We'll admit it straight out the gate, we didn't play through the full alpha version of This is the Police. One of the few downsides to this line of work is you're sometimes exposed to stuff you're really looking forward to before it's ready, indeed, sometimes before it's even particularly good. We spent around an hour and a bit playing the first week or so (we had the option of playing seven in this early build), learning the ropes, and getting a feel for what Weappy are concocting, but that was enough for us, for now at least. Why? Because the next time we see this game, we want to play it all the way through.
There's a lot of interesting and diverse elements woven into the one experience. The bulk of your time is spent managing your police force, assigning your officers and detectives to deal with criminal activity, deciding who needs to be promoted and who shown the door, choosing which ruling from City Hall to ignore and which to enforce, and which civic requests to send your officers to attend at the risk of them being tied up if some serious shit goes down. There's some interesting topics up for consideration, with racial tensions in the city being the first controversial scenario that you have to navigate.
Uniformed officers deal with everyday crime, and at times you need to decide how they should proceed. Making the wrong call can get someone hurt, or worse, so there's decisions to be made. You can even send SWAT in to deal with more violent situations. Meanwhile your pool of detectives try to piece together more complicated crimes over a number of days (and you have to help them). The various incidents are flagged on an isometric map of the city, and you send units here and there as each working day progresses.
Games like this speak to us on a number of levels, and if it were just a cop management sim we'd still be looking forward to seeing more, but this is just one half of This is the Police.
The other half of the equation is a choose-your-own-adventure style narrative that takes you on a journey from the right side of the law, to a murky criminal underworld. Through a series of events that we'll not spoil, the player is asked to spend the next half year - 180 days - existing on both sides of the law, which requires some coordination considering you're playing as the chief of police of a town called Freeburg.
The story is delivered by our chief, Jack Boyd, who narrates the story. We're told about how we got to where we are, we're introduced to the characters that we'll be interacting with along the way, and from time to time we get to make a choice or two regarding how the story will progress (it's a little too early to say just how much impact these choices will have later on, but we're looking forward to finding out). The writing is, for the most part, witty and playful, and while there is the odd line that could have done with a tweak here or there, we were largely impressed.
It's obvious that Weappy is going for a very specific tone, and we think that the studio has captured it almost perfectly. The script is very funny; we quickly warmed to the central protagonist and his plight, and the story - so far at least - is being delivered in a way that'll appeal to fans of noir writing and cinema. The voice acting was good, which certainly helped ease us into the scenario, and in particular our chief's voice has a touch of melancholy to it which sets the scene perfectly (it's also worth noting that he's played by Jon St. John, the voice of Duke Nukem).
The whole story is delivered in a crude-yet-charming manner, with still pictures popping up and filling screen as the VO moves the narrative forward. It's simple, but it does the trick, and given that this is a game that's equal parts simulation, and equal parts story, the graphical style sits happily across the whole. In fact, it's the duality of This is the Police that has really captured our interest and has us looking forward to seeing more. It wants you to be both a good law man and a capable criminal, it requires you lead your officers at the same time as you manage your own life, and throughout you need to be an expert in the dispatch room and control the simulation, while shaping the story as co-narrator.
We came away from the first week thoroughly impressed by the opening of the game, but also a little bit nervous that the charm on show might not be sustainable over 180 days spent dealing with crime in Freeburg. We really want This is the Police to deliver on the early potential, but we're going to wait until it's finished before we head back to find out.
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