“This Is…” a 2D story-rich strategy game. You play as a police chief making constant decisions, over a period of 180 days leading up to his retirement, which affect not only the storyline but also the strength and fortunes of yourself and your police department.
Genre: Adventure, Strategy
Developer: Weappy Studio
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Release Date: 2 Aug, 2016
The game always starts with a long cutscene introducing you to the protagonist, Jack Boyd, telling you in his world-weary, grumpy voice about how his life is going. You can hold left-mouse to skip the cutscene, as you will always do after the first couple of sessions. After that, there’s sometimes (not always) another daily cutscene, comic-book style, to bring you up to date with the latest developments in his personal and professional life. It’s like a private eye/detective TV show from the ’70s. Wonderful stuff.
Gameplay Video With Commentary
As you start the day, some of your officers will ask for the day off. There are many excuses proffered but a common theme is hangovers. You have to decide whether to say “yes”, “yes but come tomorrow” or “no”. It’s a bit of a balancing act because a) you don’t want to be short-staffed, but b) you don’t want to lower morale too much and sometimes they can be genuinely tired – they have a fatigue level on their profile.
There are two shifts, A and B. Each shift lasts for a few days during which the officers gradually become more tired. They recover during their down time so you start each shift with everyone fully refreshed and ready for action.
Once you’ve dealt with the absentees you’re presented with your animated record collection, complete with album cover art. You select a record which is placed on the turntable (if you’re a youngster, ask your parents what all this means), and you can change the record any time you feel like it during your daily routine. There’s a wide variety of nice tunes, and throughout the game you can purchase new records to add to your collection. Yes kids, once upon a time we used to go to a store and BUY music! Imagine that!
With your music playing (or not, if you prefer it without), you’re then presented with an overview of the city, with an accelerated clock at the top of the screen to show the day passing by. Icons soon start popping up all over the city showing countdowns. These are incidents to be dealt with before the timer runs out, and each has a colour (green, yellow, orange, red) to denote its severity. As you select an incident time freezes so you have as long as you like to make a decision. You read the details of the incident and then decide which officers, and how many to send. There are a certain number of officer slots available per incident but you don’t have to fill them all and you don’t even have to respond to the incident at all. Sometimes you have to run the clock right to the last second to wait for officers to return from other calls before you can re-assign them.
Each officer has a profile showing a numeric level of professionalism. The higher the level, the more competent they are and the better the chance of a successful arrest. Every so often you can award ‘stripes’ to officers, which can improve the performance of all the officers sent on a call. My strategy, which has been pretty successful so far, is to base my judgement on the total number of professionalism points needed to deal with an incident – the higher the severity the more points I assign. This means I can sometimes send only one very professional officer in place of 2-3 more junior ones.
As you progress through the game you acquire special forces. I currently have a SWAT team and a paddy wagon which are useful to deal with armed conflicts, violent demonstrations, prison riots and suchlike.
Once you’ve assigned your officers, you click ‘proceed’ and the lights start flashing and sirens wail as you watch a coloured line moving through the streets towards the crime scene. Eventually a crime report appears to tell you if there was a successful arrest, in which case the officers receive a boost to their professionalism, or else if the perp escaped and/or civilians died, points are taken away. In the worst case scenario your officers can be killed. This is rare but when it happens it can be devastating. I once lost 3 good officers all at once! Ouch! And then there’s the funeral cutscene just to rub it in.
Once an incident is done, you see the line retreating through the streets back towards the police station, and you can see your officers’ profiles ‘filling up’ again as they return so you’re often watching another incident counting down while mentally urging your officers to hurry up so you can send them out again.
Occasionally a purple icon pops up to denote a detective investigation. You assign a lead detective and (optionally) other officers/detectives to help out on the case. The more you assign, the quicker it’s done, but these investigations generally take a while so I never assign officers, only one or two detectives. You leave them to get on with it and occasionally you receive a report of new ‘frames’ as the investigation progresses. Checking your investigations you see a bunch of random pictures showing a crime being committed. Above it is a line of empty frames with two pictures at either end. You also have several witness statements from which you can work out the chain of events. Your task is to collect enough frames and then arrange them in the correct order to solve the case. Usually you can’t solve the case with the exact number of random frames because red herrings are thrown in, involving multiple possible perpetrators! These are great little ‘whodunnit’ mini-games that require some brainwork and provide a nice break from the daily routine of police work. Once a case is solved, the detective(s) get a large professionalism boost.
