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This is the Police is a narrative-driven police management game created by Weappy Studio. It’s the first title to come from the Belarus-based company and while it is by no means a badly developed title, it’s not without its shortcomings.
While my time with this title wasn’t necessarily a waste, I have to admit that it has a bit of an identity crisis. At one end, it wants to be a police management sim and on the other, a gritty piece of interactive fiction.
While both of these approaches could have been great games on their own, fusing them together did not only detract value from one another but also failed to appeal as an individual title.
Now, I have never been one to needlessly slander a title so I will try my best to truthfully present my experience without too much of my own opinion involved. That being said, I personally feel that an opportunity for a great game has been missed.
Let’s take a deeper look at This is the Police…
A solid piece of interactive fiction
This is the Police takes place in fictional 1980s Freeburg — a city ravaged by problems such as corruption, class divides and racial tension.
You play as Jack Boyd (voiced by none other than Jon St. John aka Duke Nukem), the long-time chief of Freeburg’s police department. But after a failed investigation, the crooked Mayor Rogers and his political entourage have decided it’s time for you to go, giving you 180 days before you’re forced into retirement.
It’s your objective to use this time to scrape together a half-a-million dollars for your retirement by any means necessary, even if the mayor told you to not to “get wrapped up in any schemes”. After spending your whole life on the right side of the law, you decide it’s time to get your hands dirty (staying the good guy is simply not an option).
But the mayor isn’t the only bad apple in town. Freeburg boasts a generous dose of crime bosses and criminal offenders, all looking to get a piece of Chief Boyd. Before he knows it, he’s trapped in the middle of a power struggle for the city and will have to decide on whose side he’s on.
This is the Police provides us with a strong and reasonably captivating narrative
As the story progresses, you will often encounter situations where you will need to make story-defining choices (although I am still not sure how much my choices affected the game). Sometimes you’ll find yourself in a press conference answering questions, other times you will carefully navigate your way through a heated debate with a mob boss.
This is the Police provides us with a strong and reasonably captivating narrative. It’s presented in a very 80s-esque crime drama style, to such an extent that I was surprised I didn’t once hear a mobster stereotypically utter: “This is how it’s going to work, see… sleeping with the fishes, see”.
The dialogue is well written and well complimented by some spot on voice acting. Boyd’s monologues and interactions with the string of other seedy personalities are quite amusing, most of the time.
Although, the game does sometimes get a bit carried away with his sharp and witty cop talk (for lack of a better description), which could rub certain players the wrong way. I, on the other hand, didn’t mind it that much. It’s evident, that the developers put a lot of thought and time into these scripts. In the end, This is the Police presented a cast of intriguing and well-rounded characters.
The artwork used to express the story is also an aspect I thoroughly appreciated. It’s minimalist-yet-moody style combined with an appropriate palette of desaturated colours gave the experience a unique atmosphere that fit in well with the game’s narrative content.
But now imagine this immersive story being constantly interrupted by lengthy and monotonous gameplay sessions (which I’ll explore in the next segment) and you’ll see where This is the Police started losing my attention.
As an interactive fiction title, This is the Police could have been a remarkable game. But now, with my attention constantly being divided, the story ended up losing its traction and ultimately failed to keep my captivated.
What could have been a brilliant police sim
When it comes down to the actual gameplay, This is the Police definitely caught my attention but then also rapidly lost it. The concept was solid but executed with minimal substance, which is rather unfortunate seeing as this is where you’ll be spending most of your time.
In between the narrative points in the game, you will be running the day-to-day activities of the Freeburg PD (you are the Chief of Police, after all). You will be presented with a very basic overview of the city, and will use your police force to respond (or not respond) to various incidents in the city.
This is probably the most engaging part of This is the Police. You will have a time limit to respond to each crime and it will take your force a certain amount of time to complete each task at hand. You will need to carefully assess these incidents and decide which you respond to as your force, especially later in the game, will not be large enough to take on every assignment.
These incidents will range from the trivial noise complaint to the more serious crimes such as theft and murder. Some seemingly small incidents could also later escalate into something serious which could result in loss of lives if officers weren’t present.
Your police force will be divided into various sections. Firstly, you will have your standard men and women in blue — they make up the bulk of your force. Then there are the detectives who will work on investigative cases such as mysterious murders.
In these cases you will have to rearrange a series of photos in chronological order to solve them. The more experienced the detective the more information you will have at hand to help you figure out the correct sequence.
Then there is the SWAT team and “paddy wagons” that you will send with other officers on the more serious assignments such as hostage situations or the arrest of notorious criminals.
The gameplay was a bit disconnected from the actual narrative, and made me wonder what all this was worth
You will also regularly be confronted with dirty work like a crime boss asking you to ignore a specific incident or spare some of your officers to be a bouncer at a nightclub. In my case, one police officer loved the job so much (or the its paying rate) that she immediately quit the force to lead a life of crime.
One aspect I found interesting was the marketplace for police officers. As the game progresses some of your officers and detectives will quit due to various reasons such as old age, etc. You will then have to scan the market place to find a suitable replacement.
I quite enjoyed being able to tailor my force but at the same time it didn’t seem so make much of a difference. The only thing that really mattered was there level of experience. I felt like that the marketplace could have been a enjoyable mechanic if it was fleshed out a bit more.
Sometimes you will be faced with some particularly uncomfortable situations where you will be prompted to make a choice between either upsetting the citizens of Freeburg or the plethora of crime bosses and crooked government officials.
These incidents will usually deal with political issues such as racial tension or gender discrimination. To give one example, at one point in the game received word of feminist protest. My superiors at City Hall advised me to “suppress the protest by force”.
Say yes and you will poison the people’s trust in the law. Say no and it will be a lot harder to convince City Hall to do you a favour such as raising your salary, which will obviously contribute to your main objective of saving half-a-million dollars.
Now you would think that making such tough choice will have a dire effect on how the story unfolds but, in all honestly, I couldn’t see that it changed much at all. This made me felt that the gameplay was a bit disconnected from the actual narrative, and made me wonder what all this was worth.
As single title, I felt that This is the Police didn’t offer anything near to what I expected, and I think the developers would have been better off by choosing either the interactive fiction or police sim route and focussing all their attention in that direction.
In terms of narrative, I definitely enjoyed its story but when it came down to gameplay things were a bit monotonous. Most of the time I was just starting at the screen wondering what I’m actually busy doing here.
Release Date: 2 August 2016
Developer: Bethesda, Weappy Studio
Publisher: Nordic Games, EuroVideo Medien
Genre: Adventure strategy, simulator
Platform(s): Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X/macOS
Industry Average Score: 66/100
Average Playtime: 25 hours
Verdict: All in all, This is the Police is a reasonably admirable title which definitely deserves your attention but probably won’t be one of the most memorable titles you’ve played (which I feel it could have been if things were just a bit more carefully thought out).