Beat Cop is a homage to ‘80s action police shows like “Chips” or “Miami Vice.” It wears this influence on its sleeve the whole time. In fact, a message appears right at the start, stating that the game is wholly dedicated to the long hours the developers spent as kids watching these shows and that you should not take this game too seriously.
This is not a gritty crime drama or a tough look at fighting crime. It’s a comedy, and the game makes fun of every aspect of that genre, offering many hilarious situations that you have to police your way through. In fact, Beat Cop had me in stitches almost all the time, laughing hard at some of the lines. Beat Cop is irreverent too with lots of cursing and “adult” situations that happen. And all that said, it’s easily one of the most enjoyable and fun games I have played this year.
The gameplay hook of Beat Cop is that you get to be the patrolman that you’ve always wanted to be. It’s a side scroller where you have to take on your duties along the same street every day. You have to write tickets, arrest people, and check on the locals of your street. It’s essentially a police simulator where you do the day to day activities of a regular police officer. This is so much more pleasant than it sounds though, and there is something immensely satisfying in filling out your daily tasks; especially giving out tickets which is fun and fulfilling.
However there is more going on here; choices are a big part of Beat Cop and what you decide to do – plus the relationships you make with certain groups – can change the ending that you get. See, while filling out your daily tasks for a day you almost always get calls for situations going down. This can lead to many different events, leaving you to decide how to solve them – almost all are creative and can lead to some funny consequences. For example one day I got a call about a problem at the local diner and so I ran over there. The owner tells me that a food critic is coming and they have a roach problem, I have to help them out. So I go find some pesticide and spray the whole dinner, which subsequently gets me high and my character starts seeing human sized roaches. The roach begs for his life and I’m given a choice whether or not to kill him. It may sound crazy, but this is typical for an event you would have to deal with on any given day.
Everything you do within Beat Cop is timed, which is a risky proposition because for many players that is instantly seen as a negative. You are constantly under pressure to get your tasks done while also helping the residents of your street, and this can occasionally be stressful. I do however think the game is pretty fair with it. In fact, the only time I have felt cheated by the clock was when there was a certain amount of time to arrest a robber and they are situated on the entire other side of the neighborhood. That said, this rarely happens and so shouldn’t be seen as too much of a negative. The timer also encourages replayability by making you want to go back and complete jobs to even more of your ability. But that said, while I believe it helps the overall pace of Beat Cop on Xbox One, I wouldn’t be surprised if many players are turned off completely because of this aspect.
There’s also not a lot of action or fighting going on, and that may become a negative for many. You do have to shoot people – at least every once in a while – but this is presented as a timing puzzle and not an actual aim and shoot mechanic. This is a little disappointing because it takes a long time for your character to actually get to use a gun and when the moment comes it feels very anticlimactic. It does not directly hurt the overall experience, but if you are expecting intense, involved, action then you may be disappointed by what Beat Cop has to offer.
The writing however is fantastic, channelling its source material perfectly, yet still managing to make its own identity. Set in 1980s Brooklyn and following Detective Kelly who ends up getting framed for stealing diamonds from a senator, the story is a good one. This causes him to get a huge demotion down to be a regular police officer again so he has to juggle his new duties with proving himself innocent for the crime. It’s an intriguing premise that I wanted to see through to the end, and it certainly helps that the dialogue is so witty and humorous; the game never takes itself seriously at all, even with its main plot.
The overall goal for this game is to make you laugh and it is this which is apparent through every interaction and every character. It’s good at it too, as Beat Cop is genuinely funny. I don’t remember a recent game that has made me laugh as much as this has. You start to care for Kelly and the people that live on his street too, and whilst there are times where the comedy can be hit or miss, these are few and far between, and the attitude and charm that the game has is easily its biggest strength.
It’s a great looking experience too, with a pixelated art style that gives a lot of character. Most of the action happens in one street, and even though it is retro in its look, the street is detailed and feels incredibly lived in. Steam flows out of gutters, people throw trash from their windows, neon store signs blink, and colorful inhabitants of Brooklyn are on full display. So much is conveyed in the one street that you occupy and it makes it feel real. Soon you will be able to recognize every place and it starts feeling like home, especially as you gain an affection for the place as the game goes on. It makes you want to protect it and do your duties as a cop even more.
This all comes together to ensure that Beat Cop is both unique and wonderful. If you’re looking for something that’s different and will put a smile on your face, then this is the game for you. Being a cop has never been as much fun and, despite a few flaws, it is a great experience that’s well worth the cost of admission.