- Developer: Weappy
- Publisher: THQ Nordic
- Release Date: March 21, 2017
- Platform: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed on PS4 Pro), Xbox One
- Playtime: Fifteen-Hours
- Acquisition: Publisher provided review copy
Decisions in video games rarely have any weight. When posed with the choice of selecting something, it’s hard for the result to resonate within players. This is due to poor storytelling, or not feeling a connection to the scenarios. Games in the past such as Spec Ops: The Line have provided decisions which weighed on the mind of players, but for others, the result has been meddling, to say the least.
For players to care about the decisions they make a developer needs to carefully balance elements. Taking into account the rules of the game world and if players will second guess themselves is key in being successful. Thankfully developer Weappy has done this masterfully in This is the Police; a gripping role-playing game that harkens back to the old adventure days of gaming’s past.
BE THE HERO
Being a cop in a game isn’t new, but This is the Police does things differently. Rather than playing as a simple cop on their beat, players assume the role of the Police Chief. As Freeburg PC Jack Boyd, players not only need to protect the city from rampant crime, but watch their own back as they go into a world of politics, gang wars, and internal struggles.
Presented with a model depiction of the city, players can overlook Freeburg and do their best to keep the crime in check and fatten their wallet in the process.
In place of the traditional mechanics, one would expect of from a police game, This is the Police is about skill, strategy, and common-sense. Forgoing direct action completely, players send out their offices on calls ranging from domestic disturbances, attempted murders, and terrorism.
So there’s no shooting, taking cover, or immediate stat boosting within the game. This may appear boring to players expecting action, but the game’s reliance on reality makes it brilliant. In real life when a police officer goes on a call their superior has no control over what happens in the field. As such, This is the Police perfectly captures the feeling of being a Police Chief.
This lack of control when sending officers out also presents a tense feeling as the player awaits the outcome. Will their officer return safe, or die in the line of duty? And even worse, will a civilian casualty occur and drop professionalism from the officer? Hours into the game, This is the Police maintains this tense atmosphere. This is a true testament to the scenarios and the dynamic gameplay which forces the player to change their strategies.
With each call presenting different scenarios such as a six-man robbery or gun trafficking, players need to take a step back, examine who’s on their shift, and send the best person in. This, at times, is easy since each officer has stats showing their professionalism and current physical status.
Players will have to decide if they should send their top cop, who may have 850 professionalism points, on a domestic disturbance call that may yield casualties or a send middle of the road officer with only 200 professionalism points. Players can even aid officers on calls when they call in for directions on situations such as robberies or suicide attempts. When an officer calls in for assistance, the player has three choices to make. Some choices may seem obvious, such as using a taser, while others may sound logical but have disastrous results.
At times there’s an almost uneasy game of decision making present since police officers in the game can die. When sent on a simple call, a decision may result in disaster for both the officer and through civilian casualties. Even with requested back-up, officers may still not succeed and die, if the situation is tough or if their stats aren’t that good. In these situations, dead officers stay dead unless the player opts to restart the day or load a previous save file.
Officers can fare better in the field when successful, thus earning more professionalism points. Even more, players can opt to send one officer on a training exercise to increase their skill. So, there’s are a few ways players can upgrade their officers in the hopes of them surviving, but it’s still up to fate in the end.
CALLING THE DETECTIVES
The central gameplay of This is the Police changes when calls such as special homicides or robberies occur. When these appear, players need to assign a detective to investigate.
Though not as intricate as Heavy Rain or L.A. Noire, the investigations still add an interesting element to the game. Once again keeping to the minimalistic and indirect approach, players have no control over interviewing the suspects. Instead, they need to piece together image frames their detectives provide.
With these frames, players read the witness testimonies and compare it to what the detective provided. Careful examination of the clues and statements is required in order to complete the image frame in order to have a perp to arrest.
At times it can be puzzling to figure out the order of frames. In these instances, the player may have only a portion of available frames. By placing an additional detective on the case, the additional frames should appear to help solve the investigation.
THE TROUBLES OF POLICING
Underneath the mechanics of This is the Police are deeper meta games involving supporting mob bosses, and selling seized property such as guns or drugs. A mob boss may request Jack to lend some officers for a raid or turn a blind eye for a planned robbery. If players do this, the city won’t appreciate it, but it’ll help fatten Jack’s wallet once the job is over. Equally, players can decide to ignore requests made by city hall. These include requests to fire all African-American employees or hiring more women to please political groups that are causing city hall grief.
These elements present an interesting moral dilemma to the player. Should they take mob money or fulfill their duty to the fullest? And should they continue to stick it to an administration that only has its own best interests at heart? Deciding can be tough, and the outcome may result in an investigation into the department. Investigations often have officers questioned, and taken off of active duty. Usually, the outcome of investigations is a financial penalty besides the bit of shame the player may feel.
Investigations can keep players on their toes to make the right decisions and police the city as best they can. This is a brilliant aspect since it maintains a level of consistency to the game world, and how the player approaches it. Players can throw their staff to the wolves, but if there’s no one left to police then Jack is seized by federal officials, and the game ends. So it pays to be a good cop, even if things are morally gray.
A COP’S TALE
While most of the calls received will be one-off situations, there is a branching tale involving Jack, and Freeburg itself.
Forced to retire and with 180 days left, Jack is a cop at the end of his career. With his wife leaving him and their sons for a younger man, things aren’t looking too good for Jack. With the motivation to have $500,000 on his last day, Jack, and the player work towards this goal.
As cliche as the story could’ve been, This is the Police features an enjoyable sardonic narrative. Voiced by John St. John (Duke Nukem), Jack has a seasoned personality and an otherwise valiant ethical code in which his sole goal is to protect Freeburg.
Going through portions of Jack’s final 180 days, the story gradually ramps up and throws in unexpected surprises. This is the Police isn’t a noir tale since it manages to have a certain freshness amidst its collection of dirty cops, questionable city officials, and gangsters.
A hybrid between a role-playing and strategy game, This is the Police masterfully puts players in the shoes of someone forced to make tough calls. Focused on the core mechanics and not things such as stat tracking or character upgrading, This is the Police is direct and has brilliant pacing.
While it’s not a game everyone will appreciate or enjoy, This is the Police is worth checking out on the PS4 or Xbox One if you enjoy titles that are different and that test moral aptitude.
All media in this review was captured by the reviewer.