Hiring and Firing
Officers can become tired if you send them out on too many calls (especially alone), and the less officers you have available, the higher the workload for each. Officers can be lost by various means – being killed on duty; from the loss of an officer slot by order of City Hall (you have to fire someone); they can simply quit because they find a better job, after being sent on an interesting assignment; City Hall sometimes even orders you to fire certain officers! Every so often you can hire new officers/detectives from the labor market but it’s a constant struggle to maintain a decent staff roster. So far in the game I’ve been drifting between 5-9 officers and 2-4 detectives per shift and managing to stay afloat.
Every so often you’re given a directive from City Hall (fire all cops over a certain age, hire at least 3 asian cops etc) and given a deadline of a few days. If you fail, your wages are reduced or you lose an officer slot or various other penalties. I’ll be honest, I usually fail, but the money side of it is not so bad for me because I’m taking bribes from the mob. I hate losing officers though.
Upgrades, officer slots, staff training, hiring snitches and all sorts of other useful items can be purchased from the Affairs and Deputy dialogs. I like to grab officers whenever possible, and upgrade my SWAT team.
There are all sorts of random events cropping up, for example a psychiatrist appointment, where you have to answer a bunch of multiple choice questions to get City Hall off your back, or the Deputy offering a job or challenge to complete for a reward.
I’m starting to ramble now but suffice to say that on top of your daily routine there are all manner of random things being thrown at you from all directions all the time.
Long-Term, Major Decisions
Early in the game I had to decide whether or not to help out an old friend who had got into trouble with the Mafia and he needed me to do them a favour to get him off the hook. I chose to help out, and from that point onwards I became a crooked cop, constantly having to do favours and take payments. It’s fabulous! If I’d chosen not to it would have completely changed the direction of both the storyline and the way I make decisions. Christopher Sand, the mob boss, is always asking me for favours and I have to make sure that he stays ahead of the other syndicate, the Vargas, and meanwhile my bank account is bulging with all the illicit bribes. I’m still relatively early in the game, so I suspect I have further major decisions to make later on. It certainly keeps me on my toes!
… is absolutely superb. It’s mostly Jack Boyd but there are other characters such as Christopher Sand. These are clearly highly experienced actors, the best I’ve ever heard in any game. Enough said.
Night and day fades in and out as the day passes, and each day has different weather. I love the dark thunder storms with the lightning and rain pouring down.
There is constant challenge but never any sense of frustration or being ‘stuck’ – it’s a fluid game, you make decisions for better or worse and move on. If you feel your situation is taking a down turn you can go to the main menu, return to any previous Monday and restart from there. No manual saves though, so you can’t play the same day(s) several times and then choose the best one at the end of it. I think this is a good thing.
Linux Bugs (very tiny)
If your system mouse cursor hovers on top of the in-game cursor you can go to Options > Other > Cursor > System to fix it. A typical example of how much care and attention has gone in to polish every detail of the game.
If you have both Linux and a wireless mouse/keyboard that both use the same USB dongle you may encounter the same problem I had with your record collection (and certain other in-game features) auto-scrolling left so you can’t click anything. A rare bug that affects only a few non-essential game mechanics and an extremely small subset of players (maybe I’m the only one). But it does exist, so just thought I’d mention it.
10 achievements (hard to get); 5 trading cards (pefect number); Steam Cloud (which I can confirm works cross-platform); controller support, although I didn’t even consider it – mouse is much better.
I recently reviewed Beat Cop. Loved it. Very similar concept, same price and even the cop’s name was Jack. While Beat Cop gets the prize for humour, the amount and complexity of content seems like a demo version compared to this. I said I’d be happy to pay full price for Beat Cop, but if I had to choose I’d take this game any day. 180 days vs 21. No contest.
The beauty of this is that even now, early in the game, I can already see that when I complete the 180 days and play again, I can change my decision about the Mafia and have a totally different experience. Huge replay value.
This game has such depth and complexity, I don’t think my long description of it even scratches the surface – I’m still only in the early stages – but I’m never confused or overwhelmed. I feel in control at all times, making confident, informed decisions. It’s quite a feat of programming. I can’t recommend this game highly enough, it will have a permanent place on my favourites list.