This is the Police by developers Weappy is not an uplifting game, it deals with some very sordid police behaviour through the lens of a jaded, cynical police chief. The opening cinematic is reminiscent of that one tracking-shot from Goodfellas with a low-poly art style that displays this murky world and that of the people who live in it. It’s an enticing and stylish introduction that gets the player on the side of the protagonist/ chief of police, Jack Boyd, and quickly you identify the tropes and themes of noir crime stories where the hero is one person against an entire corrupted system seemingly out to get them. But for all its posturing on characters doing what it takes to beat the system, the gameplay itself does little to live up to the initial excitement for a fun, deeply-immersive cop game.
One of the first things you are told is that you have 180 days left as Police Chief to do as you please and to earn half a million dollars for an easy retirement. During this period, the player can choose whether to act out in self-interest, and become involved in shady dealings in order to gain some cash. Alternatively, you can tow the line and do the best you can, hoping for financial bonuses through solving cases. This game highlights how easy it is for someone in such a position to abuse authority and the morality of such actions are a lot more blurred or grey. The voice-acting from veteran ass-kicker and gum-chewer, Jon St John, as well as some engrossing writing aids in humanising that character throughout the game. Important players such as mafia or political figures make their emergence from the seedy foundations of the city that Jack Boyd finds himself entangled in, though sadly not as well performed by their respective actors. Some of these plots fail to resonate and some just flounder about over the course of a few days of the game’s time without being fleshed out or making any impact.
Being a police chief is pretty straight forward in the game and feels more like Farmville than Sim City in terms of game management complexity. The rudimentary mechanics are that you have a certain number of police officers and detectives at your disposal and as crimes and cases occur throughout the day, you decide what the response should be. You can ignore it or send a number of officers out. As there can be multiple of these at once, the challenge is to allocate these resources in the most efficient way possible so that no police calls are left unanswered. And for the majority of the game, that’s pretty much it. Crimes pop up and you send some cops, then you wait for more to happen. Managing the police station is pretty simple and not too difficult to organise your squad of officers so that the majority of crimes are solved, and I spend more time doing arithmetic in my head figuring out if the professional level was high enough, than actually enjoying any aspect of the game. The gameplay complexity is not something that progresses over time and any feelings of immersion that you are actually like a police chief running his own show quickly wanes. And while there are other characters and groups in the game that show up during a playthrough, how you deal with them is mostly the same as sending officers or detectives to crime scenes.
Periodically, you can also use your detectives to solve cases or taking down criminal gangs. Detectives would gather clues in the form of photo frames which you then use to create a sequence of events of culprit, motive and method. I felt it a little incongruous how you can figure out how the crimes occurred but you couldn’t go anywhere because one of the multiple frames was missing or you had them all, but just not in the right order. Taking down criminal gangs is similar to this yet also under-delivers, being nothing more than multiple detective cases with other minor additions. While I was intrigued by solving cases in a video game, I feel it lacks any real depth that truly exemplifies how a good mystery or puzzle is solved in the criminal world, less so Sherlock Holmes and more like paint-by-numbers with murder victims.
The city and art style itself is presented in a crisp, low-poly manner. The main screen where the majority of gameplay occurs is a model of the city and is interesting to watch as we see the neon trails of the police-car sirens’ glide across the streets. While the constant cycle of responding to crimes became tedious, one positive from the this is the impressive level of small attention to details, such as crime incidents and the staff you can hire. Thanks in part to the crowdfunders who were allowed to participate in the designing of the game, there are no two incidents that are alike and often the choices given in how to respond to them can be quite humorous. The same goes for the officers and detectives at your disposal and can also be interacted with in a few ways, such as promotions or firings. Also, as we first start each day in the chief’s office, we have a tableaux of various devices where we can pick and choose what music to play (as well as buying more with money earned in the game). It’s not much and this game is certainly not as insanely lore-heavy as others are but it does help develop a mildly entertaining tone for This is the Police.
I played the game for 22 hours before I finally managed to complete it and many times I just wanted to quit because the gameplay became too much of a chore that had to be done in order to see what happens at the end of the 180 game days rather than something that was engrossing or developed in any interesting ways. As the game progresses, it will attempt to appear that it has any notion of difficulty by giving ridiculous outcomes to crimes that most of the time are easy to take care. Rather than challenging player skill, it seems that the outcome is down to just random misfortune like a roulette table that cashes out weak prizes ninety-five percent of the time then just kills half your team at a farm crime scene. It can really take you out of the moment and it is disheartening to see that the time you put into developing your team is easily swept away in an instant. I found this to happen more frequently as the game was ramping towards the end as well which only dampened my enjoyment for the game overall.
This game is full of interesting anecdotes that you could share with others the make the game sound somewhat interesting and the story itself is fascinating as we act out in the game as a boisterous, no-nonsense and seriously flawed police chief. This blend of story and style has its origins in noir and gangster films and novels of the first half of 20th century, where flawed and solitary characters meet their fate in corruption-filled antagonising societies and its not something we see in pop culture today or many games either. Sadly, the gameplay fails to live up to such an interesting premise with stifling gameplay that after a while becomes stale. While there is a breadth to the context and stories of these cases and crimes is commendable, it does not offer much when the core gameplay becomes repetitive far too early in the game.