This review was planned a month back, but it only got finished now, but it’s somehow still relevant due to current events. There are also quite a few layers to This is the Police, which made for a harder review, but it did get boiled down to a few points due to the latter portions of its gameplay. As good of a concept as it was, and as good of a narrative experience as it had been, I ended up with a ‘meh’.
This is the Police was released back in August this year, having been funded by Kickstarter way back. It does seem to hold up fairly well and does what it was meant to do, so it all depends on what those who play it feel about the finished product. Personally, I see both pros and cons in my experience of this game, although I must advise readers that I did take some shortcuts along the way.
NOTE: As this is intended as a full review of this title, there may be some spoilers. You’ve been warned.
The 60-year-old Jack Boyd is the police chief of Freeburg, but he only has six months until he retires. He has a ton of things going on in his life, including having his wife leave him, being put in a corner by the mob, and being on pills. The intro to the game shows him spending time in a gentlemen’s club—a.k.a. membership-only strip club—to de-stress.
You are then taken for a ride through six months of a tightrope act, bending over backwards at certain times and giving the middle finger in others. In between each day, This is the Police‘s story progresses as Jack Boyd finds himself in more and more complications that his aging body and mind are now insufficient to handle.
This is the Police‘s minimalistic vector art style gives off a comic book noir look that’s fit for a game about the men and women in blue. The story cutscenes don’t show facial details, making the characters be like they could be anyone and the situation they get into can happen to those people as well. I quite like this visual style, as well as the isometric layout of the city in the management portions of the game, as well as how it’s made to look like an ashtray at the start of the game.
As for the soundtrack, it’s mostly light jazz and classical music that adds to the semi-noir feel. The way you’re made to choose between vinyl or tapes at the start of each day is a nice touch. There’s also that intro sequence of Boyd starting his car to go to work each day that adds to the overall atmosphere of a grueling daily grind. As far as art direction goes, this game gets a thumbs up as it all ties together with the theme and the story.
This is the Police alternates between a visual novel and a real-time management game, and they do tie in together as the decisions made in the former do affect the latter. As for the management itself, not doing well means that Freeburg Police gets its funding slashed further and further down until Jack Boyd is forced to retire early in absolute disgrace.
The game then gets more complicated as Jack Boyd goes deeper down the hole, having to cover for other people’s fuck-ups while having to deal with his own personal turmoil on the side as well. It’s a Kafkaesque descent into bureaucratic madness set to a light jazz music, much like a lot of my own nightmares.
Perhaps the biggest problem with This is the Police is that after a few weeks in, you settle into a rhythm and nothing new comes up. It’s a grind from then on until the finish, and you have to put up with everything coming your way without any shortcuts to speak of. You have to constantly beg to city hall for upgrades to make things easier while having to maintain the police department’s performance and appease the mafia at the same time.
You’ll either finish This is the Police and never touch it again or not finish it at all (and watch the endings on YouTube). The story is what would keep you in it, but that’s about it. If you did buy this game, then you’re in for the long haul (18 hours tops), and perhaps that’s indeed the point. It’s a police drudgery simulator, which accurately depicts how the blue life is. Catching criminals and investigating murders never end; you can only keep at it.
Speaking of investigating murders, that’s another weakness to this game. I know that it would’ve more of a drag development-wise to have murder mystery gameplay on the side to make the detective portions of the game better, but what they have here made me feel like a kindergartner. It’s basically arranging Polaroid pictures in the right order to successfully solve a case, then arresting the suspect.
In the meantime, you have to wait for all the right pictures to show up and hope the detective you assigned the case to is competent enough to get it done quickly enough. Perhaps it does have a hint of accuracy in that part, but that minigame within This is the Police still feels both too simple and janky, and the same can go for other minigames as well.
- Semi-realistic depiction of police
- Nice vector art style
- Good writing
- Interesting gameplay
- Chill soundtrack
- Tough decisions
- No "good" ending
- Repetitive late game
- Ham-fisted approach to real world issues
- Story drags on
- No "good" ending
Being a "police drudgery simulator" is not a bad thing at all. Actually, that works for this game quite well as the point of This is the Police is that it depicts how complicated things can get within law enforcement. Mind you, the way it tackles is almost tongue-in-cheek, right from the intro all the way through the cutscenes that play out like an episode of The Shield without all the violence.
I score this game a 6 out of 10 because it really did drag and I hate it when that happens, but I can't say it's really that bad in this case. If it were actually bad, this game would get a 3 out of 10 instead.
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