It’s been a while since I’ve been able to able to really get stuck into any kind of municipal simulation in my day job, so I was delighted to realise that there was nothing better to do today than crack open my copy of Police Force and “experience law enforcement like never before”. Join me for the first day on the beat with Marc Angel and his implacable sidekick, Susan. (Yes, that is actually what they are called in the game.)
The first trick of policing we get to learn about is the “PDA”, which I believe was what people used before they had phones and portable laptops. With this neat piece of recently-obsolete computer technology Marc Angel is able to bravely to walk around the streets of his city, scanning people to figure out if they are involved in crime. We test it on the nearest subject. Goodness! He’s a criminal! We’ll have to get him, of course, and that means handcuffs. Marc Angel and Susan run after the fleeing criminal and auto-cuff him. Once I’ve called the police van, he’s taken away, presumably to be executed.
But it’s not all about handcuffing surprised enemies of justice in broad-daylight, no. We have twenty minutes (real time) in which we must patrol the city. And that’s as interesting as it sounds. As you’d hope, nothing happens for several minutes, until suddenly there’s call to arms. An old woman has escaped from the old people’s home (I’m not even making this up) and must be stopped. Using the PDA we scan a number of people to see if they are an escaped old woman. Finally, one of them is! Alarmingly, however, she collapses to the ground. Heart attack? Just playing dead? Maybe. We call an ambulance. She’s taken away, presumably to be executed.
So that’s done… More time to drive around this lovely city. Except no – there’s even more excitement to be had. Two cars have conveniently had an accident just down the road from where we parked the police car. We can stroll on over and get the tow trucks in. Ah, that’s good. Now we’re really helping people. Good job, Marc Angel.
On the way back to the car I think about the seventeen minutes of my shift that remain. Since driving around didn’t seem to produce much excitement, I wonder whether we should use that PDA to uncover bonus criminals.
The first few times we scan an old lady fail to produce results…
…but finally there’s a man in black!
And FUCK he’s got a gun! Fumbling for how to deal with someone who is actually a danger to my life, I look at my other options. Pepper spray? That’s greyed out… Baton, ok, maybe, ooh, a gun! Marc Angel gets out his gun and shoots the baddy. This seems to have no effect. Perhaps Susan will help? No, she’s just standing there. Watching. Unmoving. Hmm. Fortunately Marc Angel is pretty tough and – after taking a bullet and a kick in the leg – is finally able to beat the man in black down with his baton. We call an ambulance, and the unmasked threat to society is driven away. Presumably he’s already dead.
Now, though, my attentions turn to Susan. I think she fancies me, as you can see from her body language and general interest in pushing the boundaries of personal space:
My real concern, however, is that she didn’t help me while I was being attacked. Why, Susan? Why? Is is secretly because she is ONE OF THEM? As I attempt to scan her with my PDA I find control switching from Marc to Susan. Aha, naturally, a playable Susan. I should have realised. This also explains why the pepper spray was greyed out. Susan can’t be trusted with a baton or gun, of course, but she can have pepper spray, which is a kind of food.
We continue our patrols. It’s uneventful, with just one other traffic accident to deal with….
Until: RIOTERS! Holy policing motherlode! Those rioters need to be stopped, and Susan is just the empty vessel of player control to do it. Come on Marc, we’ve got a riot to stop!
Arriving on the scene is, well, disappointing. I am not sure if three men waving their arms in the air really counts as a riot. Oh, it does count as a riot now? Sorry. Anyway, needless to say, that pepper spray soon gets an outing and the baseball bat-wielding rioter is unable to attend to his streaming eyes because we’ve cuffed him. The two other “rioters” flee in a dramatic but ultimately nonsensical circuit around the area, and Susan – running around 20% faster than the rioters – temporarily incapacitates for all she’s worth. The lawbreakers are quickly cuffed and put in the back of the van. It feels pretty good.
Actually, discovering that the pepper-spray, like the PDA, can be used on anyone in the city, feels pretty good too.
And I suspect there’s some kind of satirical potential in that. But it’s too late for such jokes. My shift is over, and we’ve been promoted!
All in a day’s work for Marc Angel and Susan, hero-protagonists of: Police Force!
*Music from The Bill*