Before Visceral Games became a Battlefield producing factory, it started life as EA Redwood Shores. One of several subsidiary companies for the conglomerate known as Electronic Arts, EA Redwood Shores has a unique career, developing a ton of titles for EA that you would not expect to be on their resume. This includes Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, 007: From Russia with Love, The Simpsons Game, and one of the first augmented reality games ever made by a major game company, Majestic.
The first title created by EA Redwood Shores would be something more traditional though, and that would be the shoot em’ up action game Future Cop: L.A.P.D. Originally released on the PlayStation back in 1998, the game would get a Mac and Windows release a few months later, before falling into relative obscurity. Reportedly, only 200,000 copies were sold for the PS1, which is probably why the game was not given a proper sequel. It's a shame too, because despite being weathered by age, Future Cop still has some gas left in its tank to make it worth a spot in a PlayStation fans collection.
Future Cop: L.A.P.D has you command an experimental mech called the X1-Alpha, and your goal is simple. Fight back against gangs of lunatics, mutants and robots terrorizing the mean streets of post-apocalyptic Los Angeles. The premise is relatively thin, but it’s just enough exposition to justify the gameplays design and feel, as well as the action-heavy combat that is utilized for the gameplay.
The game is gorgeous as well, especially for the time. Fully-rendered 3-D cut scenes accent a top-down camera view with a decent number of polygons on screen. There is even some color thrown in for good measure, coupled with a diverse number of enemy types and level design without frame rate issues. The graphical presentation also doesn't look as rough or jagged as other PlayStation titles, which is a huge plus considering how rough around the edges this time period was. The sound design is also noteworthy, featuring decent voice acting in an era where voice-overs are usually laughable, and well-done sound effects accented by decent techno-battle music. The sound gives the gameplay some extra pizzazz, and certainly elevates the action on-screen.
Despite the stellar presentation, one major failing for Future Cop is the controls. Like a lot of PS1 titles, the controls are deceptively simple but require players to be impossibly fast and precise with their movements. Your mech has two modes of movement; your standard walker mode a'la Terminator, and a high speed car mode. Both modes are either too slow or too fast to maneuver with the game's controls, leading to a lot of reorientation to get the right camera angle. The jumping mechanics are also particularly frustrating, the jump itself is very slow and so it doesn’t get you out of any pits or holes you fall into.
The drunken camera doesn’t help either, often twirling automatically to give a better view for the player and losing out on any form of depth perception in the game levels. Because it is tied to your movements, the camera twirls to be behind the player whenever they maneuver, which can lead to a disorienting view when attacking enemies. Most of my time with Future Cop was spent trying to slowly navigate levels; they were either too many tight corridors to squeeze through, or too many precise jumps to deal with in the main campaign. These design choices really brought down the experience, playing to the weaknesses of Future Cop instead of it's strengths- being an action spectacle.
The gameplay modes, however, do make up for it somewhat. The campaign mode, called Crime War, is your standard, linear romp through labyrinthian levels, destroying gang strongholds and defeating throngs of enemies in your way. Between levels, you can participate in some extra “bonus” missions, such as crowd control fights, rescuing prisoners, and some other sidequests. These missions are a decent break-up in the slog through the levels but they are also pointless, often just occurring when you get close to their designated area and receiving little payoff in terms of an actual reward.
Crime War is predictable, but one of the big benefits of the mode is the ability to play co-op to get through it. This gives Future Cop a lot of legs as a co-op couch game, competing for points or simply working together to finish the title. Co-op is used to great effect in the second gameplay mode, Precinct Assault.
Precinct Assault is where the full potential of Future Cop is really shown. This mode is a mix between a tower defense game and strategy MOBA, with the player acting as the hero mech as you try to invade the enemy's base. Against the computer, it might be easy (despite hard scaling difficulty for the four arenas in the PSone version) but for a co-op mode it’s quite fun leading to intense matchups and decent replay ability.
A lot of the design from Precinct Assault was lifted from a similar title to Future Cop, the rather obscure game Herzog Zwei. Herzog Zwei is now considered a cult classic that was a precursor to the MOBA genre, and one of the best strategy games on the Sega Genesis. Ironically enough, Future Cop also has its roots embedded in another franchise, as the next title in the short-lived Strike series by EA.
The Strike series refers to titles like Desert Strike, Jungle Strike, and the rest of the series. All of them were fondly remembered for their mix of helicopter action and strategy, although by the time we get to the PSone era, the Strike series focused heavier on action over strategic gameplay. Future Cop was planned to be the next game in the Strike series, titled Future Strike. EA Redwood even went so far to tease Future Strike at the end of Nuclear Strike, which to this date is the final game in the series, but the game was repackaged into something new late in development.
Future Cop: L.A.P.D was considered a very good game back in 1998. In 2016, it has become a very middling one as time has not been kind to the title. Regardless of the flaws the game has, Future Cop has at least some merit to it as a co-op game. Precinct Assault is fantastic as a game mode, and Crime Wave has some fun to it despite some tank controls and drunken camera syndrome. Overall you can do a lot worse than Future Cop, especially coming from an era where many games have not held up by today's standards.
Future Cop: L.A.P.D was reviewed on PlayStation with a copy purchased by the reviewer. Gameplay videos used in this review were provided with permission from YouTubers retrojuice and Kain Prime. The game was selected for review by a $50 patron via our Patreon campaign.
despite being weathered by age, Future Cop still has some gas left in its tank to make it worth a spot in a PlayStation fans collection.
- Excellent graphics...
- Precinct Assault Mode is great...
- Good production values...
- ...with poor camera angles.
- ...Crime Wave is a bit of a slog.
- ...Tanky Controls.