The mayor wants you, the chief of police, to shut down a feminist rally. You send police officers and SWAT down to the rally but tell them not to forcefully disperse the crowd, only to ensure everyone is safe. The mayor orders you to shoot tear gas into the crowd and get rough with the citizens. You don’t, and in retaliation he reduces department funding, forcing you to fire one of the police officers helping keep the peace in a city that is rapidly falling apart. This is just one example of the many difficult situations facing Jack Boyd as he navigates the murky waters of law enforcement in This Is The Police.
This Is The Police, a Kickstarted hybrid strategy/adventure game developed by Weappy Studio and published by THQ Nordic, is a game in which players manage the day to day functioning of the police department in a city called Freeburg. The game begins as Jack is forced, by the mayor, into the final 180 days of his professional life. Jack then sets out to obtain half a million dollars, by any means necessary, before he is forced into retirement. Standing in his way are mobsters, serial killers, and sometimes Jack’s own police officers, city hall, and city prosecutors and investigators.
To save enough money, Jack must make shrewd decisions about how best to use his influence, and exert his power. When his police officers discover cocaine during a drug bust; he can have them bring it back to the police station (standard protocol), or he can have a mafia connection sell it, bringing him closer to a secure retirement, but risking discovery. If the mob tells Jack they intend to rob a bank the following morning; does he accept a bribe and ignore the 911 call, or send his officers in guns-blazing anyway, and risk reprisal? These waters are difficult to navigate, especially when pleasing both city hall and the mafia seems impossible. But Freeburg has many other surprises in store for Jack.
Although the game came to Switch with surprisingly little fanfare, largely in part to the colossal hits that also graced the new console/handheld hybrid this year, I was immediately drawn in and quickly became obsessed with the story of Jack Boyd, Chief of Police. The appealing minimalist style, great voice acting, and solid writing create an immersive, believable world.
Mechanically, the game spends most of its time in simulation/management mode. You hire police officers and detectives, send them out on cases and assignments, and give strategic orders when they call for aid. Whether they fail or succeed will depend largely on who you send as back-up, how experienced they are, and how many officers you send. Send too many officers to handle a bank robbery and you won’t have enough officers to handle a public shooting. Spread your forces too thin, however, and your police officers may let each of their suspects escape. Maintaining a good balance can be difficult, especially as the game progresses.
When cases come up, you will need to send your detectives. They will scour the crime scene, forming hypotheses and taking statements from witnesses. Ultimately, it will be up to you to piece together what happened, but if you do, you can send a detective and a few police officers to arrest the suspect. Eventually, you can stumble upon criminal organizations and take them down piece by piece by turning former gang members into informants.
In between these sections, and telling police officers they can’t go home to finish reading a novel they can’t stop thinking about (a real thing in this game), there are Mass Effect-style conversations, in which you’ll have to choose from several dialogue options. These sections can be anything from Internal Affairs investigations to press conferences. My favorite sections, however, were the ones that advanced the plot.
From time to time the game will break the simulation for fully voiced sections that expand on Jack’s plight, and while the primary focus of the management sim seems to be highlighting how difficult it is to be a good police officer, the cutscenes reveal Jack’s character, his place in the world, and just how far he is willing to go to achieve his goals. I got some serious Breaking Bad vibes as the story went on.
This Is The Police is largely fantastic, but there are a few changes I would love to see. Daily loadable checkpoints would be helpful, to avoid having to replay several days of in-game time in the event of a Game Over (replaying more than one day can get a bit tedious, especially after a certain point in the game).
I would also see city hall be a bit more lenient with required staff reductions, as I often found myself in a downward cycle of having police officers die or quit, not having sufficient staff to cover difficult assignments, having them fail, and then having city hall, “dissatisfied with my performance,” demand that I fire additional officers, which of course makes me even less prepared to respond to threats.
Overall, This Is The Police is a good game, and a substantial one at that. This game is long. If you like management sims and gritty pulp police drama with great voice acting (protagonist Jack Boyd is voiced by Jon St. John, who made his name as the voice behind Duke Nukem), and profanity, graphic violence, and adult situations are not deal-breakers, this game is an excellent choice. I can safely say I’ve never played a game like this one. This Is The Police is currently $29.99 on the Nintendo eShop and takes around 1.1 GB of space to download. The game is also available in physical format from Amazon.
Brian Barnett has loved video games ever since his uncle Jimmy introduced him to them at the ripe old age of five. His wife, Audrey, was also introduced to video games by her uncle, lending credence to Brian’s theory that behind every gamer, there is a cool uncle.
Since playing Super Mario Bros. on the NES, Brian has had a passion for Nintendo games. The first thing he did when he started earning money was save up and buy himself a Game Boy, and they quickly became inseparable. Through the years, this led to his special love of portable game consoles, so the release of the Switch is the perfect storm of Nintendo action he has been waiting for.
In addition to his gaming obsession, Brian enjoys playing drums, writing and listening to music, and hosting a weekly video game and nerd culture podcast.
He is an extrovert, and loves talking about and playing games with others, so let him know if you want to team up and play together!
Plays: Switch, New 3DS, SNES, NES, GBA, PC, Xbox One, PS4, Vita