9. Coded Arms
2005 | PSP
Copies sold in US: More than 200,000
Average score: 59%
Coded Arms' sales figures might seem puny compared to some of the behemoths on this list, but clearing 200,000 copies is actually a pretty impressive feat for a PSP title - especially one that isn't a sequel or spin-off to an existing series. Coded Arms has the dubious distinction of being the PSP's first first-person shooter, casting players as a hacker tasked with killing bugs in a computer network. Naturally, it was hamstrung by the same control issues that plague every other PSP shooter, but what really should have sent gamers running was that Coded Arms is just so goddamn boring.
The company line: "Coded Arms is a visually stunning first-person shooter that places the gamer in the role of a computer hacker who infiltrates an abandoned virtual reality system. … Coded Arms will be one of the PSP system's premiere titles!"
What the critics said: Plenty of reviewers gushed over Coded Arms' impressive visuals, but most of the compliments ended there. GameSpot's Alex Navarro wrote that the game's design "simply doesn't have a lot to offer beyond a bland, unappealing corridor crawl with similarly boring multiplayer," while now-defunct Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine summed it up as "shallow combat meets nonexistent level design in a battle for FPS mediocrity."
It was Game Revolution's J.P. Hurh, however, who offered the most prophetic analysis. "Coded Arms is such a weak rendition of a first-person-shooter," Hurh wrote, "it makes us wonder whether such a thing is even possible on the single-analog PSP." After the steady trickle of PSP shooters released since, we're still wondering.
Why you bought it anyway: Chalk it up to Coded Arms getting there first. In the months after the PSP's launch, new owners were hungry for a game that would justify their $250 purchase, and this slick-looking first-person shooter - a genre that had never really been done well on a handheld - seemed like a perfect choice. It didn't really matter if it was bland - it looked better than people expected it to, and even if the single-player sucked, going head-to-head with friends in a generic FPS sounded like a nice change-up from bouts of Twisted Metal: Head-On.
What went wrong? It's common knowledge now that the PSP's controls make it a lousy platform for first-person shooters, but when it debuted, developers were too focused on the cool things they could do with its technology to notice. Unfortunately, one of those cool things also turned out to be Coded Arms' biggest flaw: the game's randomly generated levels, which were supposed to turn each session into a unique experience but instead turned out bland and repetitive. And because its greatest assets - portability and random levels - turned out to be liabilities, all we were left with was a mediocre corridor shooter we could play against friends.
Most infuriatingly positive quote: "The white-hot fire fights are so intense they actually made our underarms moist," wrote lad mag Stuff. Remind us never to play Black in the same room as Stuff's game reviewers; we'd hate to see what sorts of stains it might inspire.
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