REVIEW: This Is The Police 2

Aug
07

REVIEW: This Is The Police 2

Loose cannons, Drunkards, Misogynists, Dullards and Doughnuts! It’s all here in This is the Police 2. The sequel to the highly acclaimed cop management game. 10-4

Steam: Released
Title: This Is the Police 2
Genre: Adventure, Strategy
Developer: Weappy Studio
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Franchise: This Is the Police
Release Date: 31 Jul, 2018

Interpret the law as you see fit in This Is the Police 2, the sequel to the acclaimed noir drama This Is the Police! Run the sheriff’s department, manage your cops, investigate, interrogate, and incarcerate. Make tough decisions – and try to keep out of prison yourself! – in this story-driven mixture of adventure, strategy, and turn-based tactical combat.

Is it a simulation? A management game? A tactical challenge? A visual novel? A puzzle? It’s all of these, and more!

Introduction

This is the Police 2 was created by a small independent game development studio located in Minsk, Belarus called Weappy, . It’s their second project and the follow up to the first game in the series, which was a breakout hit on Steam. My friend and fellow writer Jim wrote a very comprehensive review when the title was released back in 2017. Please check it out, as he goes into great detail regarding the game’s many mechanics and systems. TITP2(This is the Police 2) embellishes many of these gameplay aspects, so for fans new to the series it’s a superb primer and very informative article.

In the previous game, Jack Boyd was the chief of police of Freeburg. A fictional US town set in the 1980’s. His job was to try to keep the city on the right side of the law, whilst also working with the local mob and collecting as many backhanders as possible. In this sequel, we find him holed out in the wilderness, trying to keep a low profile from the feds and errant gangsters. Things don’t go to plan and he ends ups playing wingman to a hick town sheriff, who is out of her depth, drowning in resource problems and trying to control an unruly, belligerent, sexist workforce.

Weappy have found an Elegant way of filling in new players with the backstory of Jack Boyd via an interactive letter-writing mechanic. This briefly sums up the former chief thought process and rationale for all the life-altering decisions he made when back in Freeburg. The dreamlike visuals are melded with a Debussy-esk piano piece. A fractured melody intertwines with floating text as he scribbles the missive to his children. A heartfelt and engaging scene.

Content

The game opens with a brief tutorial of the new tactical turn-based missions. This is followed by a series of cut-scenes which bring you up to speed with the whole narrative. Then it’s down to the nitty-gritty police work as Jack commands Sharpwood’s finest law enforcement officers (sarcasm) to answer various crime calls.

Each one of your officers has their own personality(stats), a series of attributes that can be improved with experience which then unlocks a series of perks, These combine to give an overall score. Every call has a minimal professionalism (points) requirement. By selecting multiple personnel you can match or better the professional score. The management aspect is further developed by selecting the right crew for the call in question. A good blend of skills is always the best option to cover all events.

These basic mechanics will be familiar to vets who have played the previous game, so I’ll not dwell too much on them. I’ll just underline once again, the fact that Jim’s review covers them in great depth.

The big new addition to the series is having tactical turn-based missions, these are played out at the end of the day. If you have ever played XCOM or Door Kickers then you will feel pretty much at home here. The playfield/map is presented in an isometric viewpoint. Each cop has two phases per turn. These can be used to move, shoot or use one of the many perks/actions each officer has within their skill set.

Before the action kicks off you can assign four special perks per officer. These perks are unlocked by gaining experience during daily calls. Veteran cops can have a vast array of talents to choose from whereas rookies may have none and also have limited movement. So, it pays to choose your squad wisely before entering any tactical mission. Another aspect is that errant cops who have no respect for your authority, or who are just loose cannons, play out as NPC’s, that is, you have no control over them!. AI takes over, allowing them to move and take pot shots with wild abandon. This may be advantageous in an assault situation but can play holy hell with a carefully orchestrated stealth mission.

Missions have various victory conditions, varying from neutralising all criminals, rescuing hostages, or disarming bombs before a set number of turns. Operations that require stealth are very challenging. One wrong move can raise the alarm and the task will be lost. The good news is if you fail or all your squad dies then you can retry without any penalties. You can repeat this ad nauseam. I once took 4 attempts at a hostage mission before I succeeded. You might think this may become tiresome but on the contrary, due to the random dice rolls, every mission can play out differently.

The tactical missions are a welcome addition to the series. They add a great deal of depth and extra strategy goodness. They may be not quite as on par compared to other heavyweight turn-based games but as a first attempt, they are very enjoyable. That being said, there’s a couple of gameplay/user interface tweaks that would make them so much better. For one, you cannot save mid-mission. Given that some stealth operations can take upwards of 20 turns or more this isn’t very user-friendly. Also, you cannot view any officer attribute details beyond what perks they have during the mission(memorizing stats on twenty-something officers is beyond my feeble rat brain). Knowing who has maxed out their shooting skills can be literally the difference between life and death. You can recruit a sniper for every mission but there is no documentation on how this game mechanic works as there is no mention of any sniper in the game’s opening tutorial. This is an odd oversight and one that needs addressing.

At the end of the day’s events, a rewards score is calculated and presented in the form of beer tabs. These are game’s currency and can be used to hire new recruits or acquire special weapons such as pepper spray, tasers and shock batons.

