Michael Kontoudis
01 Jan, 2010

COP: The Recruit Review

DS Review | COPY: The Review.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Rockstar Games’ venerable Grand Theft Auto franchise must be blushing like a bride given the cavalcade of copycats and wannabes which litter store shelves in an effort to claim a slice of that lucrative sandbox pie. Some have been competent (True Crime: Streets of LA), while others have proved themselves to be highly entertaining in their own regard (Saints Row and its sequel), but it is becoming increasingly clear that games of this ilk need to step up their game and forge their own identity to avoid the long shadow cast by the subgenre’s grand-daddy. Developed by VD-Dev, C.O.P.: The Recruit is the latest in a very long line of crime-themed, open-world, third-person titles with an emphasis on car chases and gunplay. On a system which already plays host to the fairly terrific Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, can C.O.P. really cut it?

The virtual recreation of New York City is actually fairly impressive...

The virtual recreation of New York City is actually fairly impressive...

The game’s narrative and premise do little but engender a deep sense of suspicion and weariness from the outset, and the less said about the mind-bogglingly awful acronym of its title, the better. C.O.P. tells the story of Dan Miles, the latest in a long line of manga-inspired fops with hardcore attitudes and floppy locks who sport names like ‘Chad’, ‘Brad’, or ‘Kurt’. Dan, you see, is an illegal street-racer who finds himself indoctrinated into the New York City police department, known for some reason as the ‘CCD’, in lieu of serious jail time. Dan’s tale, such as it is, involves taking down criminals and saving the entire city from a sinister plot. This fairly cheesy plot could have been redeemed by slick presentation or sharp writing, but C.O.P. fails to deliver. The story is presented in unintelligible cut scenes comprised of blocky, comic book stills and pop-up text blocks, and rarely provides enough context for the player’s actions. The dialogue is also pretty insipid, treating to player to a barrage of faux-gritty ‘street speak’ and condescending tough-guy one-liners. If C.O.P. had its tongue in its cheek, or even a modicum of irony, it might have convinced us that it was attempting a parodical send-up of just these sorts of titles – if only this was so. Making matters worse, the game does not even work on the level of a guilty pleasure; for all its swaggering and posturing there is nary a drop of blood nor a curse word to be found throughout its duration. Watching C.O.P. try to tell its ‘story’ is like watching an elderly man hitch his trousers below his waist and regale you with gangster rap (with all the cussing replaced by more family-friendly terminology).

Sadly, C.O.P. also struggles to impress during play. Being a sandbox title with a mission-based structure, the majority of the player’s time is spent driving to and fro across the city to activate missions, which might involve stealth segments, shootouts, or races, with said missions being fairly par for the course. The trouble is that the driving model can be irritating, with cars feeling clunky or completely lacking in any sort of traction, and the third-person shooting segments can be cumbersome due to an awful control layout which requires digit-twisting of the worst kind (using the stylus, shoulder buttons and face buttons simultaneously is confounding). With neither of the its core components being very enjoyable, C.O.P. is largely a chore to play, which is unfortunate given that games of its scope and ambition are rare on the Nintendo DS. The missions themselves are fairly inane too, and fail to impress from a design standpoint even when divorced from the clunky interface. Speaking of interface, C.O.P. attempts to emulate the personal organizer motif of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars in the pursuit of immersion, but fails miserably; every action, from checking your objectives to activating targets on the mini-map, require a multitude of button-presses and sifting through layers of dull menus. While the game is fairly lengthy by handheld standards, it is doubtful that many will find the hours spent with C.O.P. worthwhile, especially with an infinitely more polished and engaging competitor sitting alongside it on store shelves.

... but lacklustre gameplay drags the game down into the realm of utter mediocrity.

... but lacklustre gameplay drags the game down into the realm of utter mediocrity.

All of this is quite a shame, because on a fundamental technical level, C.O.P. is supremely competent, and at times rather impressive. The game’s engine maintains a consistently silken frame rate and manages to render a relatively vast city environment with apparent ease. In fact, we would go as far as to say that C.O.P. is among the most technically proficient titles available on the Nintendo DS, and testament to the untapped power lurking beneath the clam shell. Character models are simple and clean, and pop up (which occurs fairly frequently) can be forgiven in light of the large cityscape the player is given to explore. If nothing else, C.O.P. is a solid engine crying out for a better game (with better artistic design) to be built upon it. Sadly, the game’s music alternates between bland and laughable (there are some unconvincing ‘hip hop’ beats on display which will have you reaching for the volume slider) and there is little to no voice acting to speak of.

If imitation is indeed a form of flattery, then poor imitation is perhaps tantamount to an insult. C.O.P. is a sloppy game which fails to exploit its impressive technological base, and clunky controls, laughable presentation and uninspired design conspire to render C.O.P. a game which misses the mark by quite a margin and errs in every way that Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars succeeds. It may be worthy of a rent to get a rare glimpse of the underutilized power of the Nintendo DS, but otherwise, C.O.P. is a forgettable copycat title on a system spoiled with superior choices.
The Score
C.O.P.: The Recruit is cynical, mediocre and clunky game, with its raison d'etre being the wholesale emulation of the Grand Theft Auto formula. To say that it fails wholeheartedly is hardly an overstatement. 5
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  12/11/2009 (Confirmed)
Year Made:

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