Wednesday, 27 July 2016 00:00

This is The Police Review

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Have you ever seen The Big Sleep?

Shady characters, dirty work to get a good job done, lines of motive so crossed that you can't possibly keep track? If you haven't seen it, you should. Regardless, I'm certain that the creators of This Is The Police made a study of that film when they put this together. It's old noir and it's great.

The intro cut scenes are a bit long for my taste but it's clearly a story-heavy game so I'll chalk that up to personal preference. Still, the prose gets a bit purple at times and I find myself wondering whether any tough guy chief of police ever spoke with so many metaphors.

The first bit of gameplay is some dialogue choices during a press interview but I don't know the story yet so I honestly don't know whether I'm lying--maybe that's meta, speaking to how little a person can know about what's going on around them in such a complicated position.

Once everything gets explained, it's a pretty nice little game and the story blends well with the mechanics. You're the police chief, assigning officers to tasks based on their skills and the difficulty of the task, running risks from offenders escaping to the lives of your officers and the civilians of your city. Your reward for a job well done? Officers slightly better able to handle the next job (though I wish I knew their exact skill sets). Real.

The game slowly steps up, adding more possibilities as the story develops.

Do you want the mafia to help you do some work? Or maybe for them to cause an accident? It's very effective in pulling you into the mindset of the protagonist, seeing things become a little bit easier if you're just willing to stop being so upright for a city that doesn't care. Maybe this cop needs to be fired and if that's proving difficult because Legal is up my ass, maybe he needs to happen to be sent to a crime scene where the suspect is definitely going to open fire.

The pacing is perfect, giving you one round to learn each feature before the story moves on and you have another option to make your life easier or harder. All the while, medium and long term goals crop up (in the form of different game mechanics) and must be accounted for in your daily actions. The mundane is avoided with decent setups and stories to each crime, going from fun-but-not-outlandish to dark-but-believable. In time, the game gets a little realer--there are hard choices to make which reflect some being made by police chiefs around the country today.

Speaking of today, though, I can't quite nail down when this game takes place. Each day starts with three newspapers on my kitchen table and still I have no idea what year it is! There are hints (allusions to large mobile phones) but also anachronisms (the dashboard of my car appears to be from the 1950s at the latest). Maybe it doesn't really matter because this line of work doesn't change much with the passage of time.

The game isn't quite what I expected based on its name--I hear "This Is The Police!" and think I'm gonna be the one kicking down doors, not the one telling people to go do it. Instead it's a presentation: this is what it is to be the police. Though I was closer than my girlfriend's guess: listening to classic rock songs and determining which ones were performed by The Police ("could be tough if any are just by Sting").

Some notes:

-life/career/world falling apart? suck it up, keep working
-Sweet tunes in my record collection
-Oh snap, are my officers racist?
-what are the demographics in this city?
-whoa, is it legal to fire someone for being old? i mean, i guess it must be
-ohhh, the title screen makes so much more sense after playing the game for a while


The Verdict

It's not "can't put it down" good, but I'm going to play through all the way, then play through at least once more, to see how else I can get things to turn out. If you like dialogue-heavy games that sort truth from fiction from what-does-it-matter-so-long-as-the-job-gets-done, then you are going to want This Is The Police, for sure. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a city to keep safe.

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Joe Pilato

Joe Pilato works as an engineer and pub quiz host while developing his skills as a standup comic and storyteller. You may occasionally find him wandering the streets of NYC looking for adventure or possibly running into the woods to hide from civilization for days at a time.