Game Reviews

A Polarizing Game With Major Flaws | “This Is the Police” 2016 Video Game Review

In late 2016, Weappy Studios released “This is the Police.” The game is time management roleplay, where the player assumes the role of Jack Boyd, the Chief of Police in Freeburg, Illinois. Each day, the player must make a variety of decisions which have to do with management of their police officer subordinates, handling of behind the scenes political affairs and, when applicable, major moments in Jack’s personal life.

Overall, this game was very topsy turvy. It did some things right, and really struck out hard on a few other things. Is this game right for you? Perhaps this review will give you a better idea.

So, let’s begin with what the game did right.

 Jack Boyd is a very interesting, relatable protagonist

Jack is a very well developed protagonist. He is likeable as he is relatable; he has compelling flaws, such as being a major drug addict, being somewhat abrasive to nearly all of the people he deals with, and he is a workaholic to a fault. On the other hand, he is an honest, loyal, hard working man who simply wants to protect what’s his and leave everyone else to themselves, or so to speak. He puts an admirable amount of pride into being a police chief. But it isn’t like some generic superhero movie, where his motivation is cheery, bright eyed and simple as “I want to protect the city from evil!” He simply enjoys his job and wants to be the one who decide when he retires. 

Overall, public perception of the police in the real world has gone in many different directions over the course of the last few years. But really, you could take Jack’s character as a whole and attach it to just about any profession imaginable. That’s what makes him so relatable, and an interesting protagonist for the player to play as.

The game gives the player plenty of things to do and constantly feeds them a long term goal

In the beginning, Jack is pressed with the need to reunite with his ex wife, Laura. Before long, a mafia war breaks down in town, and the player must choose which side to support, with accompanying missions and prompts feeding off of their decision. The game stems throughout 180 in-game days, each spent doing the typical job of a police chief, sending off officers to deal with various crimes and help local businesses perform various functions. If that’s all the player could do, the game would grow monotonous very quickly. Thankfully, the game always implants a long term goal into the player’s mind. Right from Day One, Jack Boyd’s end-game goal is expressed to be earning $500,000 before his forced retirement day in six months. That goal remains consistent until the end of the game.

 The game is fresh and its niche is uncontested

There aren’t any other games quite like this one. In general, human beings have a desire to be powerful — being immediately thrust into a role as the chief of police grants them quite a lot of power, and the well being of an entire city represents the responsibility that comes with that power. There are games out there where the player can play as a police officer, but it’s the position of authority combined with the general forthcomings of a strategy time management game that make this game pretty uncontested on the market. Offering its own unique experience helps to make the game just a bit more memorable.

As this article’s headline suggests, this game was unfortunately far from perfect. Here’s what went wrong

Pretty much every single character apart from Jack Boyd is very, very poorly written

Eugene Chaffee, the challenger, and Stewart Rogers, the incumbent mayor, are both candidates for mayor in this game. They are both stuck up assholes to Jack almost all the time, the former using fluffy and elitist language to speak down to Jack quite a lot, the latter constantly taunting and threatening him with forced retirement looming and being very up front about who he intends to replace Jack with, amongst other things.

Asshole characters can end up being incredibly memorable and clever, but their smugness needs to be earned, or they need to get their comeuppance in some way. Alternatively, these characters can also be reformed by means of character development.

That doesn’t happen with Chafee or Rogers. No matter how the player plays the game, one of them will have their way, win the title of Mayor, and live happily ever after as they screw over Jack over in the end. Even the loser barely loses anything, except for their job and a small defeat cutscene.

Apart from them, Jack’s ex wife Laura is a major driving part of about the first third of the game. Then, towards the end of the game, her mother lets Jack know Laura has left the man she left Jack for, and we never hear about her again. No closure there. What was the point?

Lana is the city prosecutor, one who communicates with and develops a positive relationship with Jack. One day, she catches wind of his desire to take $500,000 with him as he retires, threatens to have charges brought against him, then she fades away into nothing. She spends about a third of the game being a major secondary character, then goes away forever without any sort of closure.
In general, everybody except for Jack Boyd who ended up being a character of any significance was extremely poorly written, and simply left the player hanging over and over again.  A weak cast of characters really hindered the game badly in the end.

The game has a tendency to over punish the player, or force them into punishable moments

At one point early in the game, the mayor demands the player fire all of their black police officers, to appease to a growing public group of racists who have protested at city hall daily. If you don’t give in to the racists, city hall punishes the player by cutting their funding, forcing them to fire a police officer. If you do give in, the negative ramifications of that decision should be obvious. Not too much later, city hall demands that a peaceful protest of a group of feminists be put down, using lethal force, with the same outcome dynamic stated earlier.

Many decisions across the game will punish the player extremely harshly, making it needlessly frustrating and it detracts from the ability to just have fun playing the game.

The two canon endings to this game are the absolute worst endings in a developed video game, ever.

I will die on this hill. You cannot find a video game, made by corporations with the intention of making money off of their video game, that botched its ending(s) as poorly as this game did.
No matter what decisions the player makes, how they play the game in general, or what they’ve accumulated at the end of the game, they get an ending that will make them think “did I really just sink hours of my life into this game for this?”

The two mayoral candidates, Eugene Chaffee and Stewart Rogers, get into an armed conflict where Jack has to decide who to support. Both of them, beforehand, promise to Jack that he will be allowed to keep his job as the chief of police until he decides to retire, which is what he ultimately always wants. 

Unfortunately, no matter who wins the fight, they’ll completely screw over Jack and go back on their word, installing their own selection for the job and kicking him to the curb. Chafee additionally promises to give him “enough money to last you your whole life” then sends him an envelope with a single dollar bill inside of it, just twisting the knife. At least Rogers gives Jack $200,000 for his trouble.
And then, what happens? Jack reunites and gets back together with his ex wife, Laura? He takes his money into the sunset, lives a happy retirement peacefully?

Nope. Jack finds out his membership to his favorite club gets terminated.

The ending always results in Jack just being miserable. 180 in-game days of play for that? It’s not done up well, it leaves the player feeling dumbstruck and sorrowful, which aren’t things a game should end with. And there’s no way to earn a better outcome.

Plenty of games have good, negative or ambiguous endings. FROM Software games employ the Lovecraftian method of doing as much all the time, and it works. The thing is, when they do that, it isn’t just the player’s character getting knocked down several times for the sake of it; it’s intricately done and leaves the player feeling like there was some point to all of it.

This game doesn’t do that. This game, again, just makes the player feel like every decision they’ve made up to this point was meaningless. The lack of any good, enjoyable ending to this game singlehandedly dragged this game down from being a decent enough experience, to being an overall underwhelming one.

Overall, I’d give this game a C-, and that might be a little kind. It does some good things for sure, and can conceivably be enjoyed by people for a little while, but it overall reeks of having been rushed numerous times, and the storytelling has a lot of awful holes that drag down the experience. The gameplay simply isn’t good enough to fully compensate.

The game is relatively inexpensive, so you can justify buying it if you really want. But if you’re looking for a cheap thrill, keep looking.

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