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The Perfect Example That a Bad Port Doesn’t Equal a Bad Game

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    Emi3280
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    This Is the Police

    Rating: 2.5 – Playable

    The Perfect Example That a Bad Port Doesn’t Equal a Bad Game

    Have you ever wanted to roleplay as a police chief in charge of a complete city? This may not be a Roleplaying game, but This is the Police is a management simulator released for the PC in August 2016 but was recently ported to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One this March. The game puts you in the shoes of Jack Boyd, police chief that is in charge of managing the Police Department, and how the PD reacts towards the crimes that occur in the city. It’s an interesting premise, but how well does everything develop from there? Find out in this review.

    Story
    Starting off the review with the most important aspect a game has in my opinion, the plot. As soon as we begin, we’re introduced to the protagonist. 60 year old police chief Jack Boyd, who is the person in charge of the Police Department in the fictional city of Freeburg. After being told that the Mayor is going to forcefully retire him, the protagonist now has the task of amassing enough money in the 180 days he has left as the police chief in order to live his retirement life smoothly. The amount he requires is half a million dollars.

    At first glance it looks like a rather simple plot for setting up the game, until an offer from the mafia comes knocking the door. Before this, Jack had lived his entire career without a stain in his record, never succumbing to collaborating with the bad guys for extra cash. His career was impeccable, but with the circumstances thrown at him, why should he care about it anymore? The player gets to take the decision whether to be a corrupt cop or to end the career of Jack Boyd with dignity and honor.

    That’s all I can mention without going into spoilers. The story develops depending on whether you decide to support the mafia or not, or which faction you decide to choose, and even though it feels bland most of the time and it drags on at several points, at the end of the day it gets the job done.
    Story: 6/10

    Gameplay
    This is the Police has a very nostalgic mid-90’s PC point and click game vibe to it. If you were into gaming back when titles like Full Throttle were released you’ll understand perfectly what I mean. The game presents itself as a management sim as soon as we gain control of our main character.

    Being the chief at the Police Department, you’re responsible for commanding the officers on duty. The screen you’ll spend most of your time playing is an isometric map of Freeburg. In this map, from time to time notifications will appear, pointing out in which place is occurring a crime. It’s now your duty to analyze the severity of your crime, and which and how many officers you’ll send to resolve it. I’ll get into detail about this in the next paragraph. For now, I just wanted to point out something that really turns off the initial excitement of the premise that you’re the police is the fact that you don’t really see how the officers take care of the situation. It was a completely missed opportunity to make the game better.

    Back to the original point, once you analyze the crime it’s time to decide who you’re going to send. Each officer has points which I’m going to refer to as “trust points”. If an officer is outstanding and dependable, he’ll have a high amount of trust points. If an officer is a slacker, their trust points will be very low, which means they are not dependable. If you send them on their own they won’t get the task done. Each time your officers do a task without a flaw, they’ll earn trust points, and if they fail by not catching the culprit or civilians end up dying, they’ll lose trust points.

    This aspect certainly made the game deeper and more engaging, it’s really entertaining to decide whether to send a high level cop alongside a slacker so the latter develops until one day becoming dependable, or to send a group of rookies to a task that I wasn’t so sure they could get it done. However, at times it doesn’t matter if you sent a squadron of dependable officers or not, the outcome is volatile, and I’ll expand on that in the next paragraph.

    You can never take life as granted when you work as a cop, and the game sort of uses that point to hide the fact that the outcome of the tasks is most probably randomly generated. Once your officers finish a task, you receive a notification saying how they performed. If any civilians died, if they caught the culprit, but most importantly, if all the officials made it out alive. More often than not, someone is going to die. Even if you think that you nailed a certain emergency call because you sent a squadron of your best units, never feel too comfortable. I’ll give an example of something that happened to me.

    An emergency call arrives in the office, two strippers in high heels are duking it out inside the club, and their security can’t handle it so they decide to call the police. I decide to send Bastian, my most valuable and trustful comrade who has 885 trust points. Taking in fact that the game tells you that starting at 150 points they are relatively reliable, I’m completely certain Bastian will get the job done. Alongside him I sent Van Dahl, who has 170 trust points, since this is a perfect opportunity for him to level up. The task seems easy, it’s just two strippers, nothing bad should happen…right?

    The report comes in. Bastian is dead and the two strippers escaped, now Van Dahl loses 10 points because everything went wrong. During his career as a police officer, Bastian went to several fierce shootouts against gangsters and to save the day when a group of bandits decided to rob the bank. He emerged victorious from all those difficult tasks, and he falls victim to two strippers…in high heels. I can’t stress this enough, I was so disappointed. The thing is, this happens extremely often. Sometimes you’ll end a shift with only two officers alive because the other nine were killed during the day. There’s a point where it becomes overbearingly annoying.

    Another aspect to take into account is the interaction with the menus. Since the game was originally designed for the PC, the developer had to work around for adapting the game for the home consoles due to the lack of a cursor. Because of this, we are locked on a specific action, which we can change for choosing other actions with the flick of a joystick, or with the D-Pad. Thanks to this sense of being limited all the time, the game feels stale much faster than it should. This really took a toll in the general experience of traveling through the menus, which is 100% of the gameplay.

    Other than some small interactions you can have with the mafia which are not even worth expanding upon because of how simple they are, that’s basically it. You’ll be doing the same thing the entire time. The first several in-game days are fun due to it being the first time you’re experiencing the game, but it gets horribly stale too fast. There are times where there are no story bits for several in-game days which renders the game dull and just makes you consider quitting the session in favor of any other game.

