Ben Rayner reviews This Is the Police…
Ahh jeez and he was one day from retirement. Well, that’s not strictly true, it was closer to 180 days from retirement when officer Jack Boyd grew tired of doing the right thing. An exhausting run of toeing the line between right and wrong to keep a squeaky clean career while living off his meagre earnings with not a sniff of a retirement fund.
He grew tired of sending officers into the field who were so wet behind the ears they might as well be Olympic divers. Civilians killed, Officers down and suspects escaping. So why care about your reputation? Voiced by John St John, the vocal artist of everyone’s favourite hero, Duke Nukem, This Is the Police opens with possibly one of the most noir copper lines ever…
“Before shaking my tits to the press, I normally like to see the professionals do it first”
…the games tone is set perfectly as this detective story thrown into the blender with a job simulator and team management programme captured my attention and heart early on.
After being told by a Mayor clearly basing his career on that of Zapp Brannigan that you’re almost out, he warns Boyd to stay quiet, do as he’s told and avoid rocking the boat. Deciding he needs to build a retirement fund and fast, Boyd must dip his toe into the seedy underbelly of Freeburg and become a dirty cop in order to bag a cool half a mil to take to the bank.
As Police chief, you’ll spend most of your days assigning police officers to the different problems that pop up every so often. You’ll start your shift responding to your teams various requests, from “It’s my dogs birthday. Can I get the day off?” to “I’m really hung-over, can I skip today?” before choosing the soundtrack to your next day in management hell.
Responding to crimes that pop up, murders that’ll take some time to investigate and requests from town folk for body guards and more. The latter can be a problem or an opportunity, depending how you play it. I sent one of my best guards to help out at a local club as it’s doorway muscle, only to have him quit straight after because the wagers were incredible. I did however get a small kickback into the old pension fund, so swings and roundabouts eh?
As with any management sim, the higher your officers rating then the more chance they’ll have of clearing up whatever mess you’ve sent them to take a look at, with their rating increasing each time they win one for the CFPD. As you start out though, you’ll more often that not find a lot of your officers attempts at catching suspects, tend to result in the death of civilians and sometimes their fellow officers.
By no means an easy task, the games learning curve quickly piles it on and makes you almost straight away feel the stress that the job entails, along with the pressure put on you by an equally corrupt and evil Mayor. In a clearly testing manor, City Hall will often get in touch, simply to set you a task that makes you feel like a hundred showers wouldn’t clean the filth off.
These tasks are the quickest way to make the most of your pension fund, especially as the “correct” way involves a near miracle of solving all crimes quickly and cleanly.
Morally, ignoring the orders of the Mayor seem to be the right step, but when disobeying his word leads to funding cuts and layoffs which in turn can cripple the effectiveness of your task force, is the right decision really the right decision.
The first example you’ll face involves a racist gang who threaten to attack any black police officers on sight. The Mayor’s response is simply to inform you that firing all black officers immediately. Doing so seems widely inappropriate, but failing to co-operate leads to an instant budget cut and some of your staff are laid of by force anyway, leaving the squad in disarray and struggling to operate.
You’ll have to learn when to argue and when to simply answer ‘how high?’ when sent an order to jump. If you think it’s just the Mayor you’ll need to appease, then you’re in for a shock as once again the dark side to Freiburg’s Police Department runs deeper than that.
Without spoiling too much, even the mob will throw some tough choices your way, seemingly offering you a choice between the wrong move or the worse move with a side of morally comprehensible moments thrown in to make you feel even shittier about your choices.
With a game like this which clearly focuses so heavily on the Police Force and their work, it’s hard to ignore other writers and reviews who have taken umbrage with the games apparently deaf tone towards real political matters. Now, while yes I imagine some of the issues it tackles could be seen through this more negative lens, In my time with the game I failed to tie it that heavily with real life or see it is a reflection on real issues within Police Forces across countries such as the US.
Maybe I’m blind, perhaps I’m choosing not to see it but all I can do is offer up an explanation of what I experienced and this for me was like playing out an over the top crime drama, from the perspective of a potentially bent cop, which is an oddly refreshing change from the fresh faced newbie looking to clean up the force and make a difference.
Overall, This Is the Police is a unique title that’ll draw you in with it’s simple yet dramatic cut scenes but you’ll stay for the almost impossible to win struggle that being an every police chief will throw your way.
I never thought handling budgets, dealing with reporters and sorting out drunk officers could be such an enjoyable and enthralling experience but quite simply it was a blackhole of time. I saw myself spending hours behind the desk and wanting to pull one more shift.
Sure, there’s a handful of minor niggles such as not being able to send officers on their next job until they’ve arrived back at the station and on occasion some choices seem to leave you no option but take the morally reprehensible action, but for a game with such scope this is forgivable.
It’s almost impossible to stay clean and win big, but is anyone ever truly clean? Throw this on and find out what kind of cop you’ll be…
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