Game review: This Is the Police misses an arresting opportunity

You are a corrupt police chief in this management sim, playing off the mayor, the mob and the masses. It’s fun, as far as it goes, but it’s also too shallow to be truly thought-provoking

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 August, 2016, 11:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 August, 2016, 11:00am

This Is the Police

Weappy Studio

3 stars

Who wants to be a cop these days? Is this still a job children aspire to? Due to flagrant abuse of police power both in Hong Kong and abroad, it’s tough to imagine anyone dreaming of joining their local force – unless, that is, they have an unhealthy obsession with power.

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The new game This Is the Police (for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Linux and OS) doesn’t exactly paint the best possible picture of the boys in blue. Its title contains a double meaning obviously, both harking back to the standard cop shout-out as well as being a wry comment on the current state of modern law enforcement. Petty crime pays, the mafia holds an iron grip on the city, beat cops are vastly underpaid and the average man on the street is absolutely helpless.

Players assume the role of a corrupt police chief, Jack Boyd, in a fairly interesting mix of management simulation and point-and-click adventure. That means plenty of menu interaction: working out which crimes take precedence, picking squads to send out in shifts, managing exhausted officers, gearing up raring-to-go SWAT teams.

It all starts out fairly innocently, but it’s only when things are running smoothly, when this taxpayer-funded operation is at its most efficient, that the absurdity of bureaucracy sets in, all but mirroring real-life situations. The mayor calls for you to fire a number of your best officers, say, or the mob demands that you turn a blind eye to its many heinous crimes, and it’s here where things get interesting.

But that’s all they really are – “interesting” – because as much as This is the Police has the ambition to delve deep into the issues that plague news headlines on a daily basis, it’s too shallow to ever achieve anything. For example, that firing situation? City Hall for some reason says it has to be black officers – why exactly? What’s the purpose? Where’s the subtlety here? Worse still, you either give in completely or uh, sort of give in – options are limited, and trying to play good cop gets you nowhere.

This Is the Police is far from bad – its cool comic-book graphics, initially challenging gameplay and affordable price (around HK$100) keep it in the running as a decent indie release. But given our current enforcement issues, there’s definitely a missed opportunity here.

Don’t shoot the messenger, though. No, seriously – don’t shoot.