The government has lost contact with a top-secret research station, and it sends you to investigate. Welcome to C.O.R.E., a first-person shooter that feels far more like Wolfenstein 3D or Doom than anything remotely modern.
The story in C.O.R.E. is basically just an excuse for you to kill things, and while the gameplay is objective-based, those objectives usually amount to little more than “go here, please.” The developers tried to flesh out the bare-bones presentation with journals and notes scattered throughout the game, but they’re easy to miss, and are generally uninteresting anyway.
So instead of pursuing a story, you’ll spend the entire game wandering through hallways, killing enemies and looking for key cards to open doors. Despite this archaic design, C.O.R.E. can be enjoyable. Your foes aren't all that smart, and rarely transcend “stationary drone” status, but the game remains challenging due to some potentially annoying counterbalances.
You're a bit fragile, for instance. You can't stand a lot of concentrated fire, and your health doesn't recharge. Enemies, on the other hand, can take quite a few hits and usually move in groups. C.O.R.E. also relies heavily on “twitch” moments, meaning that sometimes you'll open a door, and there’ll be a bad guy standing right behind it, attacking you. Quick reflexes are a must, and while that might infuriate fans of more forgiving shooters, veterans of the old days will probably feel at home.
However, even the old vets will be turned off by the game’s flaws. The worst aspect of the game, by far, is its save system. Rather than giving you the ability to save whenever you want – a must for any decent handheld game – C.O.R.E. relies on few-and-far-between save stations. These are easy to miss, which leads to a lot of frustration when you're killed and then forced to replay large chunks of a level.
There are other issues: a single firefight can easily leave you on the brink of death, but there aren’t nearly enough health items to keep you going when that happens – and while the game’s health stations leave you fully healed, they run out quickly. Meanwhile, the generic weapons do their jobs well enough, but run out of bullets quickly, and ammo caches are few and far between.
The game's level design can be confusing as well; while many areas are simple and straightforward, the environment will routinely become maze-like, leaving without a clue of what to do or where to go. Rounding out this bevy of problems are the standard (but awkward) DS-shooter controls: you use the d-pad to move, and aiming requires the touchscreen. Making this worse is that some actions are mapped to the face buttons, and performing any of them essentially requires you to stop aiming. It also can be physically uncomfortable to play C.O.R.E. for long periods of time, something most other DS shooters suffer from as well.
It's worth mentioning that, if nothing else, C.O.R.E. actually looks really nice. Granted, the environments aren't too diverse and can be overly dark, but C.O.R.E .has great visuals for a DS game. It also sports an OK multiplayer mode that features single-cart download play, enabling up to four players to hook up for some basic-but-fun deathmatches, team battles and rounds of capture-the-flag, all with just one copy of the game (multi-cart games are also possible, of course).
We’ve seen some competent shooters on the DS in the past, but C.O.R.E. barely fits the “competent” category. It works (more or less), and some will enjoy it, but its flaws are just too frustrating. With several other, better FPSes already on the DS, there just isn't much reason to go for C.O.R.E.
Sep 2, 2009