I took the latter option.
It was easy enough to get online, and I even found two people to play against. But the multiplayer experience is no more fun than playing solo. The maps are small and feel empty, with few places to hide. As with the single-player game, it all gets repetitive and stale very quickly.
Coded Arms: Contagion isn't a bad game. The controls work fine and the visuals aren't hideous. But there is nothing to set this apart from every other mediocre first-person shooter you've ever played, and nothing to make it worth recommending. It's certainly no Rococo McSpuffers.
Bleach: Shattered Blade (Wii)
- Publisher: SEGA
- Developer: Polygon Magic
Time for another Wii fighting game based on an anime TV show I've barely heard of and couldn't care less about. This one is called Bleach: Shattered Blade and it features plenty of familiar stuff - Episode, Arcade and Versus modes, 32 characters to unlock, women with unfeasibly pneumatic breasts and men with hair that'll have your eye out.
But unlike, say, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3, Shattered Blade's control system is pretty straightforward and easily grasped by playing through the short tutorial. Swishing the remote about performs slashes and stabs, and there are a handful of special moves to pull off via basic button combos. You can also perform extra-powerful Bankai moves once you've filled up your Bankai meter. As the meter is topped up when you give or receive damage, and whenever you shake the nunchuk about, this isn't too difficult to do.
The combat system works a lot better than that in Godzilla Unleashed. Characters are a lot quicker to respond to instructions and pull off moves, and keener to attack actual enemies than inanimate objects. However, it eventually comes down to who can pull off the most Bankai moves the fastest, and gets repetitive very quickly. There's a serious lack of complexity and depth to the game. As a person who is seriously simple and shallow this didn't bother me too much, but hardcore fighter fans won't enjoy Shattered Blade.
There are a few highlights. The nonsensical cut-scenes where characters bang endlessly on about "the Sokyuko shards", whatever they are, and say things like, "Let's have a classic fight to the death." The wolf in a dress who can summon a giant Samurai robot from the depths of the Earth. The bizarre loading screen where a half-woman, half-tank fights a teddy bear in a nightie. The character who prefixes his special move with the pronouncement, "By the honour of the Quincy!", conjuring up exciting visions of a katana-wielding crime-solving medical examiner.
But silly things like that do not a good fighting game make. What makes a good fighting game is a well-designed combat system offering at least some degree of challenge and long term reward, and that's missing in Bleach: Shattered Blade.