    The truth is, repetitiveness is something predominant in gaming, there’s really no way of avoiding it. Regardless, there are ways to make the game appealing each time you start a session, something that engages you in the experience. There’s a line between repetitive, and flat out monotonous. For showing that I’m not being bias towards the management sim genre, I want to compare this game with another title of the same category. This game is Game Dev Story, by Kairosoft Co Ltd., released for Android and iOS devices in 2010.

    In both titles you’re in charge of a particular office and how the workers perform. In This is the Police you’re in charge of the Police Department. In Game Dev Story you’re in charge of your videogame company. While in both you have a set objective (in the former it’s getting the money for your retirement and in the latter to be successful as a company), the way you actually fulfill these objectives is what differentiates an entertainingly engaging simulator sim with a monotonous one.

    While This is the Police is totally linear and there is no sense of accomplishment each time you finish an in-game day, Game Dev Story allows you to go into detail in basically everything that’s available to you. From the genre of the game you’re going to develop, how fast you want it released to the public, if you want your title completely debugged, how much you wish to overwork your staff, etc. Without going into much detail, it lets you micromanage every single feature, which helps to slow down the monotonous feeling and grants a more enjoyable experience.

    Overall, this game suffered too much in its conversion from PC to home consoles. The lack of freedom that having a cursor gives paired with the already monotonous gameplay made this game feel dull way faster than it should. There are several redeeming points about the game which get overshadowed by its flaws.
    Gameplay: 5/10

    Sound/Music
    This was the aspect of the game which shined the most in my opinion. The soundtrack is outstandingly good, presenting very classic songs which fit the tone perfectly while you’re in the isometric map taking decisions. If something made me not put down the game upon twenty minutes of each game session was how good the music was, making the game feel a bit less stale than how it is thanks to the wide variety available.

    Featuring the likes of Ludwig van Beethoven, Len Barnard, the Original Salty Dogs and some other classic artists which you’ll easily recognize if you know and like classic music. There is also the original soundtrack created specifically for the game by the Australian composer Ben Matthews, who perfectly captured the past century vibe in his work, making the soundtrack of This is the Police so enjoyable that I even bought it online for those times I need something soothing while writing down an essay or working on my fiction novel.

    Furthermore, something else to talk about the sound of the game is the voice acting. The protagonist is voiced by Jon St. John, a name that may sound familiar to many because of him being the voice behind Duke Nukem, a role he has since 1996. The delivery and presentation of the character performed by St. John was flawless, he was perfectly synced with his role as an old police chief the entire time. I can’t say the same about the rest of the cast. More often than not the secondary characters sound uninspired, their delivery is sometimes so flat it overshadows St. John’s outstanding performance when he interacts with other characters in the cut scenes.

    Overall, the music in this game was amazing, the selection of songs was incredibly on target. It fit what the game required to a T. The voice acting was excellent by the protagonist, but the rest of the cast is often less than satisfactory in their delivery.
    Sound/Music: 9/10

    Style & Presentation
    Most of the time this section is called ‘Graphics’, but for this game I had to make a special exception since there really is no such thing as graphics. The in-game cut scenes are presented with brightly colored still frames that constantly change alongside what the narrator is explaining from the story, kind of like a comic strip in PowerPoint slides.

    The small story bits are really fun each time you encounter them, since they’re not so common. The humor used is very contemporary. Several times there are parts one can relate to, like when the protagonist mentions how he slams the door in the face of the Jehovah witnesses, which was funny and refreshing since there’s really no censorship. Playing something that wasn’t tampered by annoying restrictions and political correctness is very uncommon nowadays, but in here everything is as crude and uncut as the author originally envisioned his original idea, which gives the style extra points.

    The main screen where you’ll spend most of your time playing, which is the isometric map of Freeburg, followed the “simple is better” philosophy to a T. That’s by no means something bad. The minimalistic 2D art style was rather simple but on point, there’s really not much to talk about it.

    Something I’d like to mention is that the text is too small. You have to be really close to your TV if you want to read everything without putting heavy stress in your eyes, and the game is very text-heavy. This may not be a problem for the original PC version since you’re closer to the monitor, but for the console ports it really becomes a problem if your couch or your bed is in a good distance from the TV.

    There’s really not much to talk about here, they really nailed the 2D minimalistic style. The style they had envisioned was executed nicely, making it one of the redeeming aspects the game has, despite its several flaws that hinder the actual experience of the game for home consoles.
    Style & Presentation: 8/10

    Replay Value
    Since the game is basically pre-set, all the tasks and crimes are already programmed to happen at specific days and there’s no alternative paths, there’s really no incentive to do a second run of the game. The first run is already longer than what it should have been. It’s one of those games that you finish and don’t look back at ever again. Due to the lack of different routes other than having the choice of being corrupt or not, which doesn’t change anything gameplay or story-wise, there is nothing new to see. Once you’re done, that’s it.
    Replay Value: 1/10

    Buy or Pass?
    I’m afraid to say that I wouldn’t recommend this port to anyone. It’s simply flat out dull, there’s not much to say about it. If you’re a real fan from the management sim and you’re looking for a game to play in short bursts from time to time, then you can give the PC edition a chance, the experience may be actually enjoyable in that version.

    In my opinion, I believe the developers were too ambitious in wanting to release this game for home consoles. With the style This is the Police has, I would have really liked to see a PlayStation Vita version, or even a port for iOS and Android devices. It felt perfectly fitting for a launch in those platforms, but ultimately their attempt at expanding the reach of the game was a total flop.

    Like I stated above, I’d recommend giving this game a chance in its original version for the PC if you find the premise appealing for you, but since this review was based in the PlayStation 4 edition, it’s definitely a title you should pass.
    Buy or Pass? Pass

    Recap:
    Story: 6/10
    Gameplay: 4/10
    Sound/Music: 9/10
    Style & Presentation: 8/10
    Replay Value: 1/10
    Buy or Pass: Pass

    Overall Score: 5.6/10

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