This Is Not The Police Game The World Needs

This Is Not The Police Game The World Needs

A smart exploration of the legality of police action -- in America especially -- would have been a timely thing for a video game to manage in 2016. It's a shame, then, that This is the Police is anything but. On paper, it's all so promising. A combination of police management and personal adventure story, you play the role of a popular old police chief who has 180 days left in the job before you're forcibly retired.

You're quickly presented with a Breaking Bad-esque scenario, in which you give up a life spent on the right side of the law to embrace police corruption in a last chance at making a comfortable nest egg for yourself.

Certain parts of This is the Police are dedicated to telling your own tale, presenting you with dialogue and action choices while cutscenes play out.

This Is Not The Police Game The World Needs

The main management section only needed a little more feedback and control over the finer details to be great.

Most of the game, though, is spent looking down on a model of the city of Freeburg, as you respond to crimes and situations by allocating officers to attend and resolve incidents. You send uniformed police to catch burglars, you send detectives on more complex cases and you send in a SWAT team when stuff gets really hairy.

Most of the time you're responding to regular crimes, but every now and again other events will arise stemming from the game's corruption slant, asking you to lend a strip club an officer to work as a bouncer for the night, or to ignore a call about a fire because a mobster needed a factory burned down.

This is when the game is at its best. There's the potential for a great management game here, and while This is the Police doesn't quite get there -- its a little too basic, and lacks some vital feedback -- it's still a fresh challenge fighting crime (and committing it) strategically instead of serving as the boots on the ground.

And... that's about the end of where I have nice things to say about This is the Police.

I mean... look at this.

This Is Not The Police Game The World Needs

Um, OK

And this:

This Is Not The Police Game The World Needs

Big Woman. The conspiracy goes all the way to the top.

And:

This Is Not The Police Game The World Needs

You fail the mission if you select "No"

I brushed these off initially as part of a developing narrative, in which the game was leading me towards a very dark sense of humour.

There isn't one. This is just... the way this game rolls. There isn't anything smart being said here, there isn't a heroic undercurrent to your work, you're simply given repulsive tasks to do and told to do them, or else.

Which, fine, that would work towards the main story (you are, after all, literally being forced to do bad shit) if this game was smarter about things and the way it framed them. But it's not, and it approaches some very sensitive real world issues with the deft touch of a sledgehammer flying through a glass window.

I'm not saying the game has a black heart, or that any of this is evidence of some sinister intent from the developers. It feels like their heart is in the right place here, as they try to make you think your way through some uncomfortable situations. It's just that the way it's all handled is so clumsy that the game often stops you dead in your tracks.

The developers have attempted to brush off any criticism of this by posting an "open letter" on their site, in which they proclaim the game to be "not a political game, but a human one".

Only, you can't make a game featuring police violence, racial tensions and feminism in 2016, ask the player to navigate through some tough choices surrounding them and then shrug your shoulders and say "oh, it's OK, this isn't political". That's exactly what it is.

Based in Belarus -- which may explain some of the disconnect here -- the developers say that "This Is the Police is not based on any actual incidents, nor does it try to portray them either directly or indirectly". They also claim "This Is the Police is not about the United States or any other individual country. We deliberately did not specify when and where the events in the game unfold -- not because we were being cryptic, but because it doesn't matter."

This Is Not The Police Game The World Needs

These red screens usually involve an important decision, but with no feedback on what's going into each choice the outcome too often feels arbitrary.

Which is a stretch. Everything about this game screams America, from the American voice actors to the American police uniforms to the terminology used to the cultural touchstones you encounter (the mafia, black ghettos and so on).

This might have been relegated to a peripheral concern if the wider story being told was any good, or integrated these events with any kind of wider context, but a combination of cliched writing and some poor voice acting means even the personal side of the unfolding tale is a drag.

This Is Not The Police Game The World Needs

Visually, at least, the game's cutscenes are nice, reminiscent of classics like Another World.

Perhaps fittingly given the art style, everyone you meet and have to deal with feels two-dimensional. We're never given any reason to give a shit about the police chief, or his cops, or the town, or the mayor, or anyone or anything. From the colour palette to the cast's motivations, it's all incredibly drab.

Which is a shame! Like I said, the management side of the game would have been great if it had got past a solid start and developed into a more substantial strategy experience. And there's a very cool thing where you can choose your own soundtrack to each day's events, plucking records off a shelf and dropping them on a turntable in a little cutscene that never got old (it's also a great soundtrack, with a nice mix of stuff like jazz and classical).

This is the Police feels like a crime drama being told via PowerPoint presentation. You can see there's intent there, and a good idea or two, but in the end the off-key delivery and shallow management leaves the whole thing feeling flat.


Comments

    Sooo.. Game doesn't align with American Gawker employee's SJW values?

      Alternatively, the game is being critiqued for its clumsy handling of topical matters.

    Several inaccuracies in this article; the game was actually designed by an MRA subreddit with funding from Donald Trump

    “This Is the Police is not about the United States or any other individual country. We deliberately did not specify when and where the events in the game unfold — not because we were being cryptic, but because it doesn’t matter.”

    Could this explain the clumsiness? Are they doing that thing where they write something based on a real world event then modify it in a weird way to avoid making controversial statements? Like you're working on a part that's inspired by Gamergate but you don't want to weigh in it, so you switch the Gamergate keywords with something else.
    Trying to be realistic without being real.

    Last edited 05/08/16 2:54 pm

    This reminds me of the current controversy over the concept art with 'Augs Lives Matter'. You ask for games to be more political and thought provoking, but once that game comes out that's not 100% on your side you get angry.

    Or as Stan said, "Wait a minute, you didn't want me to vote, you wanted me to vote for your guy!".

      Augs Lives Matter is something that was put into marketing and PR material not part of the game as far as I was aware.
      Considering it puppets All lives matter (the anti-movement) more than the original "black lives matter" it is going to hit the nerves a lot more. And calling adding that slogan to PR material a co-incidence I just don't buy. Then again I don't have much respect for marketers so take that with a grain of salt.

    Any tough guy commenting in this article (or thinking about doing so) attacking Plunkett should probably get their hand off their genitals and actually buy this game. Play it and write up something about it, and send to Kotaku for posting.

    But I suppose then you wouldn't be able to complain that your views are being suppressed now would you?

    I can guess how the developer meeting went:

    "Hmm.. so if we put this stuff in it'll cause a lot of backlash then Kotaku will put up a story about it making our game even more famous? Let's do it"

    Also the idea of needing to violently put down rioting feminists is the most stupid, laughably unrealistic man-baby fantasy I have heard for a long time. These guys next game should probably be a dating sim based on that book for angry nerd virgins 'The Game'

      Ahhhh... so you believe that women are too physically weak to cause any real damage in a riot?

      Snarkiness aside, you seem to have completely missed the point. The entire point is the game is (clumsily) making is that it's not needed - it's police brutality as a display of force against an ideology the mayor doesn't like.

      I find a lot about this article and the comments section strange. The game very explicitly does align with 'SJW values' as chinesefood so asininely put it. The mayor is explicitly a villain who (sometimes seemingly arbitrarily) orders you to do terrible things. At no point does the game suggest that firing all black cops is actually a good or reasonable thing. It's something bad that a bad person who has power over you is ordering you to do.

      The game tackles these issues very clumsily, which seems to be the primary critique the article is making, but there's also this undercurrent of a suggestion that the devs politics might be something that they are very clearly not.

    Playing it now - having fun! Thanks for the heads up.

Join the discussion!