Review by James Flynn
People love sandbox games, people love cop games. How do you destroy both of these loves? That would be "C.O.P. The Recruit." The "Winner of multiple E3 awards" title brandished across the front of the case (with no explanation of what those specific awards were) fools you into thinking it has some street cred. To my knowledge, "C.O.P. The Recruit" started out as a DS version of "Driver," and somewhere down the line, possibly due to the fact that no one likes the "Driver" series anymore, the game was changed to an acronym, which stands for Criminal Overturn Program, which I guess is a fancy way of saying you're an undercover detective. You play loose cannon Dan Miles, a former street racer (sound familiar?) who is inducted into the C.O.P. program by Brad Winters, your mentor figure in the force. Together you scour the city in hopes of stopping high risk terrorist attacks.
Fans of games like the "True Crime" series and, of course, "Driver" need apply here. What you get is a large, open world third person "GTA"-style game on the DS, which in theory would sound like a great idea but fails in execution, half due to actual gameplay and half to the bland, boring setting you're put into. There's a reason why people love the "GTA" series as much as they do; Rockstar knows how to make a world that is both real enough and interesting enough to want to wander through. "C.O.P. The Recruit" lowers that bar by doing everything by the generic game developer's book. New York City, while an interesting and important city in real life, has been portrayed so many times in games it's become like the Hoth level in a Star Wars game. You have your Manhattan island and surrounding areas, the only thing missing in this game is a trip to the Statue of Liberty. I feel that game designers have become so lazy to create a cityscape that they just copy and paste New York to save time, sometimes calling it "Metro City" or some even more overtly generic title just so people won't find out they're playing the 12,203th version of the Big Apple.
Now, even though we're walking though the same urine-encrusted streets many other digitized heroes and villains have trekked, graphically for a DS game it is both detailed and smooth. It runs almost at a crisp 60 fps, which took me by surprise, since the game has about the same object intensity as "GTA 3." Even the character models do their best to convey a human appearance, despite the corner cutting for entering a car. You just approach a vehicle, press the X button, the screen fades to white, then you've magically entered the car. You know, I take back what I said about the graphics because if they can't give me any indication other then a life meter of my cars damage, that's not really having good graphics. Yes, instead of visually showing that your vehicle is about to explode in a ball of flaming metal, or even belching black smoke to signal it's near destruction, you're given a dinky life bar that in the heat of a pursuit you tend not to pay attention to. Score another one to "GTA: Chinatown Wars."
This game is the least user friendly Sandbox game I've played. Since the DS must have stylus controls, we're given the task of using it to plot courses throughout the city because our GPS system is a lazy piece of crap that would not want to be any help to us at all. The stylus also makes the awkward shooting more of a chore, but since this game isn't about pixel perfect aiming, just generally going for a head or chest shot guarantees a hit. The entire menu system in this game contains no help from the gamepad, nor is it possible to just pause the game and flip though it. In the absence of twin analog sticks for a game of this style, we're given the ability to shift the camera left to right by use of the Y and A buttons, which would be perfectly fine if it didn't stop your character's movement. Of course the game contains a button to snap you back to behind the character, but why have the character stop just because you wanted to turn the camera with him? That's "Bubsy 3D"-style gameplay flaws we're talking here.
In keeping with the generic vanilla flavoring that is the gameplay, we're treated to the equally bland techno and hip-hop sounds that obviously convey the feel of the big city. They at least attempt to drown out the monotonous sound effects of your main character's footsteps and gunshots. Thankfully, there's no spoken dialogue in the game but what's written wouldn't even pass for a decent "21 Jumpstreet" episode these days. The story itself is slow to actually get moving, your first 15 minutes of boring training explaining how the lazy GPS works and how to shoot like a idiot make you wonder if it's worth your time. In a toss up between this and "GTA: Chinatown Wars," I'm going for "Chinatown Wars." "C.O.P. The Recruit" was obviously made to be another bad "Driver" game, but even without that franchise name, which used to mean something (in 1999), we're left with an even more generic cop game that fails on every level to entertain or even go the distance and make the entire thing a satire or parody. What we're left with is bargain bin fodder.
Final Verdict - 5/10
It's not totally broken, but those that wish to "Starsky and Hutch" it up on the cheap will enjoy it on that merit as they pick it up amongst the unwanted "Petz" and licensed movie tie-in games, the rest of us are going for a life of crime. It's much more interesting.