I'm on a train headed to San Diego, where I'll be visiting for my first Comic-Con. Might as well update from the road. Here's my status so far...
When I got the game, the first thing I did was go multiplayer with a friend who had also recently bought it. Switched on the option to accept challenges, and jumped into a battlefield.
Errr... neither of us really had any weapons beyond pistols, or anything fancy.
Actually, my friend had played for, say, 10 minutes through the actual game, so his character, who had picked up a weapon or two, was put into multiplayer mode. My character, who hadn't even touched single-player mode yet, was toast. I was quickly blown away by his as-of-yet-small-but-still-bigger-than-my arsenal.
So okay... no multiplayer until you actually build a character up in single player mode. Said my goodbyes to him, and left for San Diego. Let's jump to now, where I've played through all of the initial levels. So far I'm liking the game a whole lot more than I thought I would.
First of all, control took a little while to configure and get used to. It is completely configurable, though... you can move around with either the analog stick, the directional pad, or the four other buttons. So I ended up setting it up so my analog stick was for moving back and forth and strafing left or right, my directional buttons were for reloading, zooming in, and changing weapons, and my four other buttons were for looking around. L was set to jump, R was set to fire. Very simple, very usable.
Another good thing about the controls that I especially like is the ability to set the amount of "snapping" that your crosshair does. You can set your crosshair to lock on to an enemy even if it's jumping all around the screen. You've got a slider where you can even set the amount of this. I don't know how common this is in modern console or PC FPSes, but it's very helpful for a device where you've got just buttons to move around and you don't want to, like, chase it around the screen with your crosshair all the time.
I think the whole hacker idea is pretty cornball. The plot's something as simple as Rez, but not as graceful. You're the hacker, you gotta kill the bad guys... uh... I dunno. Maybe it'll get more interesting.
The open-endedness of the setting, though, makes for very diverse levels. You can choose to go into "Ruins," "Base," or "City" to start off. Very generic, but still appropriate for an FPS.
Level design... well, very easy so far. You get a map of the entire level to start out with (with a very helpful 3D minimap always in the corner of the screen), and most of the time you're just heading north, usually given nothing but the option to step into the next room, until you reach the goal. Sometimes you go through loops or enter rooms that "lock down" and don't let you escape until you've killed everything in it. That's exciting. But as of yet... really nothing special. I expect that this will change once I "venture" into the more difficult levels ahead.
Enemies are cool. There are some soldiers that yell things at you... as of yet their AI is pretty retarded. If they see you, they come for you. They even keep shoot at you if you're hiding behind things. Still, I expect that this will change as I progress. There are also the signature creepy crawlers... spider-like things, bird-type monsters, little bug things that jump around and attach to your face and explode... heh. Those are cute.
Fear factor... isn't much at all. Enemies don't pop out behind things, you aren't surrounded on all sides all of a sudden... actually, some techno music starts up whenever you're near an enemy so you can get ready. I personally like it; I'm not sure what others think about that. And seeing as it's a PSP game and you're not always going to be playing it with sound on or with headphones available, I guess you won't always have that option...
Graphics are nice. Instead of small black weapons lying on the floor, or other objects that you'll have to scrounge around looking for, all items are represented as big, glowing, polygonal logos. It's fitting for a screen like the PSP's. Levels have some neat features to them... objects can be pretty detailed, there are pipes running through a lot of the passageways... but since the levels themselves really aren't too winding or awkward, the boxy feel of a lot of rooms takes away from what otherwise looks pretty nice. Oh, and of course there's the generous use of the light bloom effect, which all PSP games seem to use a lot. It works well in this one, makes things really flashy. UI is designed well, too. Everything's easy to read, easy to find, all futuristic-looking, you know. Looks good.
So I've covered the basics, I guess... I'm being told by this hacker terminal display thing that the upcoming levels have a survival rate of 0.00%. How cute. See you then.