These days, indie gaming is all the rage, and for good reason. After all, some very talented people have worked their asses off to produce a selection of fantastic titles over the last several years. However, for every great indie that receives critical acclaim and praise, lays a handful of poor, mediocre and failed efforts that didn’t come together as well as their developers had hoped. One such game is LA Cops, from Modern Dream and Team17 Digital.
As offensive as it is bad, LA Cops is full of sexist and boneheaded dialogue that grates on one’s ears. It’s supposed to represent the disco seventies, with its crassness, laid back attitude and lack of political correctness, but still manages to come off terribly. As such, what could have been a funny premise is wasted by unashamedly juvenile execution.
So, what is LA Cops? Well, to put it simply, it’s a short and ugly top-down shooter that borrows from better games like Hotline Miami. It thinks it’s the coolest cat at the party, but it’s really just cat litter.
Players choose from one of several unique police officers, all of whom feature stereotypical physical attributes. There’s your black Samuel L. Jackson wannabe, your appropriately named Asian cop, the balding white guy, and the cool-as-steel renegade. Going further, there’s also a new female hire who, in one cutscene, is berated by the chief because he doesn’t want to build a second bathroom for women. I kid you not.
This downloadable PC and Xbox One game’s brief campaign takes place over approximately eight story missions, though there are also several bonus levels to unlock. It isn’t something that you’ll keep playing for hours on end because of its longevity, though. Instead, you’ll be doing so as a result of its difficulty. That is, if you choose to continue playing after the first couple of missions.
LA Cops doesn’t do itself any favours by being as cheap as it is, and its uneven difficulty eventually catches up to it. I’m not too prideful to admit that I got stuck near the end of the campaign, because this is far from an easy game. I played on normal, which is actually the easiest of three available difficulties, but still got my ass handed to me as I approached the end. It’s not because of great game design, or an error on my end, though. In actuality, bad game design is to blame.
An example of a typical mission finds the player’s two selected cops standing outside of a building. On the first interior floor, seven armed guards are on patrol, and above them are even more. In order to move on, one must take out all of those assholes without losing both cops. Otherwise, it’s game over.
As a top-down shooter, LA Cops presents a viewpoint that makes you feel like you’re God staring through a roof. Camera controls allow for things to be rotated, and pressing the D-pad up or down toggles the zoom. However, despite having those options at your disposal, you’ll still struggle to find good angles and properly monitor all of the nearby baddies. It’s a pain in the ass, and isn’t made much better by a shitty radar system that takes up the bottom left corner of the screen if you toggle it on.
What you’re supposed to do is move from room to room, arresting or shooting each enemy you come across, while completing miscellaneous tasks like destroying drug tables. It’s a simple, but poorly executed formula, which results in much more frustration than fun. Even though the developers billed their game as a strategy title, and tell you that both cops need to work together, there’s no follow command and the AI is mixed at best. It’s also very easy to die, and you’ll most often end up doing so in the blink of an eye, after just one or two shots from an enemy. For some reason, they’re generally quicker on the draw than our heroes, too, which adds even more frustration to the mix.
If one cop falls, you can still complete the mission. He can also be revived, so long as you find a health pack and bring it to him. What’s annoying, though, is that the packs cannot be brought from one floor of a building to another. That means that you’ll want to try to find each floor’s med pack so that you’ll have them if need be. Lone hearts are also available for a quick health boost when you’re injured, but they’re not as important as the med kits are.
When there’s only a sparse amount of enemies (say two per room), things aren’t too difficult, because you can wait for them to turn their backs and take advantage of that. However, later levels drop multiple enemies into rooms and expect you to be able to take them out in a split second, before they’re able to fire on you. It doesn’t work all that well, especially when you consider how bad the twin-stick aiming can be and how limited your ammunition can become. Sure, you can lock onto foes, but it takes a second to toggle from one to another and sometimes selects the wrong dude.
Additionally, though you can upgrade each cop, they all share a pool of experience and it’ll take you a long time before you’ll be a super powerful officer of the law. Expect to have to replay missions over and over and over again in order to build up that type of experience, and go in knowing that said points are also required for buying new starting guns like shotguns and an assault rifle.
Where things really fluctuate is in the enemy AI department. Sometimes, you’ll be able to kill someone steps away from his ally without them noticing at all. Then, there are occasions where killing one foe will cause five to rush towards you at once. It’s a bit of a joke, not to mention a huge annoyance.
Upon completion of a mission, you’ll find yourself in the chief’s office with scores scribbled on a blackboard or something like it. Everything you’ve done will be scrutinized and rated, including deaths, kills and arrests. The latter, non-lethal type of takedown, is worth the most, and can be accomplished by going up to an enemy and hitting the melee button. You’ll want to do it while using only one cop, and make sure that the bad guy’s back is turned to you, otherwise you’ll risk your partner killing him. That, or death itself, when the baddie kills you with a quick shot or two.
On the presentation side of things, LA Cops continues to be a disappointing affair. Its voice acting is cringe-worthy, its dialogue is atrocious, and its visuals are reminiscent of a mediocre Flash game. There’s really little to write home about, unless you love seeing Flash-based blood fly out of characters.
Do yourself a favour and don’t buy this. Unless you’re a masochist who finds fun in playing bad games, you won’t be missing anything by skipping LA Cops. It’s an ugly, frustrating, repetitive and insulting mess.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
LA Cops is an offensive and shitty video game, which does itself injustices by mixing terrible writing with bad and incredibly frustrating gameplay.