This is the Police Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC Developed by Weappy Studio Released in 2016
Police brutality is an iffy subject in today’s world and one I would rather not give too much of a subjective take on. Amidst all the news articles about innocent people being hurt or killed, the shooting of people’s dogs, and other such controversies, it’s remarkable to see a video game come out that is willing to discuss it. This is the Police by Weappy had my attention the moment I read the title. Was it going to be a cheap trash trying to benefit from controversy (see also Hatred) or a genuinely thoughtful game challenging you to be a good person in a harsh world. The answer lies somewhere in the middle.
Cop of the Year, everybody
Meet Jack Boyd, chief of police for the city of Freeburg. At least, for now, because we start the game up on the day Jack announces his forced retirement from the police, as the mayor intends to have him replaced. Jack has 180 days left in the office, and that is far from the only misfortune he faces. Jack is getting on in age, his back is killing him, his car is a piece of trash, and his wife has recently disappeared to make raunchy love to somebody much younger and more attractive than ol’ Jack.
The goal of the game is to raise enough money for Jack to retire in comfort, but with a pathetic wage and bonuses being really rare, it’s more than a little doubtful that you’ll be able to pull it off by just following the rules. If I had to describe the feel of the game, I’d say it’s very close to a Rockstar game; This Is the Police is very cynical and presents you with a world where no good deed good unpunished. Try to play a lawful good cop and you’ll find backstabbing politicians will make your work impossible or the local mafia will just outright murder you long before those 180 days are over. To make it in This Is the Police you need to suck up to authority, take much-needed cops off the street to do favors for the mayor or local businesses, strike deals with the mafia to get your hands on some real money, and possibly even frame or murder your own men to prevent your secrets from leaking out.
From a gameplay perspective I appreciate the direction of this story, and I found myself trying to be as good as person as possible while sneaking in some harmless, extra money on the side. The characters, however, I didn’t like as much. Everybody is cynical, jaded, and rude, including Jack himself. This lead to scenes that don’t gel with the moment-to-moment gameplay, such as Jack claiming he hates the deputy character, who during regular gameplay was a really useful asset to me that I actually enjoyed having around. The game also forces things on you that make playing the good guy even less feasible. For example, at one moment you are forced to choose between helping the mafia or not, but whatever you pick you still end up getting missions from them you have to complete. There are more choice moments like this and in general I just found the story a bit of a nuisance, as the game is at its best when you get an uninterrupted flow of gameplay and the lengthy scenes it has you watch aren’t worth breaking up the gameplay for.
Story score: 4/10
Everybody is under arrest
As Jack you are in charge of managing the police force and directing every cop under your command from the diorama of the city in your office. Your cops are divided between two shifts that alternate each day and from their portrait you can see their skill level and how focused they are. When a crime presents itself you open up the call and get to assign the cops you want to handle it, with their skill and ability to focus determining success. Each crime has a varying amount of slots for cops, so an act of indecent exposure may let you send a maximum of two cops, whereas a full blown riot may have room for a whole army of them.
Catching criminals improves the skill level of all cops involved by 10 points, but failing reduces it by 10 and may result in civilians and cops being killed. Losing a member of your force can be a major problem as you need to hire newbies to fill their place, but civilian casualties may prompt a reaction from city hall, who have the power to reduce the maximum size of your workforce if they are unhappy with your performance. To that end, there are special events that occur from time to time, where either city hall, the mafia, or anybody else may request borrowing an officer in return for money, favor, or both.
This Is the Police is an engaging management simulator because of that, as you try to find a way to always have enough cops to deal with a crisis, try to determine who to send to any given crime by reading the descriptions, all while having to carefully balance relations and keep an eye on your money. I also really enjoyed how the game gradually increases the amount of mechanics to deal with, such as investigations that require detectives, where you read eyewitness accounts and have to string together pictures in the right order as your detectives work to unlock more of them. Every time I felt I was getting the hang of everything the game would introduce a new element, such as being able to send officers to training out of my own pocket or interrogations where you read someone’s profile and then manipulate them based on the info you learned.
Your cops are also more than just pictures with a level beside them, as they can have personalities that make them less than ideal or react to your behavior in unexpected ways. If you decide to sell confiscated goods an honest cop may eventually tell on you, some of them may be alcoholics or lazy, but you can’t always fire them for such actions without getting sued for all your hard-earned or ill-gotten money. You may also run into issues, as older cops are more likely to get tired and lose focus, people will ask for days off for the craziest things, or city hall may demand you fire or hire specific people no matter what it does to your carefully managed workforce.
I really enjoyed the hectic, day-to-day struggle offered in this game and it was satisfying each time I ended the shift without civilian casualties and all criminals behind bars. It’s just a shame gameplay is often interrupted to facilitate the story and sometimes events happen you have no power over. At one point the story even skipped over a number of days and when it returned control to me my department was on the verge of collapse, everybody was overworked and tired, and no progress had been made on investigations.
Gameplay score: 9/10
Introducing Endless mode
A possible solution to this is found in the endless mode, where you just try to survive for as long as possible while the game generates crimes and events for you to deal with. This is an interesting feature because the actual story mode is highly scripted, so if you replay the game you’ll find the exact same crimes each time, down to the minute. Having a mode where things are more spontaneous is a fun addition, but a downside is that you NEED to finish the story once and bad endings don’t count towards this. On PC this can be circumvented by editing a small file, but console owners will have to sit through the whole story once to get to this mode.
Extras score: 8/10
The duke has changed
Jon St. John is in this game! Hell yeah! And ironically the character he portrays is kind of like a mix between his two most well-known roles in video games, Duke Nukem with the physique of Big the Cat. Jack really benefits from Jon’s excellent voice work and the few other characters aren’t far behind, though I wouldn’t be able to tell who did their voices. The dialogue in cutscenes feels very natural thanks to the delivery and writing, making it a bit of a shame there is none of that during the gameplay; a few quips from Jon could have helped liven things up while directing your officers.
The music is also fine, allowing you to pick from a handful of tracks before starting your workday. There are a few different genres to pick from, but you have to use your own money to get more of them and often I preferred to just play the game in silence. This is also a bit annoying as each day starts off with Jack starting his car, you having to pick a song, followed by a lengthy animation of Jack starting up whatever track you picked, before you can finally get started on your day. I really wish there was an option to just randomize the music and skip this, because after dozens of in-game days this routine just becomes tedious.
Visually the game has little going on, with the majority of it spent looking at cars moving around your diorama. It can be static, but it’s easy on the eyes and it combines with the effective UI design to make it simpler to estimate how long your cops are going to be away on a job. The cutscenes are another matter entirely, using a very strange but effective style of minimalism to portray characters with static, comic-like panels. I’ll throw in some screenshots because I am absolutely terrible at explaining it.
Just patch in a way to skip that annoying intro at the start of each day and I’ll have nothing to complain about in regards to presentation.
Presentation score: 9/10
If you like the idea of managing a police force and wrestling with the political issues within that job, then This Is the Police has you absolutely covered. It’s just a shame that talent like Jon St. John is wasted on a story mode that is not fun to play through. While I won’t tell you to not play it at all, I do recommend getting the PC version so you can more easily get access to the endless mode if/when you get tired of the story.