The year is 1986, the place; New York city. He’s a disgraced former detective, framed for murder, roaming the mean streets in pursuit of redemption. Spending his days kickin’ ass and takin’ names, this no-nonsense hunk’a justice is gettin’ too old for this sh*t. Jack Kelly is Beat Cop!
At least, this exemplifies the tongue-in-cheek, self-aware tone I was hoping Pixel Crow’s point-and-click cop sim would take and run with. Instead, this vision of 80’s is rife with poorly judged stereotypes, writing that tries far too hard to be edgy, and a messy plot. However, slick gameplay, meaningful player choice and moments of inspired storytelling and humour save this game from falling into the crime-filled gutter.
Taking place over 21 days, each day begins with a briefing where your parking ticket quota and other key objectives are laid out. Assessing a car for parking, light or tire violations, booking them and getting them towed is the bread and butter of your beat cop duties and this simple mechanic is surprisingly fun and addictive. The rest of your time is taken up catching the occasional thief, helping out local shopkeepers and keeping the mob and crew, a group of gangstas, in check.
With limited time in your day, choosing who to help and which tasks to take on can be challenging. While balancing your duties can be hectic and a little frustrating at times, it ensures a constant forward momentum, making each action meaningful. This sense of meaningful player choice extends to the game’s morality and loyalty systems.
Will you play by the book, take a hard-line on crime and be a model cop or side with the mob or crew, accept bribes and turn a blind eye to wrongdoing? Choices which not only affect your standing with the police, public and organised crime factions but your financial income and ultimately which of the multiple endings you earn are presented to you constantly, giving you agency in how each day plays out.
The story you are shaping, however, is weak and poorly thought out. Your relationship to your estranged wife who periodically demands alimony payments is never explained or explored, exemplifying the inconsistencies in the game’s storytelling. The convoluted plot lost my attention and investment pretty swiftly, and the painfully forced tone of the writing only furthered my aversion to Beat Cop’s world and characters.
While the stereotypes which pervade this street of black thugs, prostitutes, porn stars, and Jewish shopkeepers initially seemed positioned as a satire of 80s cinema clichés, the crude writing soon revealed the lack of nuance to these offensively caricatured characters. Humdingers include a Libyan man claiming to have designed a “blowjob burka” so their porn can be as good as America’s and Dirk Wad, an overweight pornstar claiming his outfit is “as tight as an Asian condom”. Beat Cop is a sex obsessed feast of grot that relies heavily on offensive stereotypes and shock to imbue it with humour and edge.
Clearing your name acts as your motivation throughout the 7-8 hour campaign, but predictably this proves trickier than expected. Each faction offers their own solution resulting in a different ending, however it never explained that 100% loyalty to your chosen faction is required to attain their given ending. In trying to appease my police chief while balancing favour with the mob and crew I missed out a true ending, making my time with the game feel all the more fruitless.
Beat Cop is a game I found increasingly enjoyable to play thanks to its slick and satisfying gameplay loop yet my contempt for its story, world and characters grew the more I had to interact with them. The pixel art style, suitably retro soundtrack and slew of references to 80s pop culture fail to provide sufficient charm to offset the embarrassing writing, childish humour and un-ironic stereotyping.
Beat Cop PS4 Review
The day to day of booking cars and arresting perps as a Beat Cop is fun and addictive while player choice lets you shape your daily activity. However, weak storytelling, crude writing and immature humour spoil what enjoyment there is.
- A slick, satisfying gameplay loop.
- Meaningful player choice.
- Weak storytelling and an anticlimactic ending.
- Poor writing and embarrassingly forced “dark humour”.
- Offensive without being satirical.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.
Max is a lover of games, fine whisky and dogs with soft faces. Often seeking out games Chris dubs “artsy sh*t”, some say Max has a refined taste, while others simply consider him pretentious. Wherever you stand on the matter, he undeniably writes words. His other hobbies including leading a cult, touching dog’s faces and telling everyone he is vegan.