Before you ask, here's what C.O.P. stands for: Criminal Overturn Program. Don't feel bad, I never would have guessed that either.
C.O.P. The Recruit is all about a petty criminal who becomes a one man episode of Miami Vice set in New York City. Rather than using the DS to capture the city in a bird's eye view the way that Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars does, The Recruit renders New York in 3D open world on the upper screen and uses the lower screen for inventory, maps and objective details. So while the game might resemble parts and concepts of other games and TV crime procedural shows, it really is a fresh take on DS gaming.
What Is It? C.O.P. The Recruit is an open world shooter/adventure game with 60 some-odd missions and six square miles of city to explore. Like GTA games on consoles, the game is made up of three primary parts: shooting, driving and the occasional mini game. Right now, I'm told the ratio in The Recruit is 30-50-20.
What We Saw I played through a couple of early main story missions. Then I watched the developer jump to a later mission to show off the "catching up" cut scene feature where the game splices together pieces of cut scenes and text to explain what you're supposed to be doing.
How Far Along Is It? The Recruit is due out this fall.
What Needs Improvement? Too Much Driving: Your character can commandeer pretty much any car in the whole game by standing in front of it to make it stop and then pressing one of the face buttons. This is fun for the first five minutes of driving across town to a mission, but it rapidly becomes un-fun when you spend all your time bumping into other cars or trying to navigate around Central Park. At times, The Recruit feels more like a driving sim than an open world crime adventure game.
What Should Stay The Same? Nice Shooting Controls: Tapping your weapon with the stylus (or poke it with your fingernail) in the lower screen snaps the upper screen's third-person view into an over-the-shoulder view so you can shoot people. Basic movement still gets done with the D-pad as with the rest of the game, but to adjust aim or turn left, right, up, or down, you have to drag the stylus along the lower screen – which feels more intuitive than it sounds. To fire the weapon, you can double tap the lower screen or squeeze the left shoulder button.
Impressive Scope: There is so much to do in this game. Besides the 60 missions, there are five different times of day you can view the city in (depending on which missions you're playing) and the city itself is so big for a DS game. Even if the driving gets a bit monotonous, it seems like the variations in missions will make up for the dull bits – and you can always commandeer boats when you get sick of cars. In the 20 minutes I spent plowing through the early part of the game, I could be doing anything from shooting criminals to putting out fires (because apparently the NYC Fire Department is always late) and the lone mini game I played where you had to pick out a redhead on a series of security cameras certainly felt like a nice change of pace.
Final Thoughts This game is invariably going to be compared to Grand Theft Auto and I think what The Recruit lacks in hookers, it hopes to make up for with its story. Twenty minutes really wasn't enough time to get a feel for the story, but if it's even half as solid as the shooting gameplay seems to be, I'm optimistic.