The original Coded Arms had the inauspicious honor of being the first notable first-person shooter to appear on the PlayStation Portable, though the game's awkward controls and bland, randomly generated rooms didn't do a lot to thrill most portable gamers. Konami's back to the drawing board on the sequel, Contagion, which looks like it will contain a more cohesive storyline and more extensive gameplay features that may help it fulfill the series' potential a little more than its predecessor did.
The game again centers on the virtual-reality combat environment called AIDA, though this time you'll go into the harsh online arena as a character with an actual name. You're an agent named Grant, as we saw during a brief hands-on with a demo version set in the game's early tutorial environment. Grant was taking barked orders from a gruff-looking commanding officer whose face actually popped up on the screen during transmissions. So immediately it looks as though Contagion will have a more involved storyline than the original, which cast you as a nameless hacker traversing the endless random levels.
We noted a number of appealing gameplay features during our quick demo. Contagion offers what looks like an improved 3D map display in the corner of the screen that should make it easier to get around inside the AIDA. We discovered another nice navigational tool in the form of a level-decryption utility. Since the levels in Coded Arms are simply computer programs inside a VR environment, you can occasionally (but not always) "decrypt" them, which turns them into a Matrix-style green grid and reveals certain essential features, like doorways. And once we got to a specific doorway, we entered a hacking minigame that showed a scrolling column of numbers and required us to select the matching number from a column on the side.
Contagion will offer a number of new, upgradeable weapons that will hopefully enhance the shooting action seen in the original. The game is also said to offer an eight-player online mode, though we didn't get to see any sort of multiplayer running at the event. The development reins for this sequel have been handed to Massachusetts-based studio Creat, so we're optimistic that the team there can continue to improve on the original Coded Arms, based on what we've seen so far. Keep an eye out for more on Coded Arms: Contagion around its mid-March release date.