Graphics “5-80. we have visual”

The cell-shaded aesthetic that made the original game such a looker is back and has been doubled down on. This style is carried throughout the whole presentation and cut-scenes can be either fully mo-capped affairs or a set of comic book panels. They all share a uniform look which adds greatly to the quality of the project. Dust particles sometimes litter a few panes adding an interesting graphical flourish. The subtle use of a muted palette conveys a retro 80’s vibe. The iconic dispatch board map now has a cool convincing tilt-shift effect, which gives the diorama an almost three-dimensional feel. Clever use of vignetting and blur adds to the depth of field.

Overall the graphics are of a very high standard. The lack of detail to the character faces is now a well-established signature look to the game. Artful nuances manage to convey the inner turmoil of the leading actors. It takes great skill to deliver emotion through such fine elements.

Performance for the game is outstanding. Intelligent design choices have ensured that the title plays well on any kind of hardware. My battered old Dell laptop had no problems running the game. During my extended review sessions, I encountered no glitches or stuttering whatsoever. This was on the PC, others system might experience different results.

Sound “Shot fired, man down, repeat, man down!”

The sound design is very much a mixed bag. Which is unfortunate, considering the previous game had an overall tone that consistently fit the genre perfectly. Perhaps I’m being too overzealous, given the development budget for the game and the indie roots.

Let’s start with the high points. The voice acting is stellar. Mr Duke Nukem aka Jon St. John, continues in imperious form. His grouchy, world-weary delivery is absolutely top notch. Not too “hammy”, not too understated, pitch-perfect. His main foil is Sarah Hamilton (April Ryan from the Longest Journey series), who lends her voice to Lilly Reed, a rookie sheriff. She adds a great deal of nuance to a character totally out of her depth, isolated by a misogynistic gang of officers.

On to the soundtrack. This continues the smoky jazz feel of the previous game, with some odd additions, which seems totally out of place with the theme and settings. The majority of the tunes have been composed by Ben Matthews, who was the main man in the last outing.
His tunes are on point, classic jazz pieces with smooth horn arrangements, underpinned with great piano riffs and countermelodies.

As the game progresses the score gets more eclectic, synthwave and Jan Hammer style tunes make an appearance. Whilst not bad compositions in isolation, they seem at odds with the rest of the soundtrack. There are also a couple of licenced tracks added to the mix. One is an outstanding jewel. Green / Red by little known (to me at least) Shep & Me, and it is a haunting ukulele song which on first listen appears to be an ancient recording, due to its lo-fi quality. The song feels as if it was almost transferred from a vintage acetate pressing. On researching its origins I found it was actually recorded in 2001 using some clever techniques to make it sound oldy worldy. It’s an exceptional song, fit for the closing titles of any high-end HBO crime drama.

The tactical missions are the only part of the game where spot sound effects are used. These are by-enlarge a pretty weak collection of samples. The gunshots sound like bb guns instead of normal service revolvers. They lack any kind of weight or punch. The taser sound is pitiful and so is the victim’s response. I’d expect a convincing scream of pain as ten thousand volts circulates around your nervous system, not a feeble yelp.

Gameplay Issues

During my review process, the development team has updated the game no less than four times in the space of a few days. On release, the balance issues regarding the day to day management of crime calls and staffing issues made the game insanely difficult. Even for a veteran of the previous game, it was nigh on impossible to last more than a week before some of the end game conditions were met. The Steam forums were awash with early purchasers venting their displeasure. Slowly after a few patches, the game flow is now much better but it still at the mercy of cruel luck and in baked dice roll logic.

In order to make the game more realistic, the devs implemented scripting where certain officers would be pugnacious if partnered with a low ranking, opposite sex or lazy comrades. This would lead to calls not being attended and thus affect your beer cap points total. A bad day could quickly snowball into a bad week. A weak, poorly attentive and inexperienced staff roster with no resources will only spell doom for Jack.

Patch number four has tweaked some of the point scorings and now allows you to fire officers who choose to question your command. This is a good move, but, it does not address the roster size as officers are not replaced with rookies. You have to somehow muster enough resources with a depleted workforce to recruit more cops.

Verdict

The devs ambition to expand on what made the original such a great game is laudable. Great strides have been made with the overall presentation. The cut scenes are tremendous, some are fully motion capped with superb performances from the voice actors. They add a fantastic immersive quality to the narrative.

The new tactical turn-based combat is workmanlike. It’s no X-Com, more an X-Cop lite. It’s a welcome distraction from the usual crime calls and adds an extra dimension/ingredient to the whole gameplay soup.

As you progress through the story, further systems are unveiled and added to the basic management framework. I won’t expand on these systems as that would spoil the enjoyment of discovering for yourself. Let’s just say that the first few days of the main campaign are not that dissimilar to the original game, but as the narrative unfolds more layers are revealed and implemented. To say that this game is a slow burner would be the understatement of the century. It rewards patient players with fresh, bold and ambitious twists on the basic gameplay. Highly recommended.

About Spike

Old git gamer. I love dungeon crawlers, open world, simulation and TRPG's. Too slow for the multiplayer "scene" nowadays. Once upon time I could railgun dudes for breakfast. Now I'm spawn kill fodder.

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