“This is the Police is fantastically in depth and superbly engaging to play.”
Jack Boyd has dedicated most of his life to the Freeburg Police Department. He has kept his hands clean and the town in check. 8 out of 10 is his motto, after all. Now it seems his time has come, albeit because of a relationship breakdown with the Mayor’s office. With retirement around the corner, Jack has 180 days to get the town in check, and gather himself a nice little fund to keep him going when he is done. He’s not interested in making his million; half is plenty good enough for old Jack. But the situation just got a whole lot more complicated…
This is the Police is the debut title from the developers at Weappy Studio, supported by publishing veterans THQ Nordic. A strategy and management game with adventure-style decision making alongside it, This is the Police puts you in the chair of Freeburg’s Chief of Police. The city is small and can be kept in check, but recently it has been spiralling out of control. Gangs, the mafia and petty crime are all problems that have been falling on your desk. Now your job is to make one last push to fix them.
Jack is the anti-hero that you will guide to do this. Voiced by Jon St. John, the actor behind gaming’s own Duke Nukem, Jack is an honest cop but with a gritty, sullen demeanour. He doesn’t care much for the press, and has little interest in going outside of the law for a crutch. Unfortunately, recent activities have forced his hand. The Mayor wants him out and his right-hand man has been riddled with controversies. The latter, to Jack’s dismay, turns out to be grounded in reality. Saving an old friend leaves Jack mixed in with the wrong crowd, and that doesn’t make his final stint at the head of the snake any easier…
The story, as you can tell, is thick with the traditional American cop drama that we have come to know and love. In fact, This is the Police offers a fuller and better acted story than many much larger games that it might compete with. Sometimes, it feels as though there is a little too much storytelling to gameplay ratio, with the early game especially having extended comic book-style cut scenes to work through. Often, it feels more like a half video game, half interactive story dynamic. This works ok, but there are sections where you find yourself yearning for the game to just get on with it so you can get down to some actual gameplay. You can of course skip the cut scenes if you wish, but on the flipside to them taking too long this would also be something of a crime in itself. Maximum effort has gone into creating what succeeds at being a very engaging storyline, but it could just do with feeling a little less full on at times.
The main bulk of the gameplay in This is the Police is played out on a map of the city. There are a number of elements at play, which together build a perfect model for police precinct management in the city of Freeburg. The first thing you have to deal with is managing your staff. Your officers and detectives can be organised to work on either Shift A or Shift B, and it is important to balance your forces for maximum effect. Each member of staff’s effectiveness is determined by their professionalism rating, rank, energy and any character flaws which may affect them. Selecting the right staff for the right jobs is key to your success as Chief, so hiring, firing and otherwise disposing of ineffective officers are central to your strategies.
Each day, calls will appear on the Freeburg map for you to respond to. These vary in difficulty and urgency, and it is up to you to respond accordingly. Sometimes it might even be necessary to send in the SWAT or take along a paddy wagon to a crime scene in order to get the job done safely and successfully. Naturally sometimes things go wrong. Escaped criminals and civilian casualties will lead to your officers’ professionalism rating decreasing, whilst successes will give it a boost. You will also get jobs within the community coming up as well, which can lead to officers getting a huge boost in professionalism, but occasionally they may see it as their que to leave. Within the department, your Deputy will organise professional training for you instead if you prefer to keep things internally and not take the risk. When things really go south when you are responding to a call however, an officer can be killed at the scene, which will have an impact on your reputation. Sometimes when the going gets tough, it may not be possible to respond to every call either. That’s when Jack’s 8 out of 10 philosophy comes into play. Keep your ratio of successes to failures stable and city hall will continue to have your back.
To complicate things further however, the early game sees Jack getting mixed up with the mafia. Their demands can lead you to ignoring calls and difficult questions being asked by the press and the mayor. The benefits they offer in return however can boost your retirement fund and help you deal with any “difficult” problems you may run into. Need to be rid of an officer but don’t have grounds to fire them? Mr Sand can help you, for a price. It is not only the mafia who will give you difficult decisions to make though; city hall will also test your morality at times. You might be asked to fire all of your black officers, or to “put an end to” a feminist protest by any means necessary. It is up to you whether you comply or refuse, but there are always consequences for your actions. City hall determines your pay and resources after all. Sometimes it is painfully necessary to bend the knee, and This is the Police does a great job of making you feel the intensity of this tough decision making.
If you want to boost your retirement fund the legitimate way however, there is the opportunity for that too. Going after the many gangs which plague Freeburg can be a great way to publically display your resolve and privately put pennies in your pocket. Catching low level gang members gives you the option to make an arrest and gain a few funds, or interrogate them and investigate their higher-ups for a bigger piece of the pie. This takes time and resources and can be a risky business, but as they say, “no pain, no gain”. This is perhaps the most effective way to fill your wallet in This is the Police, unless you want to help the mafia with some very questionable business.
Controversy in Freeburg isn’t reserved for the criminals either. As you progress in the game, political themes begin to arise. The conservative and often controversial dealings of city hall are met head on by the liberal views of the political vigilante known as “Robespierre”. Your officers will begin to divide in their opinions, which can impact on their effectiveness when sent out on calls together. This becomes yet another factor to consider in your strategies, and another controversy to try and evade when conversing with the press. Show too much dedication to Robespierre and city hall will beat you down for it. Go too far the other way however, and public opinions may not fall on your side.
This is the Police is fantastically in depth and superbly engaging to play. The story draws you in, and can be played both casually or attentively with the same effect. The gameplay itself is simple to get to grips with, but your strategic thinking is strained further and further as the game goes on. Looming ever closer to the end of your work and your final retirement fund goal, your decisions can reflect on yourself, and the game does a great job throughout of making you measure up the pros and cons of every action in this way. My only criticism of the game itself is that sometimes the story can be too full on, leaving you longing for the next gameplay section to come along faster. Otherwise, the only note I might add is the system on which you choose to play. Whilst the game plays well on console, there are clear UI elements which would be far easier to navigate on PC. Nevertheless, the conversion has been done plenty well enough to make console gameplay comfortable, even if it is not entirely perfect. On the whole, I would recommend This is the Police to everyone; it represents great value for money and its content is close to spot on. For gamers who enjoy strategy and management games with a strong story to back them, this could even be your game of the year.