Review: This is the Police 2 (Switch)

Back on the beat.

By Joshua A. Johnston. Posted 10/15/2018 11:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Fun strategic gameplay; lots of different parts to manage; stylish visuals
Poison Mushroom for...
Storyline drags, sometimes badly; game doesn’t always give you everything you need

During the 1980s, Sierra On-Line was one of the titans of gaming, releasing a slew of adventures for PC. A personal favorite was Police Quest, a 1987 graphical adventure that followed officer Sonny Bonds as he sought to fight crime in the fictional city of Lytton, California. Police Quest, and its sequels, were among the first games to put players in the shoes of actual police officers. The thing is, police simulations aren’t terribly common in gaming. That’s one big reason why This is the Police is a cool franchise: it’s one of the few series where players can step into the shoes of realistic, gritty police work.

This is the Police 2 is, as advertised, the second game in the series, the first having released in 2016. Both games are multiplatform titles, and both are available on Switch for $29.99. It should be noted that This is the Police 2 is a semi-sequel to the first game; while the setting is different, some major characters reprise their roles in the sequel and the title’s plotlines are a lot more understandable if you’re familiar with the first game. At the same time, the game does a good job of introducing gameplay mechanics as if players are there for the first time. The early goings of the game are more or less an extended tutorial, unfolding different gameplay elements gradually, and in such a way as to help players get up to speed.

And there is a lot to pick up. This is the Police 2 is a full-fledged SRPG/simulation, with several different gameplay styles all wrapped around police work. First, there is the main map, where players dispatch officers to calls and investigations. Then there are the text-based calls, where players have to leverage officer strengths to solve problems. Then there are investigations, where players try to string clues together to solve a case. That leaves assaults, which are SRPG-style tactical situations where players have to deploy officers against any number of dangerous situations.

It might seem at first like this is a lot of spaghetti against the wall, but the various gameplay elements come together fabulously well. Juggling 911 calls with ongoing investigations and other crises really sucks players in, creating one of those epic “just one more turn” experiences that can really drain hours out of your life. The SRPG assaults, meanwhile, up the ante considerably by dishing up complex tactical situations on a map where you can’t necessarily see everything (or everyone).

The game rewards success with skill points to improve officer stats and acquire special abilities known as perks, as well as currency to hire new officers and purchase new gear. The officers are of central importance, as players will have to navigate officer exhaustion, injuries and deaths, and even insubordination. Some officers are less reliable than others, or have certain tics, requiring careful handling of the duty schedule. The gameplay is broken up by a lengthy and detailed plot, and this is where the game almost goes off the rails. It’s clear that the developers wanted more than just a police sim, and the overarching storyline explores a variety of complex personalities. Some of the characters are flawed, others are broken, and still others are sadistic or demented. It makes for some interesting interplay… which would be fine if the pacing were better.

But it’s not. The story portions, despite having rich stylized retro artwork and full (and generally competent) voice acting, are long and ponderous, breaking up the action with interactions that are a real drudgery to sit through. It probably doesn’t help that most of the principal actors are either incompetent or morally flawed- there aren’t a lot of major characters to root for- but the general plodding, meandering nature of the conversations just doesn’t do a lot to build any player buy-in. It hurts the most early on, where the game tantalizes players with the first bits of gameplay only to drag out some lengthy exchange between characters. It’s the gaming equivalent of eating the vegetables for 15 minutes before finally getting to the main course. Now, the silver lining is that the cutscenes can be skipped, and without doing a whole lot of damage to the player-run gameplay, since a lot of the plot doesn’t seem to have much bearing on the day-to-day operations of the force. It’s still disappointing, though, that the plot, which has some potential, is undercut by its execution.

Other nitpicks on the game are few but bear mention. Much of the game is about picking the best officers for a given job, but showing officer skills requires an additional button press, which sounds small until one realizes it has to be done all the time. Likewise, character traits are missing entirely from the SRPG segments, which makes it hard to know if you’ve always got the best people in the best position. Also, while the game mostly usually does a good job of warning you before you miss a crucial step, it fails to warn you before charging into assaults without a full complement of officer perks.

The game carries an M-rating, which ought to afford the game to be a little grittier. But even the execution of that content feels a little ham-handed. There’s some pretty awkward cussing in this game, and some of the other mature content, including in some of the calls, feels more odd than authentic. Police work is a weird business to be sure, but this is some pretty weird stuff, regardless.

Despite its flaws, especially on plot, This is the Police 2 still manages to be a compelling piece of gaming. With gameplay that can really suck players in and no shortage of police-style problems to deal with, it’s definitely an experience worth looking into.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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