This is the Police’s deceptively simple gameplay hides layers of complexity that will thrill fans on noir.
**Because of a time crunch out of the control of Bear Claw Gaming, This is the Police will not receive a full review. Instead, this article serves as an impression of the gaming following a dozen hours of play time.**
This is the Police finally launched on Xbox One and PS4, and boy, does it feel good to command the streets of Freeburg on console. For newcomers, the best way to describe This is the Police is to think of the gameplay popularized by the likes of Papers, Please, but instead of depending on control mastery and speedy response, your success as the police chief is based on your ability to make quick moral assessments.
The meat of the game is spent sitting at a 3D model of the city of Freeburg. Here, crimes and opportunities will appear with rather generous time limitations. You’ll deploy available units to handle the situation. There are two shifts which can have a different number of assigned officers to tackle Freeburg’s needs. At times, an officer may ask for a day off or come into work drunk and require a day off. You’ll want to satisfy them occasionally to keep them full of energy, but approve their requests too often, and they’ll become lazy. Each day is a balancing act of accommodating needs while remembering to be a hardass from time-to-time.
When you’re not on-the-clock, the narrative set in front of you is simple: Freeburg Police Chief Jack Boyd has 180 days left until his retirement. In that time, he has to keep his department functioning, please city hall and ward off shady mafia organizations that seek to control the Freeburg. When you’re done for the day, cutscenes will play and reveal more about Boyd’s past and the local politics. At first, I tried to keep myself from participating in corruption, but it quickly became the only way to make ends meet.
Boyd’s narrative is winding and often littered with noir cliches, but thankfully Boyd’s voice actor and game narrator Jon St. John (best known as Duke Nukem) carries scenes and strikes the perfect balance of badass and cheese. As Boyd is forced to make decisions, different events unfold that impact the overarching story but also the day-to-day operations of the Freeburg Police Department. Boyd’s personal life will have ramifications on his staff.
Occasionally, deployed officers will call back to the station and ask for your advice for handling a situation or just to call for back-up. As police chief, you have to make life-and-death decisions on the fly. If an officer is low-skilled, he or she might lose the suspect or even die in the line of duty. If they die, you can report their death or wait and collect his/her payroll. At first, it’s easy to report the death, but as stakes increase, tapping into corruption becomes second nature and damn-near necessary.
You’ll also control FPD’s detectives who have skill levels of their own. You can send them on a case to get accounts of what happened from witnesses or informants. From that, the game will supply you with a few images of what could have happened. Eventually, enough images will become available and you’ll be able to string together a coherent series of events. It’s a simple puzzle mechanic, but it’s nonetheless thrilling to crack a case.
Over time, Boyd will be granted new services that will change day-to-day operations for the FPD. While mafia support will simplify some of your jobs, they’ll also make your life more difficult. Help from Freeburg City Hall is great, but for them to grant your request, you’ll have to please the mayor who has some seriously racist and sexist motives. Like everything else in the game, it’s a balancing act that you’ll have to master to keep the city running smoothly.
This is the Police has an unrelenting sense of style that permeates every aspect of the game. Of course, there are the suface level visuals, which are simplistic drawings where cut scenes play out like narrated comics à la Max Payne. From there, each day begins with you selecting a different song that gets put on Boyd’s record player. At first, your selection is limited, but as you progress, you’ll be able to afford different albums that suit your taste. There’s something that feels so right about managing your officers while snappy jazz plays in the background. Each scene, whether it’s commanding officers around Freeburg or making deals with mafia scum, feels like a cohesive noir drama. Visuals and Jack Boyd’s style keep the game from reaching monotony – even when the march towards Day 180 feels slow.
This is the Police boasts an engaging narrative that has serious legs. The core city management gameplay is addicting, and I constantly told myself “just one more day” before signing off. Although the game borrows a few mechanics from other games, the way developer Weappy Studio has built a strategy game that constantly changes things up and makes you evaluate your own ethics makes This is the Police a beast of its own.
While I’d recommend This is the Police to just about anyone, those who love noir and the strategy genre will feel particularly at home in Freeburg.
**This is the Police was evaluated on an Xbox One press copy courtesy of Weappy Studio and Evolve PR.**