You can understand why some have called it Driver: The Recruit - Ubisoft currently owns the popular IP.
Outside, the game finally begins. I can decide to respond to "alerts" - the game's impromptu side missions - if I want, but I don't have to. Instead, I can focus on the primary mission, about which I have no idea. My first task is to inspect a blue SUV at the Holland Tunnel. I commandeer a police car, and fumble about in the menus trying to work out where to go - the menus really are awful. I head over the bridge to Queens - the sheer scale and noise of the city impresses me once again. In Queens, I receive my first alert: someone is speeding near my location. Like all good open world games, I can decide to take on the side mission, or ignore it completely. I put my foot down and head off in pursuit.
It is only now, with the pedal to the metal, that C.O.P. The Recruit's truly awful car handling reveals itself. It's impossible to stay on the road, even in a cop car, so slippery is the handling. And when you do manage to stay on the straight and narrow, smashing into cars and other invulnerable bits of city is an annoyingly regular occurrence. My cop car health bar runs out; I die. It's just bad. Very bad.
This, in essence, is COP: The Recruit. It's a technical marvel, but that's the only marvelous thing about it. It's a game way too ambitious for its own good. It's also quite bizarre. Why Ubisoft tried to recreate the "next-gen" GTA games on DS, at a time when Rockstar itself decided not to with the superb Chinatown Wars, is beyond me. It might look and sound good in theory, but in practice, the DS isn't up to such a thing.
My main gripe is that C.O.P. The Recruit's New York doesn't let you have the kind of fun you expect from this type of game. You can't kill pedestrians; I know this makes me sound like some kind of murderous maniac, but it's an essential component of any GTA clone these days. The main missions are varied, but there's no plot, narrative or interesting character development to motivate you to complete them. Who am I? Why am I doing this? Who am I doing this for? The text dialogue is awful, the music is a desperate attempt at rude boy cool and the characters are instantly forgettable. The city is depressingly sanitised - there's no blood or swearing. I wouldn't mind, but C.O.P. The Recruit deals with adult themes, so it jars.
C.O.P. The Recruit makes you appreciate, if indeed it further needed your appreciation, the true worth of Chinatown Wars. It single-handedly validates Rockstar's decision to return to GTA's top down roots for its latest handheld release. No-one can doubt that Ubisoft's effort is a superb technical accomplishment, but games need more than that. They need soul, fun, life and personality - qualities Chinatown Wars has in spades, and that C.O.P. The Recruit is devoid of entirely.