So This is the Police has launched at an interesting time, especially considering everything that’s gone on recently in the United States in regards to the Police Service. It’s a sensitive subject, but it’s something that won’t be brought up in the review outside of this paragraph – even if it might feel relevant to the subject matter (so much so that the developers actually released a statement addressing the issue). This is the Police is a narrative based tale that also acts as a Police Chief simulator. The important thing is that it’s pretty enjoyable; not that it has released during a somewhat sensitive period.
You take on the role of Jack Boyce, a Police Chief who has been forced to retire by a corrupt Mayor who is obviously in the pockets of the crime bosses of the city. Disgruntled by the whole situation and with 180 days of work left, Jack decides that he wants a nice retirement fund to leave with – $500,000 to be precise. You have the choice as to how Jack earns this money though, with no moral boundaries limiting his options. You’re the Police Chief; will you earn all of this cash legitimately, or will you let Jack take advantage of his position in order to earn some extra dollar through illegitimate means?
There’s an overarching narrative that plays out along the main gameplay dynamic that is neatly presented in a comic book style with some slick vector-based graphics. This narrative is probably the most important aspect of the game; you’ll make a series of tough choices that’ll affect how the game plays out, à la any Telltale Games title. Some of these are big choices, with decisions not only affecting events and your relationships, but also Jack’s well-being. Jack can die in the game, and you’ll witness it if you upset the wrong people.
Jack feels like a stereotypical disgruntled Police Chief – his wife has left him, his partner was corrupt, he’s got a few issues and has seemingly lost faith in humanity. Whilst it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, I couldn’t help but to like him. There’s a well-written (albeit wordy) script that not only keeps you hooked into the story, but also shows off every facet of Jack’s dry personality. He’s also voiced by John St. John of Duke Nukem fame – he does a fantastic job of portraying this gruff and hardened Police Chief, though the same could be said for the quality of every other voice actor in the game.
Whilst This Is The Police’s narrative is important to the overall experience, you’ll spend most of your time simply managing your Police Force. You’ll have two groups of officers, detectives and SWAT teams that’ll switch on a daily basis. Each member of your force will have different rating and attributes too – the amount of Police Officers who were alcoholics was insane.
You’re given an isometric viewpoint of the city, with crimes popping up across a scattering of locations. You then have to respond to each crime within a fixed time, otherwise the offender will get away. Each crime will have varying severity too, so you’ll have to determine how many officers you’ll want to send out. Some occasions even justify the use of the SWAT team – it’s just a case of working out which occasions these are.
Sometimes each crime may require you send back up, or you might even be tasked with giving officers instructions on how to approach each situation. Your input can be the difference between life and death for your officers; I hope you’re ready for the responsibility. If your officers successfully apprehend the offender and no-one gets harmed, they’ll see an improvement in their rating. If the offender gets away, a civilian gets killed, or even if one of your officers die then it’s considered a failure and your officers will drop in rating (unless they’ve died, in which case they’ll get a funeral with full military honours).
Your detectives with participate in more complicated cases, uncovering a series of frames that will link together to unravel exactly what happened with each crime. They’re enjoyable additions that take a more hands on approach to the solving of crimes, allowing you to feel a lot more involved within the overall experience.
Of course, you have limited staff and with crimes constantly coming in you need to manage all of your officers carefully. It takes time for your officers to arrive at a crime and then there’s a cool-down period before they’re available again. If you don’t carefully manage your officers, you may find yourself in situations where you have to completely ignore some crimes altogether – it’s not good for the city, and it’s definitely not good for you.
It’ll certainly leave you contemplating how many officers you send out to a crime, or even the quality of the officers you send out. With each officer having their own rating, you may find that just one highly rated officer will be more effective than two or three lower rated ones.
Besides managing how you utilise your staff, officers will also request time off work. You have the final say as to if they’re allowed to have the time off work or not, and some of the excuses are certainly questionable. Will you let one of your officers off to go on a shopping trip? Will you let one of your officers off when they have a leak in their house? It’s up to you, but it’ll certainly have an impact on your relationship with your officers.
