I hate thieves. I hate criminals, but due to my day job, I have a particular hatred for those who steal from retailers and then sell on the goods to profit. I hate them. But there’s only so much I can do, so when the opportunity to play policeman came along with This Is The Police, I jumped right in.
On the Nintendo Switch. I know. The betrayal…
Now I’m back for a second helping with The Is The Police 2, and this time I’m playing on PS4. Things are kind of the same, but also very different in the second outing – and it’s one hell of a ride.
Let’s start from the beginning. Jack Boyd is now living in exile after the events of the first game that saw him try to make a cool $500,000 in 180 days before he retires. As the player you were forced to get into bed with the Mafia whilst trying to run your station to the best of your ability. The second game is pretty much more of the same in that regard, though there are some differences.
For one, the game doesn’t introduce Jack straight away, but instead drops you into an X-Com style mission where you have to command your deputies to take out the bad guys, one move at a time. The mission goes tits up and this is where the story really begins. And it’s important to remember that This Is The Police 2 is a story game, so don’t go pressing X to skip the cutscenes, otherwise you risk being left in the dark later on.
Jack doesn’t show up straight away, but when he does he’s not the same man we once knew. He’s now sporting a grey mullet. He’s less than friendly to the courier who brings him his booze and food. He’s a downtrodden man with nothing left to lose.
By way of happen chance, Jack is arrested by the Sharpwood cops and taken to the station. I won’t spoil any story beats here, but with a depressed Sheriff in charge Jack has an opportunity to get himself free and do some good. Long story short – and it is a long story, but more on that later – Jack ends up running the department alongside the depressed and worn-out Sheriff, Lilly.
Once the game has walked you through the basics you’ll be left with the familiar isometric map that represents Sharpwood. From here you’ll respond to crimes as they’re called in by assigning officers. Assigning the right officers is crucial to success, and the game even forces your hand at times. For example, if a robbery requires 500 stars worth of police skill (each officer has their own star rating that can increase and decrease, depending on how they perform) you can send one cop with a high enough rating, or mix and match the lower-rated officers to meet the needs of the crime. It sounds simple doesn’t it? Painfully simple, even. But it’s not. It’s a bastard.
Cops are people, too, and in This Is The Police 2 that is more evident than ever. One cop doesn’t like another? Don’t expect them to go out on jobs together. Dave got a drinking problem? He might not turn up tomorrow, or he might turn up and injure himself. He might even crash his car on the way to rehab. Yes, you can send cops to a rehab of sorts to get their arses out of the gutter. And yes, I once sent two cops at the same time, only to have them crash and be injured for six days, therefore unavailable for work. It’s infuriating and at times I’d swear the game was working against me, but it does throw a bone every once in a while.
New cops can be bought with “tokens” which are the pull rings from beer cans. If you do a good job and the shift goes well, you’ll get a bunch of tokens. If the shift goes less than perfectly, you’ll have tokens deducted. Lose too many tokens 3 days in a row and… Well, Lilly will phone the feds and you’ll have the FBI knocking on the door. Again, it sometimes feels like the game is completely against you, but every now and then it seems to realise when you’re having a tough time. Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, the game will gift you a free officer. These are lifesavers when you’ve got three alcoholics staying at home to get pissed, two officers injured from a call that went wrong, and your best cop lying dead in the morgue. Oh yeah, this game gets that dark.
This Is The Police 2 has some of the best dialogue I’ve ever heard in a game. Your Uncharteds and God of Wars and all the rest really do pale in comparison when it comes to delivering human language in a way that feels natural. There are no cheesy catchlines. There’s no joking about nearly dying, and there’s no Hollywood banter. It’s dirty, it’s disgusting, but it’s brutally honest in execution and for that I have to give massive credit to the writers. There’s a few mishaps among the game’s text, though, but this is a game made by non-native English speakers, so a grammatical slip here and there isn’t an issue, and it certainly doesn’t spoil the game in the slightest.
In fact, that’s another strong point – the actual words that you read. The spoken words are pretty much all delivered via the game’s visual-novel style picture frames, while fully animated cut scenes are interspersed. And they look great, too, but more on that later.
When calls come in, you’ll be reading about them. There will be a short description that tells you what’s going on and who’s doing what. They’re generally very short paragraphs that are very easy to understand. And while the game’s spoken dialogue doesn’t offer much by way of comedy, the writing for the crimes more than makes up for it. One crime will stay with me forever – an old man taking a shit on his employers car. You have the option to restrain him, shoot him, or tell him to finish his poo. The more serious crimes aren’t much to laugh at, though, but there conclusions are often hilarious. There was one where a couple of teens had stolen a truck from outside a petrol station. You have the option to shoot the tyres, among other options, and I chose to shoot the tyres. My thinking was that I’d blow out the tyres and the truck would come to a slow stop. Nope. The lads crashed and one died by having the steering wheel jam into his throat while the other went flying through the windshield and died on the road. Unexpected deaths are often darkly funny, though a little annoying; bringing in a perp alive nets you more tokens, but sometimes it’s easier to pull the trigger.
Sometimes it really is easier to just pull the trigger. Your department isn’t exactly rolling in cash and you have to provide the equipment to your officers – with tokens, of course. If you don’t have tasers or pepper spray to hand, you can either order your cop to go hand-to-hand with the criminals, or just aim the gun and fire. I’m ashamed to admit that as my time in the game went on, I found it easier and easier to give the order to shoot rather than risk one of the team getting injured and put out of action for a few days, or worse – dead.
This Is The Police 2 is a strange beast of a game. You’ve got a mix of genres all working together. You’d expect, then, that there would be some cracks, but there really isn’t. Although I’m not a massive fan of the X-Com games, I found myself engrossed with every tactical mission in This Is The Police 2. They’re tense and caused me and the Mrs to exchange a few sour words when she sent one of the best deputies to her death. R.I.P Spurlock.
The game’s narrative weaves through and makes itself a part of the gameplay. Send someone down for a crime they didn’t commit? You’ll watch the verdict get read out in court and then watch your staff lose all respect for you. It really is that involved, and you can not afford to not be paying attention. A small favour here and there soon turns into something much bigger with far-reaching consequences, not just for Jack, but those who surround him.
At its core, This Is The Police 2 is a real-time management game. You manage your team and get the results. But there’s so many offshoots that it’s hard to categorise the game into any one genre. You’ve got the game’s tale of corruption, greed, and redemption all laid out like a visual novel. Then you’ve got the turn-based tactical missions. Then you’ve got the investigations. Then you’ve got the RPG-like aspects where you level up your cops and they earn skill points and perks. It’s maddeningly deep, but my God I bloody loved it. And yeah, you can bet your last penny I gave the kill order for every single thief.
This Is The Police 2 PS4 Review
This Is The Police 2 is not for the faint of heart, nor those who don't like a difficult challenge. With a narrative that belongs somewhere in the land of Netflix and a gameplay loop that'll keep you glued to the telly long after it's gotten dark outside, This Is The Police 2 is a must-buy and for me it's one of the best game's I've played all year.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.
Chris has been writing about gaming news for far too long, and now he’s doing it even more. A true PlayStation know-it-all, Chris has owned just about every Sony console that ever existed. Trophies are like crack to this fella.