The work of a police officer relies heavily on following their gut. One wrong decision could be a life or death scenario for anyone involved. That is the feeling Weappy Studios successfully captures in a demo for their upcoming game. This is the Police is a police management game in the perspective of a retiring police chief.
The demo for This is the Police kicks off with a press conference featuring Jack Boyd, a police chief players control who is being forced into resignation. Journalists ask the player about the resignation, and there are a handful of choices for each question. It’s a clever way of establishing the game’s narrative and decision-making system. Each answer influences the news headlines that will print the following day and shows off what This is the Police is all about: choices that are not black and white. Jack has 180 days before he leaves the police force. He doesn’t have enough money to retire and is too old to get a job in a new field. The goal is to earn half a million dollars within the 180 days before retirement, even if that means obtaining through illegitimate means.
This is the Police forces the player to make decisions which don’t always not show all information and at times may leave decisions up to chance. The moment by moment gameplay mostly consists of maintaining the police force of the town of Freeburg over the course of 180 days.
Starting the day, the player must choose which officers to have on duty. Each officer has separate statistics, and not all are apparent. They have a professional level which measures their competency. The higher this level is, the more reliable they are to stop crime. Successfully doing a job can increase their professional level while failure can result in the depletion of it. The player can also promote an officer occasionally to improve their quality. Their energy level influences their efficiency while days off restore energy. What prevents this is the police from being purely a stat management game is that officers often have hidden statistics. A character’s greed, alcoholism, or political have the potential to impact situations. Right away there is a lot to take in while playing This is the Police. There is plenty of stat management, but not all of it is clear.
Crimes are constantly happening in Freeburg, and it’s up to the player to manage these factors and time to report to calls. With a limited amount of officers and even fewer reliable ones, managing time while officers are out is the key to success. Even in just a short demo, managing officers and crime became stressful. Making the wrong choices led to criminals getting away and even an officer quitting. However, it is not the kind of stress that takes enjoyment out of it. It’s the type of pressure that made Darkest Dungeon a compelling game. Managing the police force well is difficult yet rewarding. Successfully completing calls can be rewarding as well with money, leveling up officers, and at times choices. For example, bringing in cocaine after a drug bust gives the player the option of taking the drugs to evidence or selling it to the mafia for extra cash. However, selling the drugs may eventually lead to the player getting caught and getting fined. It’s an interesting mechanic that forces the player to manage how often they commit crimes under the table. It’s a high-risk high-reward system, which is what playing as a corrupt cop should feel like.
Each day ends with bits of story that are beautifully animated in a minimalist comic book style. They’re beautiful in their simplicity. However, these great cut scenes contrast with a bland world map that is covered in white and gray. The scenes are elevated through the talented voice work of Jon St. John. He plays the character of Boyd and narrates the story in a noir style. Certain parts of the story force the player to make a choice which influences the narrative. At one point, Boyd’s friend Kendrick gets in trouble with the mafia. The player can help him or leave Kendrick on his own. The result of the decision is not immediately apparent. Aiding Jack’s old friend keeps him safe while the ladder yields a brutal death for him and his family. While the decision didn’t resonate much within the demo, these choices will ideally influence the direction of the story.
Weappy Studios is making quite an ambitious game that seems to be holding up well thus far. For those who like the uncertainty of games like Darkest Dungeon, or management games might want to keep an eye out for This is the Police when it releases on Steam later this year.
This is the Police was previewed at PAX East 2016 and with a demo provided by the developers. It is being released on Steam this summer.