Coded Arms: Contagion Updated Hands-On

We hack the system in our updated look at this cybernetic first-person shooter from Konami.

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Coded Arms: Contagion
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The first Coded Arms game for the PlayStation Portable had its strengths--namely an attractive graphics engine and a good variety of weapons--and its weaknesses, most pointedly in its repetitive environments. Coded Arms Contagion, the sequel to the first PSP shooter, is due for release in spring 2007, and based on our hands-on time with the game at today's Konami press event, some of the most obvious problems with the last game have been addressed.

If the enemy is virtual, it's not really killing is it?
If the enemy is virtual, it's not really killing is it?

The randomly generated levels of the original game are no more. Instead of having you blast away enemies in a sequence of dull and repetitive-looking rooms, the level design in Contagion seems much more purposeful and thought-out. Many sections of the level are open-air, and the game seems to be repeating textures and architecture far less than in the previous game. Contagion producers told us the level design in the game will follow a more focused, story-driven model this time around. There will be more destructible environments as well--including the ubiquitous wooden boxes, which, when destroyed, will yield items like power-ups and new weapons.

Like the last Coded Arms game, Contagion puts you in the role of a cybernetic security agent who is set to stop a group of terrorists from controlling a massive virtual reality system and gaining access to stores of valuable military information. Of course, stopping these hackers means cutting them down in the virtual world using a variety of high-tech weaponry, including pistols, sniper rifles, shotguns, assault rifles, rocket launchers, and more. Contagion producers told us there will be more than 30 available weapons in the game. As you progress through the levels, you'll earn money as you go, which you can then use to improve your weapons with upgrades such as increased rates of fire and extra clips. You'll need those upgrades too as you tackle the numerous enemies you'll encounter in the game, including standard bullet magnets such as soldiers and creepy cybernetic insects, as well as massive hulks wielding huge machine guns, which will take more than a few shots from your boom-stick to bring down.

The default controls in Contagion are still the same as the last game--movement is controlled with the analog stick, the look movements are controlled with the four face buttons, while jumping and firing your weapon are controlled with the left and right triggers, respectively. The directional pad is used for reloading your gun and cycling through the many weapons you can carry. Just as in the original game, this default control scheme feels a bit awkward under our fingers--especially when it comes to aiming weapons. Luckily, Contagion will let you fully customize the controls in the game, so you can find a setup that works for you, regardless of your style of play, which is something that was really needed in the last Coded Arms game.

Konami producers estimate that Contagion's single-player experience contains about 20 to 30 hours of gameplay spread across more than six levels. Once you're through the single-player game, or if you're looking for something different, you can dive into Contagion's multiplayer game, which will let you battle it out with up to seven of your friends in both ad hoc and infrastructure modes, across a number of different multiplayer modes such as deathmatch, last man standing, and a few others that have yet to be announced. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like there will be any connectivity between Contagion and Coded Arms: Assault, the PlayStation 3 game coming later this year, but we keep hoping for some sort of tie-in between future games in the series.

The futuristic look of Coded Arms: Contagion isn't a drastic departure from the last game in the series, but we're pleased to hear about the game's more story-driven approach and customizable controls, which should solve some of the problems associated with the last game in the series. Contagion is set for release in 2007, and we'll have more on the game in the coming months.

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