Coded Arms pulls off functional first-person control with PSP's only-child analog stick but feels like a fossil on the cutting-edge portable. Put some of the blame on the I-heart-the-'90s premise: You take on viruses and renegade bots in a busted virtual-reality program. Pin the rest on the rinse-and-repeat corridor clearing. Coded Arms lays its hack-job levels out at random only because its dreary settings and dumb-dumb objectives (kill 'em all, kill 'em all in a time limit) let it. Dead ends don't matter much when you've got nowhere specific to go, nothing specific to do. And as for that malicious software: Just flick the power switch to pull the plug on the whole damn program.
One big thing you should know going into Coded Arms, the PSP's first foray into the land of first-person shooters: The controls are an adventure. Since the PSP has only one analog stick, you'll use the face buttons for movement or camera control--not fun, but you'll likely get used to it. And then two small things: Levels in the Matrix-y, in-the-computer-program world are randomly generated, and you can collect and upgrade a whole pile of guns. After getting a hang of the controls, beating a dozen or so levels, and effectively upgrading my ordnance, I was having a good time-- but then things stalled. Outside of a few bosses and some new enemies (which all share the same simple A.I.), this process is repeated ad nau-seum. Sure, the levels are randomly generated, but they have the same setup: Fight a few enemies in a hallway, fight a lot of enemies in a big room, and/or get to the exit in under three minutes. Coded Arms shows that the PSP can effectively handle shooters (including multiplayer)--this particular one, though, is only mildly entertaining at best.
Maybe if this blah shooter had better controls--and maybe if you haven't played a first-person blast-em-up since 1995--it would be worth your time. Ah, who am I kidding. Coded Arms would still suck. From its tired shoot-bugs-in-virtual-reality premise to its repetitive, randomly generated levels, the game looks and plays like some PlayStation 1 shooter that time forgot. It takes way too long before you find any interesting weapons (which run out of ammo way too fast anyway), and the odd little instant "missions" (such as eliminating all the enemies in a room within such-and-such time) do little to keep you awake. Multiplayer might be fun if not for the clumsy controls. Let's hope future PSP shooters offer a better control scheme.