Developed By: Mighty Morgan
Published By: Hypetrain Digital
Category: Top-Down Shooter
Release Date: 09.19.2019
Crime-stopping action has always been a theme that has been present in gaming and we continue that storied tradition with Police Stories. As a top-down shooter you will work room to room clearing it of criminals and contraband. Think Hotline Miami — but tactical and precise, where one wrong move can mean instant death for you or your partner. Rules of the law apply to you as well, so don’t go in guns blazing. You must make on the fly choices with a ton on the line.
This is the story of John Rimes and Rick Jones. Partners in law, who take down the baddies with extreme prejudice. As you unravel the plans of the gangs and criminals of the city it is up to you to take them down the hard way. The story isn’t very deep and is filled with tropes and call-backs to other crime films. The writing in general is a little rough, but you don’t really need to pay much attention to it to enjoy the well-made gameplay. They go for the True Detective style of storytelling, where the main characters are being interviewed as older men in the present and the game you are playing through is them in the past. It all works, but isn’t something that is going to wow you.
As we get into the meat and potatoes of this title, we have some serious inspirations from Hotline Miami. They have everything from the perspective to the pixelated graphics with an added line of sight system that makes it so you can’t see what is up ahead unless they speak, or you look directly at them. The gameplay might mimic Hotline Miami in substance, but the way you play it is altogether different. You must take your time and make tactical decisions as you move through the house in order to properly take down the baddies, while also not getting yourself killed.
The first system you will be working with is a call out system in which you demand the criminal give themselves up. This works sometimes as they drop their weapon and get on their knees for you to cuff them, but at times they grab a gun and start shooting. It is in these moments that you will have to be quick in making the decision whether to shoot or detain. Along with that you have a melee strike as well as your regular gunfire that allows you to get close and throw a couple punches to convince the target to give themselves up. This works well in small settings, like bathrooms, and when the criminal decides to jaw his mouth at you rather than get down, but when covering distances or in large rooms you will have to focus on the decision to shoot.
From there your character is equipped with a number of tactical items that can aid in each level. From weapon upgrades, to medkits, to flashbangs and door explosives, you have a lot to work with and an added level of depth to what you are doing. Some items don’t work very well for your main character due to wonkiness with the systems, but since you have an AI buddy with you I just took any of those items and tossed them on him as you have the ability to command him to do different actions. I wish there was a better system to attach yourself to a door or something like that for breaching and clearing properly, but if you don’t manually get cover when that door pops open you could be in the line of fire, regardless of the flash bang your partner just tossed. Besides the hindered abilities these items are still a ton of fun and add a lot to the basic setup this game offers.
As I mentioned, you have a partner with you as you move through the home and it is crucial to give him good commands in order to help you through the level. You can set him up in a location to cover you, as well as give basic commands to move to certain places or open doors. Beyond that he also gets the tactical items I mentioned, and you can order him to use them in place of doing them yourself. You are each limited to three items you can carry around at the start, and although I never felt like I needed a ton more, I do wish with the lack of true cover mechanics that I could have attached more of those breaching items to Rick in order to allow myself some more flexibility.
The main reason I wish there was a bit more polish to how the movement, line of sight, and cover system work is because the game is already very difficult. One shot kills you, so when busting through a door you could be running right into a guy with a shotgun ready to end your run. Also, in standard mode, you cannot progress to the next level until obtaining a certain number of points. You gain points by properly taking down enemies, not getting hurt, and finding contraband. With all of this combined I had to make multiple runs per level already to try to get the proper point total, but then with the wonkiness to traversal mechanics you lose a lot purely because of how the game works, unfortunately. Your characters are very slow and plodding, which allows for better tactical precision, but at times a dive or sprint feature would allow for a back-up to making the wrong choice or being setup for failure based on the random placement of enemies. This would allow for faster gameplay, which is the opposite of what the developers wanted so I understand the omission, but I wish there was some fix to this rough edge. I also wish once you looked at an enemy he stayed on your screen, but sadly you have to maintain eye contact in order to see what they are doing. So, you can walk into a room with three enemies and have them all jump to their knees giving themselves up. Then as you move through and take your eyes of one, they can jump up and attack you while your handcuffing someone else and you never would see it coming. I am sure this is by design at well, but it feels like manufactured difficulty over and over again through systems. Luckily, there is an easy mode that makes it easier to rack up points, and perps seem to give themselves up more easily, but it is still the same basic gameplay and mechanics.
Police Stories is a well-crafted top-down shooter and deserves to be mentioned in the genre. The gameplay is a ton of fun, regardless of its frustration and difficulty, and I found myself playing levels dozens of times looking for a better score. The story is forgettable and trope-filled but doesn’t hinder the experience. The loadout system is great and tactical items add just the right amount of strategy to this action title. The game is better suited to co-op so that you have increased vision and movement as a team, and when playing with someone else most of my gripes dissolve. However, this is also a single player title, and so those issues must be kept in mind for those planning on playing through it in that fashion. Despite the flaws, I can easily recommend this to established fans of the genre or anyone who likes tactical shooters.
Buy Now – $14.99
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*The Switch Effect was provided a review code for this game*