I’m really pleased to see the resurgence of PC games focusing on law enforcement. One month has passed since I reviewed This Is The Police (TITP) and now I shall write about Beat Cop, with even more enthusiasm since this title actually manages to offer players the freedom of choice where the previously mentioned game had failed. It is developer Pixel Crow’s first Steam project and they went for a game that’s already geared towards a mature audience. So far, so good.
Another police-themed game review, another troubled Jack. This time around, players step in the shoes of freshly demoted detective Jack Kelly, who’s now a titular beat cop (policeman assigned to a specific patrol route). What did he do to deserve this? He was at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Accused of stealing diamonds from a US Senator’s house, while trying to stop a burglary during which he fatally shot the alleged thief. The diamonds are nowhere to be found and Kelly’s the scapegoat (and main suspect). His wife files for divorce and he now has to pay alimony for his underage daughter. It could only have been more stereotypical if Jack began to drink heavily and spend most of his time in strip clubs. But he’s determined to find the true culprit behind the theft and finally clear his name while receiving back his detective badge. Or not.
See, Beat Cop really offers you alternatives. Not just help this guy or not and the consequences will only vary by a bit and you’d still get a “happy ending” with the hero riding off into the sunset. Right from the start, you’re told that you have only 21 days to either surrender the stolen goods or find the real perpetrator before you’ll probably be prosecuted and locked away for a crime you never committed; And now comes the funny, if somewhat predictable move if you’ve seen enough action films so far. What can you do if you don’t find the thief and still wish to avoid prison shower scenes? Flee to good ol’ Mexico, of course! If you gather up enough (illicit) cash through odd jobs or bribes, you can escape before the deadline.
But you won’t do that, right? You’re playing Beat Cop, in order to simulate a hard working and upstanding police officer! Just know that you’re given freedom of movement and choice, unlike TITP which simply assumes that you wanted to be the mob’s beach all along. I’m definitely not gonna swear, but you better get used to the presence of many curse words in this title. They don’t call it “cop mouth” for no reason. The point is, I’m glad the game’s featuring adult themes and that morality is represented with both its extremes in a satisfying manner by the time you’re reached Beat Cop’s conclusion. It’s obviously not on rails and the many choices you make throughout those 3 in-game weeks ensure plenty of replay value.
I enjoyed the 8-bit style graphics in Beat Cop. It is yet another throwback to the era (of gaming as well) it already featured so many references to. I highly doubt that even in full 3D, the game could have retained the charm it exhibits in pixelated 2D. Sprite animation is top notch and the asset diversity is plentiful. Sure, the cars seem to spawn in similar brand and color one next to the other, but that’s a game design “sin” that even the Grand Theft Auto series has been accused of. Speaking of which, just the top-down perspective is missing from comparing Beat Cop to a reverse-GTA 1.
The sounds are sadly not as well taken care of as the visual department. The soundtrack is alright, but for a game of its price range, there are far too few sound effects and absolutely no voice acting. I don’t know about you, but I like my video game characters to be vocal, if not chatterboxes. This is purely subjective and I am fully aware that gaming in the ‘80s, couldn’t even dream of the day in which powerful voices might offer to this new art form the kind of exposure and personality found only in music and movies at that time. Silence never was golden though.
With its already strong narrative, Beat Cop had to up the ante and offer pleasantly diversified gameplay along with an “overdose” of pop culture references. If it was a famous movie character/music band/event/personality during the 1980’s, you can bet that this game shall poke fun at it. For the most part, it has succeeded at this task. Beat Cop does get repetitive during the 10-hour long single playthrough, by my close estimates. But you still need to replay the same days a couple of times if you’re hunting for Steam Achievements or if you wish to side with another “faction” than the one you picked initially. As I already wrote above, you can play the good cop routine till the 21st day of your beat (patrol). Or you could play the role of a corrupt policeman who’s going to aid either the Cosa Nostra or an African-American gang, called “The Crew”. There’s no middle ground, since you’ll inadvertently harm your reputation with a group while helping another.
Fortunately, you may reset your negative rep by paying a visit to the local priest and offering a certain “donation”. Don’t ask me how or why, some things are better left unanswered. In a game in which satire plays a central role, it should come as no surprise that the power broker of the entire Brooklyn street you’re patrolling is none other than the last person you’d expect. Suffice to say, dollars open a lot of doors in this game, much like they do in real life. Jack Kelly could have fled to Mexico as soon as he had 2000 bucks in his wallet, yet those Benjis are gonna be hard to come by because of an ever-increasing alimony and penalty fees imposed to you for neglecting your police duties.
No matter how diligent you might think you are, you cannot finish your daily NYPD patrol and still accomplish all given tasks. Some are relayed to you at the start of your work day (such as the daily ticket quota) while others are more unpredictable and quickly expire by the time you reach the murder scene/store theft/random emergency. Monotony’s being broken by specific missions for each patrol day in which you may have to help certain civilians with hilarious requests. Even Beat Cop’s “tutorial” explains that you shouldn’t stress over completing everything you’re being told to. Time and budgetary constraints would ultimately disapprove.
The boys and girls in blue could sure be portrayed in more gaming simulations on Steam. Beat Cop may not offer the same thrill as SWAT 4 (still waiting for the Steam version, Activision!), yet it’s still a fun and even realistic at times, experience into the daily tedium and dangers of patrolling a New York street during the city’s crime rate spike in the 1980s. The title itself may be a bit on the overpriced side, but that’s nothing a Steam Sale or bundled offer won’t fix. And you have both “cheevos” and Trading Cards (get those before Valve bans them altogether), if you’re into that kind of collecting.
All the screenshots you see above, have been taken by me in-game through the Steam Overlay.