Freshly off his milestone 60th birthday, Freeburg’s police chief Jack Boyd leads a press conference in front of media regarding his upcoming retirement. After the latest corruption scandal, the mayor has decided to push Jack out of office in favor of something new, although he can spend his last 180 days to try and earn enough money for his retirement. In a city as dishonest as Freeburg, you are forced to balance real emergency calls with personal requests from city hall and even “favors” from the mafia.
Over the course of his last 180 days, you’ll spend your time managing your staff of police officers and detectives across two different shifts. At the same time, you must prepare for your retirement, and that means riding the thin line of right and wrong. Do you turn down personal requests from city hall or threats from the local mafia, or do you allow yourself to turn into a greedy “yes” man? With the lofty goal of half a million dollars, Jack has no chance but to bend a few laws without getting caught, if he is to enjoy his retirement.
Although Jack Boyd has been a man in blue for quite some time, the city of Freeburg is quite a cesspool of crime. This Is the Police is a story of two different game mechanics, one involving a management simulation, where you are directing your officers to various emergency calls, and handling investigations and the other is the overarching narrative told through noir inspired sequences. If Weappy Studio had included a management-only mode, where you could spend as long as you want in the game without a story, I might have enjoyed my time with the game that much more. As it stands, the actual gameplay portion of the game is sublime, but I never felt connected to Jack and found myself wanting to skip over the narrative completely, Of course, this proves folly, as you are frequently required to make decisions that will alter the way the game plays out. Making these types of decisions blindly doesn’t bode well, and make enough mistakes, and you’ll end up having to start a new game well before you hit the 180-day mark.
Getting into the specifics, you must assign officers to the various calls that will come through during each shift. As time moves on, calls will come in, and it is up to you to judge the severity of the situation. All of your officers are assigned a rating that can increase or decrease based on the result of the cases they have been assigned, as well as a rank. The higher the rating, the better chance they have at arresting the criminal. Sending two officers with lower than average ratings and the criminal will most likely escape, or worse. Disappointedly, I felt there is a certain amount of randomness tied to the results of some of the crimes. More than a few times, I’ve sent multiple officers that should have had no problem, but instead couldn’t capture the assailant, losing rating in the process. Lose too much rating, and those officers will likely never be successful.
Every so often, you will get a request from a city hall or the mayor, some of which are downright despicable in nature. Clearly, the developers were trying to make you think about how to act in these situations, but herein lies the problem. At first, I tried to play as a squeaky clean cop, ignoring the deplorable request by the mayor to fire all black police officers and trying not to get involved with the mob, but it seems to play like this is impossible. I only made it to day ten before I was promptly arrested for ignoring the mayor’s requests. While turning a blind eye to the mob’s actions may prove lucrative, I found myself trying to stay on the right side of the law. If you don’t play along, you’ll find yourself as their next target. Although the game gives the illusion of freedom of choice, you don’t.
Between shifts, you must listen to requests, whether one officer wants to take the day off because they are feeling sick or because they stayed up late last night. You can either approve or deny their request or force them to come in on their off shift instead. Once a call is answered, and you send the officers to respond, you are unable to reroute them to a different location. The bigger your staff, the more calls you will be able to answer. This is primarily handled by appeasing city hall with all of their special assignments IF you play ball with them, they will approve your requests of allowing you to hire someone new, or even giving your current staff pay increase. Of course, you can also fire anyone you wish, but unless you have a legitimate reason to do so, you could face a severe penalty.
Your pool of detectives handles bigger cases that can take days to investigate. These cases are usually tied to homicide or more severe crimes linked to the various gangs that infest the city. As your detectives investigate, you are given a set amount of pictures that you must use to reenact the crime in the proper order, based on witness testimonials. Regrettably, This Is the Police doesn’t include a sandbox mode at this point, so each playthrough will recycle the same cases that you've already seen. The narrative will change based on the decisions that you make, but I just can’t see myself playing through the same scenario multiple times.
Although Jon St. John (known for voicing Duke Nukem) is the voice of Jack Boyd, I found myself not genuinely caring how the narrative played out. I thoroughly enjoyed the management sim portion of the game and could see myself play through a sandbox mode for quite some time, if one is ever added. Add randomized cases and crimes, and it could be something special, but as it is, the lack of true freedom in the narrative holds the game back. Having your playthrough cut short after only a handful of days because you wouldn’t listen to the mayor’s racist request is something that should not happen. Don’t give the player a false sense of choice when in practice there is only one way to play the game.
Note: This Is the Police was reviewed using a digital PlayStation 4 copy of the game, provided by the publisher.