First person shooter games really aren't good on the DS. Even the good ones aren't very good. So really, a game like C.O.R.E had no chance in Hell. The game bills itself as a "classic" FPS, which means it acts and looks exactly like a game from the early nineties. Anybody who grew up playing Quake will know what NoWay Studio is going for, but again, this is on the DS. So it doesn't work. At all.
In fact, I'd go as far as to say that C.O.R.E is almost unplayable and, in fact, the game hurt my hands so much when I attempted to play it that we're doing something we haven't done since Velvet Assassin. We're running this review without a score. Sorry, but no game is worth crippling arthritis, not least a game as poor as this one.
C.O.R.E (Nintendo DS)
Developer: NoWay Studio
Publisher: Grafitti Entertainment
Released: August 11, 2009
C.O.R.E puts you in the role of Jason Crane, a man who looks exactly like the Doom guy and grunts disturbingly at any given opportunity. The game is set some time after 2028, when a giant meteor hit California and started emitting mysterious radiation. Then one day, all communication is cut off and for God's sake why am I even wasting my time telling you this? You don't care. Nobody cares. The people who made the game probably don't care.
The point is, some stuff happens, and you've got to shoot everyone.
C.O.R.E, as I already mentioned, plays exactly like an early nineties FPS. You gun down thoroughly unintelligent enemies composed of badly mashed together polygons, collect keycards, and ... well ... that's more or less the game. Save for a contrived touch-screen element where you swipe keycards (while the "look" function is unfrozen, meaning that each swipe makes your character look down at the ground like an idiot), C.O.R.E is rooted in old school gameplay mechanics. And by "old school," I do of course mean archaic.
The problem is, the game is so dedicated to being a "classic" shooter that is makes absolutely no concessions for the fact that it's on a DS. You'll be expected to strafe and look and shoot at once if you want to survive, but you just can't do that efficiently on the DS. Save points are far-flung and too few, and health packs are infrequent and barely regenerate the health you'll definitely lose as you try and efficiently combat enemies with the most inefficient FPS controls in history. Oh, and for some reason the game has considerable loading times, even though it's cart-based.
The game physically hurts, too. Having to hold a stylus, keep a finger on the L-button and a thumb on the D-Pad, all while holding the DS steady with a little finger (or just letting half the DS collapse limply on a table) is uncomfortable and, thanks to the fact that the game doesn't let you save anywhere, becomes painful after an extended period of time.
If the game was on any other system, it would be considered bad. But the lack of thought given as to how this would work on the Nintendo DS makes it truly abhorrent. If one could change the controls so that a PSP-style look system (using the face buttons) could be utilized, the game might be more playable. In its current form, where players have to awkwardly drag the stylus around to aim, it's an excruciating, nasty experience.
It looks and sounds pretty awful too. When they say "classic," they really mean it. 3D graphics generally look awful on the DS anyway, but I know Nintendo's system is capable of better than this. There's a reason why people stopped making games that look like C.O.R.E as soon as they could. It's because games that look like C.O.R.E look terrible.
There is no reason to play this game, unless you absolutely hate your hands and want to know what it would be like to have absolutely no fun whatsoever. I appreciate the sentiment of wanting to bring an old school shooter to handheld gaming, but it simply shouldn't have been done. At the very least, it should have been done with at least a vague optimization for the DS' strengths and limitations.
Please don't play this game. You'll have a bad time.
reviewed by Jim Sterling