This Is The Police 2 Review
Managing a police station can lead to some outrageous circumstances, and This Is The Police 2 doesn't pull any punches. In this management sim, you'll find yourself patrolling a ridiculously dark and brutal main story, while also stumbling upon some light-heartened humor and painful choices.
Sharpwood PD rides the roller-coaster of emotion.
As the police chief of the titular station, you'll manage cops and deal with the criminal underworld wiggling beneath this small town. Though tough decisions help This Is The Police 2 stand out as a fun management sim, the story itself feels a little underwhelming as it quickly deflates into a mirror of the first game.
Breaker, Breaker, One-Nine
When you first start up This Is The Police 2, you'll be introduced to the most noticeable feature of the sequel, the game's XCOM-like combat swat missions (which we'll talk about in more detail later). But after that, the action quickly comes to a screeching halt as you're tossed into a long cutscene that feels like you've been thrown into a small movie you can't get out of.
Unfortunately, this is the trend throughout This Is The Police 2; each new day starts with a brief cutscene you can't possibly skip. If you're a fan of the first game, you're probably used to this and won't necessarily be bothered, but if you're someone who wants to get to the action quickly (and haven't played the first game), it's something to note.
Following the protagonist from the first game, Jack Boyd, This Is The Police 2 delves into the seedy underworld of a more-or-less traditional cop flick. There's intrigue, there's suspicion, there's blackmail. Gangs and drug traffickers make things dicey, and people are wrongly(?) accused. There's murder, there's vice, there's corruption.
Although all the pieces for a gripping narrative are here -- as Jack finds that the only way to escape the dire circumstances around him is to reach out to those around him -- the game instead focuses on basically retelling what happened in the first game. It's ultimately a lazy form of storytelling that makes the best parts of This Is The Police 2 less memorable.
Managing The Worst Cops Ever
Once you finish the game's relatively long introduction, you'll get thrown into the real meat of the game: becoming Sharpwood's police chief. You're going to spend most of your time focused on these duties and responding to calls using your limited resources.
This is how it works: at the end of each day, you pick from a roster of officers who you'll assign to the next day's shift. Each officer has a portrait detailing six stats. These stats show how talented each officer is based on their traits of strength, intelligence, speed, stealth, shooting, and negotiation.
As you would suspect, your officers use these skills in their day-to-day tasks, and their skills determine how likely it is the officers in question will succeed in stopping crime or serving the public. On top of that, some calls will require multiple officers with a certain score, adding an interesting wrinkle to your overall strategy.
Under each portrait is a small line detailing the officer's energy levels. If this bar gets too low, the officer cannot perform any more tasks and takes the day off. Though, if you send an officer home with a low energy bar, it's likely they'll return to duty having gotten sloppy drunk the night before -- and it makes them angry and difficult to work with.
Of course, as it happens, that's just one line you'll get. You'll quickly discover there's a veritable smorgasbord of excuses just waiting to be gobbled up.
When certain officers arrive to report, they'll showcase their expertise in coming up with lame, absolutely absurd excuses as to why they can't work that day. Some officers get too drunk at home or at happy hour or some other seemingly-illegitimate excuse, while others have the gumption to simply say they don't want to work today.
Either way, it places a somewhat infuriating burden on the player when they've expect 10 cops show up to work one day and can only start the day with five. This happened a lot in the beginning of the game, and it made answering calls a nightmare before more officers were hired to the force.
Fighting Crime in Sharpwood
When you have your force ready to go, you arrive to a map of Sharpwood and spend the day answering calls.
After officers arrive on the scene, you'll be faced with several choices, each of which gives you a unique way of handling the current situation. This is where the officer's skills come into play, since certain actions depend on certain skills. For example, you might need a cop to sneak up on an old man attempting to defecate on a banker's desk (yes, this occurred several times), and if he doesn't pass his sneak check, well ...
Other times, you'll run into some officers saying they can't head out on call because they're taking a nap or they don't want to go on call with a woman -- the excuses never stop in Sharpwood and they only get worse. When this happened, it felt like another annoying, obstructing feature developed solely to give you an even more difficult situation.
Sure, there are lazy misogynists in the world, but having so many didn't necessarily feel organic to the game itself.
After your shift, you'll receive the tops of aluminum soda cans -- or stay-tabs -- which act as the game's currency. Based on how well your team did during the day, you'll get a certain amount to add more officers to the force and provide more equipment to your team.
With enough balancing, you should add enough new faces to the force to endure those rougher (ahem, lazier) days and eventually gain loyalty with your officers, which becomes more useful as the main story unwinds.
The game's SWAT missions show up much like any other call does. You'll assign officers and when they arrive, your cops have the option to talk to three witnesses. They'll talk, but only if you give up one of the confiscated items Jack has in his office. Sometimes the intel's good, other times, it's useless.
After a bit of chatting, you'll get taken to the scene of the crime and observe the mission from an over-the-top perspective. Here, you'll manage your cops much like you would manage soldiers in an XCOM mission. Though, the XCOM soldiers were likely far better disciplined, and vastly more useful.
If you've assigned officers not loyal to Jack, or those who simply don't like him, they'll do whatever they want during the mission. This doesn't mean they're ignoring your commands every couple of turns. No, that'd be too easy. These rogue officers straight up have a bloodthirsty A.I. controlling them, having them shoot any perpetrator(s) they run into.
This becomes a huge problem in the beginning of the game because you want to arrest these criminals, not kill them, because you receive less stay-tabs if they're dead.
Of course, that's likely the difficulty behind it. The game wants to prevent you from getting too many stay-tabs early, making it a tad bit harder to turn the Sharpwood PD around. But in some ways, it feels like frustrating design more than anything else.
Lastly, based on the crime happening in the SWAT mission, the parameters for success change. Again, because half of your squad will likely not listen to you in the beginning, you'll probably be following the A.I. officers through the map as they unleash a devastating bloodbath on unsuspecting criminals.
I truly felt sorry for them -- and a bit frustrated.
The Bottom Line
This Is The Police 2 focuses on a number of different features all at once. At the beginning, the game feels a little bit like it's out to get you. The game's unprofessional cops do nothing to help you gain a running start, and you can easily trip up from there as additional obtuse features call for your attention as the game progresses.
The first cutscene of the game took nearly half an hour to finish and each individual scene after dragged on too long. Though, this was the initial set up and every subsequent one became snappier as it transitioned into the game and gave you more control. Once you're managing your cops and handling situations, the story provides a great direction for what you need to do and leaves you having a great time in the management portion.
The two worst parts of the game are the SWAT missions and the cutscenes. While the cutscenes feel hefty, the voice actors do a great job delivering emotional moments and the added camera shakes raise the presentation as the tension thickens. The SWAT sections feel unnecessarily unfair as some police officers are controlled by an unwieldy and brazen A.I., leading to the feeling that you never really have control of supposedly the best units in the game.
If you're looking for a tough management simulator with light role playing decisions, this game is certainly up your alley. It's not perfect, but for fans of the genre, it provides a good amount of fun if you can overlook some of its blemishes.
You can buy This Is The Police 2 on Steam for $14.99.
[Note: The publisher provided the copy of This Is The Police 2 used for this review.]