My living room was as hot as a boxer’s jockstrap. I walk in, and the dog gives me a sideways look. I’ve seen that look before; it’s a look of pity and despair. I sit down on the leather sofa, dripping with the stains of a thousand lost nights. I boot up the console, the fans kick into life like the beating wings of a giant butterfly. I grip the controller like my life has no meaning and… I’m so sorry, I’ve come over all noir. Why? It’s because I’ve been playing loads of This is the Police and I can’t get that way of thinking out of my damn head. Sorry I’ll start again.
This is the Police puts you in the role of police chief Jack Boyd in the fictional city of Freeburg. The story goes that the mayor has told Jack that he has 180 days left in his role before early retirement. Jack wants to raise half a million pounds before that day so he can get a nice house somewhere. So what does he do? Deal with the mafia and betray everything he’s stood for? Or become the hero the city deserves?
This game is very unique. The bulk of it is a police management sim and I don’t think there has ever been one of those before. You basically turn up for work in the morning, where there are two shifts of police that you work with, consisting of uniformed street police and detectives. They all have certain skill levels, foibles and tiredness levels that you have to keep in check. In amongst the first things that happen is that you get a request from one of the staff asking for the day off. This could be because a family member has died, or they are drunk, or they want to finish an interesting novel they started last night. That is a real one I promise. It is up to you to decide whether you can let some people go and whether you have enough bodies in to cover the shift.
As you start the shift, you see a model of the city of Freeburg in front of you and a list of your officers and detectives on duty, plus a swat team. There is a timer that runs from 7:00am to around 3:00am in the morning. Now, various crimes will appear across the city and your job is to analysis this crime quickly, dispatching the adequate police resources to attend and deal with said crime. These range from riots, murders, and robbery etc… to the more simple false alarms. The trick is to balance your resources so you don’t end up short changed and then have no one to send out to a major incident. If you don’t send enough officers or, experienced officers to a situation, they might get killed. There are situations that need multiple answers as negotiations with criminals go ahead and there are definite right responses to make sure your arrests go smoothly.
There is also the detective investigation side of things to consider. These are crimes that appear and require a team of detectives to investigate. Over many days more clues will be gathered, in the shape of interviews and pictures. Then it’s up to you to work out the correct order of events, how the crime took place and then arrest the perp. This is a brilliant device and I enjoyed each one of these investigations with a Colombo type relish. The problems occur with you having to make decisions and balance the demands made by city hall. They might ask you to sack all the older detectives for example. Or if your crime rate goes up they might cut your budget and you have to sack some staff.
Then there is the mafia…
Early on in the game ,the mafia makes you a deal so that you can save a friend and get that half a million dollars you need in 180 days. But the devil needs a favour. They might ask you to help them with a few things and you need officers to do that. Or they might ask you to turn a blind eye towards certain crimes, risking civilians getting hurt and the wrath of city hall. Then there is the lovely contraband you get from crime scenes. What do you do with it? Turn it in? Or give it to the mafia to sell? Decisions, it all about making decisions. It all works very well indeed and the game is involving, deep and addictive. It’s very long as well and you need to commit to spending a long time to get to those 180 days. Unfortunately, by the time you get 100 days or so in, it does feel a bit repetitive and your initial interest will start to fade as everything starts to get a bit mundane. Maybe that’s the point though?
The story is very deep and is played out through comic book cut scenes. It is very well written and highly in-depth, though the pacing of the narrative does seem to have just one gear. There are tales of betrayal, love, serial killers, assault and all manners of crime, thrown into this story, which feels like a TV series in its scope. The visuals come across in a brilliantly cool ‘60s comic style that I love. The comic book cut scenes are done very well and everything is well crafted with good attention to detail. The soundtrack is a dream for jazz fans everywhere, with the Chief of Police getting to choose a track every day from his amazing record collection. The effects are also good and the voice work is extremely well acted.
I’ve really enjoyed my time with this very unique game. Yes there are pacing issues and it does outlive its welcome once we get about two thirds in, but for the price, there is a lot of game on display here. The story, looks and soundtrack are excellent and so if you want to try something a little different, or if you’ve always wanted to take charge of a police station, then This is the Police is a must purchase.
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