Baring in mind that Jack wants to earn a few extra bucks for himself on the side, you’ll often be asked to supply officers for a series of side jobs that aren’t actually Police duties. Sometimes you might need to send your officers out to work as bouncers, whilst other times a boxing club may request your ‘toughest officer’ to take on some boxers. These events can be beneficial for you in that not only will you get extra cash but your officers can also see an improvement in rating. On the downside, it means your officers aren’t available to take down criminals, you run the risk of losing them to injury, or you may even find your officers getting poached for better paying jobs. It’s one of the game’s many instances of balancing the risk and reward of each situation.
As things progress and you partake in more dodgy dealings, you may find your officers will turn against you. Of course, there’s a way to counter this, though it can be pretty dark. Thanks to your Mafia ties, you can arrange to have officers sent to a fake crime and then murdered. Grim, right? This sort of thing may rub some gamers up the wrong way, but after years of playing Grand Theft Auto titles I’m sure we’ve all done a lot worse.
Of course, the Mafia will call on favours from you and will often ask you to ignore certain crimes they’re committing. The final decision comes down to you, but you’ll get a cash bonus at the cost of your reputation and effectiveness of the Police service you’re in charge of.
Moral choices play a huge role in the game and some of them may actually leave you feeling pretty uncomfortable. At one point, City Hall had requested that I fire all black Police Officers to appease a racist gang that had been terrorising the city. Another time, I had to crack down on a feminist protest through the means of heavy force. These are just a few of the early examples too – as you progress through the game you’ll encounter more and more of these situations.
I’ve never been afraid to play the bad guy in a video game (in fact it’s typically my ‘go to’ choice), yet This is the Police put me in some situations where I genuinely thought what I was doing was wrong. It’s powerful stuff, but it’s something I think the developers strived for – they’ve done a good job. I loved the fact that I could make all these impactful decisions, though I did find that the game could punish you a little too much for being what is probably considered the ‘good guy’. If you don’t do what City Hall requests of you, they can cut your funding and force you to decrease your staff. It always felt more beneficial to be bad than good and it’s something I felt needed to be a little more balanced. It got to a point where I stopped caring about integrity in order to simply progress, which left me feeling that the actual freedom to do what you please was a somewhat grey area.
The story of the game kept me engaged from start to finish, though I did find that the actual Police management could start to wear on me the further I progressed. 180 days is a long time, and the fact my staff count was dwindling due to my positive place on the moral compass often left me at a severe disadvantage. It’s not that the game is particularly difficult; it’s just that the balance isn’t really there. Nevertheless it made the later days of the game a whole lot less enjoyable for me, though I’m sure each player will find their experience a lot different depending on the choices they make.
Visually the game looks slick with sublime menus that are easy to work through. It’s simplistic and accessible, with the game certainly adopting its own slick style. There’s a neat choice of background music too, with a wide mixture of different music genres to listen to including the likes of jazz and classical. You wanna be a corrupt Police Chief whilst listening to some Chopin? Do it! You’ll even be able to buy some new tracks to add to your catalogue, keeping your music collection growing and growing over the 180 days.
This is the Police offers a crooked look into the work of a Police Chief, offering both an entertaining player-driven story and an interesting take on the management of Police Officers. It tackles so many touchy subjects, admittedly not always with grace, though it never fails to draw you in and even shock you.
There are certainly a few issues with its balancing and there are some aspects of the gameplay that can grow tiresome over time, but overall I enjoyed playing through the game and seeing exactly how the story unfolded. I can’t tell you if it’s a realistic representation of the life of a Police Chief, but it’s certainly an intriguing one that’s worth checking out.
Developer: Weappy Studio
Publisher: Nordic Games, EuroVideo Medien
Release Date: 02/08/2016
Format(s): PC (Reviewed), Mac, Linux