This Is The Police is not what I expected. At its face, it’s a police station management sim with a minimalist art design, but underneath, and in its best moments, it’s a tense, well written and voiced story with real emotion and severe consequences.
A lot of police tropes are in play here: the cop just shy of his retirement, the salty language and crumbling relationships. Toss in some self-medicating with alcohol and a few dirty cops and before you know it, you’ll be saying, “I’m too old for this shit!” in your best Danny Glover voice.
You play as Jack Boyd, a 60-year-old police chief being forced into early retirement by the city’s corrupt mayor. In the opening scene, a press conference with the local news, we learn that Jack is being pushed out for new blood, and he has only 6 months to secure a half million dollars for his retirement.
The story is told in comic strip fashion, and the writing and voice acting are fantastic. In fact, the voice of protagonist Jack Boyd is none other than Duke Nukem himself, John St. John. The jazz music score and the wonderful sound effects really hit every note for me. The sound of Jack hanging up on his corrupt mayor by slamming the phone onto its cradle, or the unmistakable sound of someone pulling the window blinds while the screen darkens slightly really brought the comic strips to life.
The bulk of the gameplay happens each day after the comic strip story intro and it becomes basically a management sim. You manage two groups of officers and detectives (A shift and B shift) who have varying degrees of skill and a varying propensity for alcoholism. You’ll learn to weed out the lazy (those who continuously ask for days off to feed their fish or finish the exciting mystery novel they’re reading), and promote those who work hard and do your best to keep each of them off the bottle.
Once you start the work day, you’ll spend it staring at a GPS view of the city. Calls will come in to dispatch and you’ll decide which officer (or officers) to send out in response. Do you send out two cops for the domestic assault call and hope they can handle it, or should you send out three and hope that doesn’t leave you shorthanded when the next big call comes in. As you send out the troops, you can track them on the GPS and eventually, the report comes in explaining just how well they handled the dispute. Was the perp apprehended with no civilian or police casualties, or did he get away and kill an innocent bystander in the process? In my play through, getting one of my officers killed in the line of duty always took a toll on me and I made it a point to over-staff whenever I could and to never send two of my less experienced (read: crappy) officers to any of the more serious calls.
A unique twist on the police sim were the investigations. Gangs run rampant in your city and you’ll have to solve plenty of gang-related violence and murders along the way. To solve these cases, you’ll need to assign a lead Detective. If they are one of the good ones, they’ll track down eye witnesses, get their accounts of what went down and compile plenty of crime scene pictures. If you assign the wrong Detective, or if you don’t provide them with the right resources, the case will go unsolved, or your Detective may not even make it out of the investigation alive. You solve the case by putting the crime scene photos in the correct chronological order based on the eye-witness accounts. Some of the eyewitness’s may be racist, drunk or simply have a personal vendetta against the cops or the deceased, and will be looking to lead your team in the wrong direction. It was pretty neat way to break up the monotony of the basic (and rehashed) calls that seemed to come in every day.
Unfortunately, the monotony did set in about halfway through, and a few more investigations would have been welcomed. Besides the mid-game drag, I also felt like the game missed a few golden opportunities. It seemed like the developers wanted to say something about race relations as there were a few early missions that dealt very heavily with it, but by the end, that thread seemed to just fizzle out. Maybe that was for the best, or maybe it would have really paid off and lent this game another emotional punch. It would have been cool if they had gone for it either way.
Daily workplace tedium aside, This is The Police’s story is what brings you back each day. In six months on the job, Jack deals with the mafia, corrupt city officials and more bad guys than you can shake a night-stick at. Each one of them has something to offer, but each favor you receive comes with a price and only you can decide how much you’re willing to sacrifice to reach that fat stack of bills at the end of your 180 days.
Me personally, I tend to play these types of games with a healthy lean towards the whitehat side, (probably my old age) but this game made it difficult to consistently do that. Much like in real life, This is The Police demonstrates that it’s not as simple as choosing right over wrong, but rather deciding which wrong choice you can you live with. And sometimes, when you make what seems like the obvious “right” choice, a lot of bad things seem to happen to those around you, and sometimes dipping a toe into the “dark side” may make it easier for everyone in the end. Of course, if you dip your toe into the darkness too many times, you just might fall in, and when that happens, it can be pretty damn hard to dig your way out.
There were more than a few moments towards the end of my playtime that I wished I could have fast-forwarded some of the daily “work” minutia, but in the end, the story always brought me back. If you don’t mind a morally ambiguous story, and carrying the heavy weight from the decisions that you make, (and a bit of drag for 3 or 4 hours in the middle) then This is the Police may just be worth your time.
This is The Police PS4 Review
A cool story with great writing and voice acting, hampered only by the day-to-day mechanics of running a police station. I could argue the game would have been better if the 18 hours of playtime had been trimmed to 13 or 14, but I still wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to gamers who love a well told story and don’t need constant action.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital code provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
*Reviewed using Base PS4.