I am going to preface this review by saying that I have not played the original This Is The Police, as I feel that this may have tainted my opinion of the game. Still, video games are a unique medium in that story generally comes secondary to gameplay in determining a game’s quality, so I decided to go into This Is The Police 2 completely blind. Half an hour into the game, that blindness was replaced by a waking nightmare chocked full of cut-scenes, iffy voice-acting, blunt messages, and a confused narrative.
I am getting ahead of myself, though, so let’s begin by explaining what This Is The Police 2 is all about: This Is The Police 2 is a police-management sim, in which you must successfully run a rural American police station, ensuring your officers are well rested, helping old ladies cross the road, and not pissing about while they’re supposed to be working.
When I first read this, I was very excited. I have always loved games like X-COM, and so I thought that this would be like that if you just palette swapped the reptillians for meth-heads. It turned out that this was not an inaccurate prediction, as the turned based combat and resource management are reminiscent of X-COM, but unfortunately, This Is The Police 2 comes with a big ol’ spoonful of story. Not good story, not necessarily an even bad story, just heaps and heaps of story.
I am not always averse to story in my games. I am even a fan of the Metal Gear franchise, in which the climax always feels like you are tied to a chair while Hideo Kojima regails you with conspiracy theories he just about on the internet. However, This Is The Police 2 has an hour long prologue, in which the only gameplay was choosing between a few speech options that all meant the same thing anyway.
It all boiled down to a very simple plot: Lady Sheriff is having trouble taking over from her recently deceased predecessor, while on-the-run grumpy ex-cop Santa Claus gets arrested and offers to help her out. This was all padded out by endless dialogue that seemed to want to be a Tarantino/Coen Brothers movie but never felt quite witty or interesting enough to accomplish it.
Now, I admire the ambition and This Is The Police 2 certainly has a lot of character to it, but trying to make purposely trivial inane dialogue sound entertaining is no easy feat. Perhaps, I was just less engaged in the HOUR-LONG prologue because I had not played the original. That is probably true, but an opening that long would be awful pacing even if it had been written by William Shakespeare.
Additionally, This Is The Police 2 was definitely not written by William Shakespeare. The characters felt paper thin at times. The aforementioned Lady Sheriff’s entire character was that she is both a lady and a sheriff. Every line she spoke was her explaining how being a lady and a sheriff was hard. This kind of feminist message would be fine, but when your entire character is based around the point the writer is trying to make, that’s not good writing.
Meanwhile, there’s another policeman named Charlie who’s entire character is being an asshole. While arresting a suspected drug trafficker, he smacks the perp’s head (who is a seemingly helpless old man) on the table while holding a gun to his head, beating him and yelling about how much he hates ‘trash’ and ‘scum’. The game seems to be heading for a message about police brutality but when your characters feel like cartoon characters you fail completely to make a nuanced point about such a tough real-world issue.
It’s much the same as how you see people claiming Bethesda nobly tackled the issue of Nazism in their Wolfenstein games, but then you play it and the Nazis are silly mustache-twirling villains trying to conquer the galaxy through their armies of super zombie soldiers and killer robot dogs.
Now, once the hour prologue is over, you actually begin This Is The Police 2 properly. For what it’s worth, the game picks up a lot and is fairly enjoyable. You are given a selection of differently skilled officers, limited equipment, and a town to defend from crime. You have to respond to 911 calls and arrest as many perpetrators as possible. This usually comes in the form of selecting different responses based on your officer’s skills. For example, if you have a slow cop who is good at negotiating, you’ll probably try to have him talk the criminal down rather than engage in a lengthy foot-chase.
There are also detective cases, where you have to have smarter cops search for clues before you select who you think is guilty. I found the management side of the game as a lot of fun, especially how they gave many of your officers distinct personalities. Some of your officers are sexist and refuse to work with too many women, others are arrogant and ignore you orders, while some just don’t turn up for work sometimes. The game made a good effort to simulate running a police station, and I appreciated it.
The rest of the gameplay comes in the form of tactical operations. These are missions that require you to take direct control, and it plays out much like X-COM. You move your officers around the map, and then the suspects get a turn to do the same. Your officers can use different equipment, such as tasers, batons or their trusty revolver, to take criminals down, with non-lethal takedowns giving you better ratings and rewards.
Depending on your officers’ skills, they also gain a variety of different perks you can use, such as being able to silently leap through windows or force people to surrender just by shouting at them. I found these tactical sections functional but nothing special. Since it is trying to be relatively realistic, this means that the enemy selection is limited to ‘drug addict’ and ‘drug addict’s mum’, which means they get a bit stale after a while. Additionally, it doesn’t feel as fluid or intense as X-COM, and I found myself breezing through most of the missions with ease.
This Is The Police 2 uses cell-shaded graphics to give it a stylish look. The game looks stark and bleak, which fits well with the wintry settings and dark tone. My only real complaint is that this style makes it tough to tell who each officer is a first glance, as they all wear the same outfits and mute colors.
Compared to something like Invisible Inc, which also goes for an intentionally stylistic look but makes an effort to make the characters visually distinct in missions, it falls a bit short, but there is still a certain appeal to the blank faces and fluid movements in cutscenes.
Overall, I find it hard to say whether or not I would recommend This Is The Police 2. The game had some definite issues in its pacing, difficulty, and writing, but there were still parts I found myself enjoying. I liked the feel of running the day-to-day life of a small town police station and found the detective cases interesting and tactical missions fairly enjoyable. It just felt bogged down by its narrative and unoriginal gameplay.
As mentioned before, I have not played the first This Is The Police, so perhaps if I had I would have been more engaged by the unfolding plot. If you were a fan of the original, you will probably enjoy this one too, as there was nothing too shoddy in the gameplay department to make me stop playing. If you want more X-COM style action or Rimworld style sim-management, there are better titles out there to scratch those particular itches.
This Is The Police 2 is available to purchase for PC from Steam and other online distribution platforms.