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Being a good family gamer, I tend to play shooting games on my 360 late at night when the kids are in bed. But recently I’ve been sneaking in some daytime shooting fun on the DS. Because of the limited visuals and smaller screen I’ve fond that I’m more comfortable sharing these experiences with them – the older ones at least.
Once I started looking into it I was surprised by the variety of shooting games coming out this holidays for Nintendo’s handheld system.
First up is GoldenEye 007 ($29.99 on Amazon) the game that is being re-released on the Wii. The DS version is actually quite good, although like the original it does suffer from slightly drab environments:
Things are controlled, as ever, by a combination of the stylus and D-pad. This works well for more dexterous players, but I found that my son had to default to the D-pad and face buttons because he simply couldn’t master the complexity. He says it’s because he’s too used to the 360 dual-stick controls, but I’m not convinced.
The game itself proceeds in a linear fashion, as you would expect. The enemies are obviously just cycling through pre-scripted behaviors so it really feels like killing robots than people – which I guess may not be a bad thing.
Then I tried Call of Duty Black Ops ($29.99 on Amazon) on the DS, the handheld conversion of the game for the big consoles. This reminded me of old style arcade conversions, where the spirit of the game was preserved but the experience was very different:
Having played through the main versions, I quite enjoyed revisiting some of the themes in miniature style. But more than simply aping these grander experiences Black Ops has been scaled to the DS with some finesse.
Firstly there are many more check points than the 360/PS3/Wii version of the game. The game also keeps track of which enemies you have killed, so when you return to an area after dying they don’t magically respawn – although, of course, you do. These can seem like minor points, but for a game that you play on the move and naturally pick up and put down more frequently they make a big difference.
Finally I gave Blood Stone ($29.99 on Amazon) a go on the DS, it’s the handheld version of the written-for-consoles James Bond story that is being released for 360 and PS3. This is where I was most surprised. Blood Stone adds some novel new twists to the DS’s shooting controls and a very workable cover system:
Control for first person shooting games on the DS is pretty standardized these days. Blood Stone takes this basic formula – D-Pad to run and Stylus to aim – and adds some nice touches. You can double-tap the D-pad to sprint for example, as well as duck behind cover via the touch screen and pop out by pressing up on the D-pad again.
When you get close enough for hand-to-hand combat there is a nice Simon-says moment, where you have to copy a series of directions, as indicated on screen, via the D-pad. Copy these prompts quickly enough and you’ll get the upper hand. You can also interact with various items of scenery – kicking over tables for additional cover and hiding behind doors and other furniture.
Before I’d tried these games I would have assumed that the DS didn’t have all that much choice for shooting games. But with three strong games released in just a couple of months, I had to eat my words.
If you are looking for a shooting game on the DS, then you have quite a choice. Which is best for you depends on what you are looking for. The sheer retro simplicity of GoldenEye 007 is hard to beat, although it can get a little samey after a while. Black Ops has more variety and a better targeting model, but it lacks any real sense of character. Blood Stone nestles somewhere between the two, offering varied locations and gameplay, although with a weaker multiplayer mode only accommodating four, compared to their six, players.