In Ubisoft's upcoming DS action adventure game, C.O.P. The Recruit, you play as ex-criminal Dan Miles. Dan has joined the New York law enforcement group known as the CCD, City Control Division, which acts as a supplemental force to the police in the game's crime-ravaged vision of New York City where street muggings are commonplace and kidnappers are at every corner. Well, not every corner, but they are out there, and as Dan, it's your job to aid the police in bringing every one of those creepy jerks to justice. We've been playing a recent build of the game that Ubisoft sent us to see how it's come along since our last look back in June.
After a brief introductory cutscene giving a glimpse of how Dan came to amend his criminal ways and eventually join the CCD, you'll be taken through a tutorial that will introduce you to some of the characters. You'll also become familiar with the settings in the game, the gadgets at your disposal, and, of course, the game's controls. Your first order of business will be in "borrowing" your landlady's car so you can make your way to CCD headquarters. C.O.P. is an open-world game, and as in the Grand Theft Auto series, you can steal…err commandeer…any car in the game simply by walking up to it and hitting the X button.
Driving controls are straightforward--you steer with the D pad, accelerate with the B button, brake with A, and engage the e-brake with the Y button. Different cars in the game feature different handling, and some of them--including one you drive early on while trying to track down a thug who scratches your car--can be a bit tough to handle.
Eventually, you'll make your way to HQ and meet your lieutenant who will show you around HQ. From there, you'll be required to learn about your 3C device, which functionally is a combination navigational aid, phone book, and magical key device. By accessing the directory, you can find a bunch of different locales throughout the expansive version of NYC that makes up the game. Double-clicking on a locale in your directory will put a pointer on your minimap, which is handy to use when you're travelling crosstown to a new location.
Some entries in your directory have three-digit codes next to them--if you open the key section of your 3C device, you can enter these codes by writing them on the touch screen, which will then give you access to new areas. Not every location has a code, and the codes of some locations aren't listed. In one mission, we were tasked with getting into the back door of an illegal casino, which required us to guess each digit of the three-digit code in succession. A little trial and error was all it took to get it the code right and slip in the back door. Your 3C device looks like it will become a crucial part of your crime-fighting career, and it's always being updated with new locations as you earn new missions.
The next step in our tutorial was to get our CCD-issued firearm. After making our way across town to the CCD School, we got our gun and were given a brief tutorial of how to use weapons in the game. Not all of the controls in C.O.P. are easy to learn, but shooting actually works well. To enter aim mode, you simply tap the pistol icon in the upper-right hand corner of the touch screen. Dan will draw his current weapon, and you can aim at targets by simply moving your stylus across the touch screen. Moving the D pad will strafe Dan in any direction, and to fire, you press the left-shoulder button (or right, if you've configured lefty flip controls). It's easy to mow down targets once you've become acclimated to the controls, which you'll do in a quick firing-range tutorial that has Dan making his way through room after room and shooting what--somewhat incongruously--look to be uniformed policemen.
With the tutorial out of the way, you'll be given more or less free reign of the city. If you drive around, you might get calls on your radio asking you to be at a certain locale in order to move the story along, or you might get side missions you can choose to complete or ignore altogether. In one mission we played, we were tasked with investigating a mysterious blue van parked near the Holland Tunnel, which might have been holding a kidnap victim. Once we got close, the van took off so we had to bring the van to a halt by chasing it down and ramming it several times. After finishing a mission like this, Dan was required to call the actual police--a somewhat clumsy mechanic that requires you to bust out your 3C device, locate the nearest police station, memorize its three-digit code, and enter it into the key code section. It would make more sense for the cops to come automatically, thus eliminating this tedious step, but alas, such is the way of the City Control Division.
Another mission we played from the early goings of the game was a modified version of a scenario we had tried in an earlier build: helping out a potential police informant by locating his car inside an illegal casino. The new twist here was a bit of stealth gameplay as--once we had entered the back door after guessing the code of entry--we were confronted with a warehouse crawling with security. Using our 3C device to locate the guards and their line of sight, we snuck our way into a control room where we then located the informant's car sitting in the casino itself. Locating the car was only part of the problem--from there the goal was to get into the casino by distracting security, liberating the car, and returning it to its rightful owner.
While firefights seems to be the highlight of gameplay early on, it looks like there's a good amount of variety in C.O.P., including driving and stealth. There are also some occasional surprises, such as collectible camera pickups you find scattered around the city. If you find a camera, you can then take a photo of the many landmarks around NYC. That said, C.O.P. isn't perfect--in addition to the 3C device frustrations, the game's sometimes unfriendly camera can be a pain, which makes it hard to find the exit door to certain rooms, for example.
There looks to be some fairly vivid backstory in C.O.P. Early on, you are introduced to the CCD captain, who acts like he might have a skeleton or two in the closet, and a brief mention is made of a group known as Bomb Zombie that might either be performance artists or terrorists bent on destroying the city. There's also the relationship between Dan Miles and his CCD mentor who has been wrongly thrown into prison. How will all of these narrative threads play out? Find out when C.O.P. The Recruit is released on November 3.