Virtua Cop Hands-On Preview

AM2's classic arcade light-gun game is popping up in the most unexpected place--the N-Gage.

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In the mid-'90s, Sega development house AM2 made a big splash with a pair of technically impressive arcade games that played largely off the novelty of the then-new concept of 3D polygonal graphics. There was Virtua Fighter, which was comparable to the likes of Street Fighter II and its ilk, and then there was Virtua Cop, a light-gun game not unlike arcade favorites such as Operation Wolf or Lethal Enforcers. Virtua Cop games have since appeared on the Saturn and the Dreamcast, and now Sega is close to bringing Virtua Cop to the N-Gage.

The N-Gage Virtua Cop's cursor replaces the light gun surprisingly well.
The N-Gage Virtua Cop's cursor replaces the light gun surprisingly well.

This may seem like a strange transition for an arcade light-gun game, but it's a pretty simple translation, really. Rather than use a special light-gun controller to draw a bead on polygonal punks, there is a small onscreen cursor that you control with the D pad, and you'll use the 5 and 7 keys to shoot and reload, respectively. The preview build we saw seemed fairly complete, and the action seemed pretty straightforward, staying true to the spirit of the series. The camera moves on its own around levels with curt names--like "docks," "warehouse," "lobby," and "office"--while bad guys in suits, bad guys in quasi-military gear, shirtless bad guys in camo pants, and bad guys in beige jumpsuits hop up and out from behind various objects in the environments.

Occasionally you'll run into explosive crates and barrels, which offer the benefit of flash-frying any nearby baddies, but they'll also regularly net you a health bonus or a shotgun-weapon upgrade. The latter of these will make your area of attack much broader, thus requiring less precision aiming.

Our time with the game left us fairly surprised at how well the cursor-based aiming system worked in lieu of an actual light gun, though there were certain points in a few of the levels where the frame rate became unmanageably choppy, which, in turn, made aiming the cursor in a timely fashion fairly difficult.

There's still plenty of bad guys to shoot on the N-Gage.
There's still plenty of bad guys to shoot on the N-Gage.

Otherwise, though, the game looked like a pretty faithful handheld interpretation of AM2's classic arcade offering, complete with large stylized color-coded reticles that lock onto and circle around active enemies. Similarly, the sound for the levels we played was populated by a unique music track that sounded like it could've been pulled straight from the arcade, along with a pleasant cacophony of gunfire and death knells.

The idea of transitioning an arcade-birthed light-gun game to the significantly smaller scope of the N-Gage strikes us as a particularly ambitious one. From what we've seen, the game seems to get the gist of a lot of the presentational and pacing elements found in its arcade and console brethren. Check back soon for a full review of the final version of the game.

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