Ever had one of those days when you think that the whole world is out to get you? Well that’s pretty much par for the course for Jack Boyd, retiring police commissioner of Freeburg City.
This is the Police starts off with you being forced to leave your job to be replaced by some younger, fresher-faced buddy of the Mayor. Despite your apparent support from the people. You’ve been an honest cop, one that gets the job done, but now you’ve got just 180 days to clean up the streets and make half a million dollars to bolster your retirement fund.
To do this you have to manage the police response to call outs around the city, allocating officers based on their skill and energy levels in order to best apprehend the bad guys. Most crimes require a couple of officers to get the job done, but some need a little more resource thrown at them, including detectives for major crimes, and SWAT teams for support in shootouts. You only have a limited number of people though and each incident takes time to resolve, so efficient management and correct analysis of the situation is imperative.
Fun lovin’ criminals
The basic game takes place on an isometric view of the city, with calls coming in on the left, and reports on the right. At the bottom of the screen you can see the officers on duty, and as you allocate them to the various calls, so they grey out until they become available again. This part of the game can get a little monotonous to be honest, but thankfully there are random events that require additional user input. For example, you’ve sent some guys to investigate a suspicious vehicle and they have reported back that there are 2 masked men inside it – you’re given a selection of options: Do you get your officers to charge in, guns blazing? Should they monitor from a safe distance? Maybe knock on the window and demand an explanation? The correct decision will result in success, whereas an incorrect one may result in civilian or officer deaths.
Then there are the investigations into major crimes. You allocate a detective force and they will collate evidence into “frames” that you have to put in order, based on witness reports, to correctly deduce the culprit and, ultimately, arrest them. It’s these additional parts to the game that I really like.
It’s time to kick-ass and chew bubblegum
If you correctly judge the requirement for a call out and apprehend the villain, the arresting officers are rewarded with additional skill points. Let the bad guy get away though, and they lose them. At the end of each week you are given the opportunity to promote an officer or two, which has a nice benefit of making them a little more inclined to do their job properly. You can hire additional officers, or fire them of course, if they’re just not up to your impeccable standards.
Behind all of this though, is the main storyline. Jack Boyd, voiced by the legendary Jon St John (of Duke Nukem fame), has to make difficult decisions in his journey towards his retirement deadline. Between each day of managing the city’s crime problems, we are treated to cut out comic book style scenes that progress the storyline. Sometimes these require the user to get involved and choose a path for Jack to take like in an interactive novel, and these decisions can have far-reaching effects. You can try and play the game like a good cop, rejecting the ever-present mafia and their hold on the corrupt city officials, or embrace them and do their bidding. It’s a hard line to walk – shun the city and the corrupt mayor too much and you’ll have your resources taken away from you, which means less officers for you to use. Ignore the mafia though, and you could end up dead.
Woop-woop! That’s the sound of da police!
The presentation of this game is superb, the flat graphics and muted colour palette make for a unique gaming experience. The background audio is user selectable from a good choice of jazz and blues tracks – and even doing this has been well designed, with the user paging through old lps and the selected one being played on an ageing record player. You can spend a lot of time playing This is the Police – with each day lasting around 10-15 minutes, that means around 45 hours of gameplay!
So yes, the daily grind of nicking criminals can get a little repetitive, but the real draw here is the story: you want to know what happens next, and that is very compelling. One thing is certain though – you’ll remember your time wearing the shoes of Jack Boyd.