Each Monday, Chris Livingston visits an early access game and reports back with stories about whatever he finds inside. This week, shooting thugs in their mugs and then shooting their drugs, with LA Cops.
I entered a mansion without a warrant. I shot dozens of suspects dead without identifying myself as a police officer. I destroyed several shipments of illegal drugs that could have served as evidence. And, I carelessly got my partner killed. Since I’m a cop in 1970’s Los Angeles, that’s all par for the course. But I also broke two doors! That’s property damage! Man, the Chief is gonna have my ass.
The action in LA Cops is a bit like Doorkickers in that you control multiple cops from a top-down view as you infiltrate goon-filled buildings, though here it’s all in real time. Shooting goons results in ridiculously huge splashes of gore, giving it a bit of a Hotline Miami feel as well. Plus, it’s the 70’s, so there’s big hair and sideburns and handlebar moustaches and donut jokes. In fact, the first level is set in an actual donut shop.
Beyond that level, in which you and your partner shoot a small handful of bad guys and rescue the donut-maker, my little 70’s cop drama keeps ending with my cops dead and bleeding into the shag carpeting. The rest of the levels are sprawling, multi-level affairs filled with dozens of bad guys, something the donut shop simply did not prepare me for.
Fortunately, I can improve the stats (health, clip size, speed, and damage dealt) of my chosen cops with every completed mission. Unfortunately, I can’t complete the second mission without dying so I have to keep running my cops through the donut shop again and again to build their stats. Re-fortunately, despite the level being really easy, there are ways to make it more fun. I start by trying to beat my best time. I make Murphy leave Kowalski behind and dash ahead through the shop (she’s clearly the loose cannon, as every cop duo has one) massacring thugs. After each success mission I build up Murphy’s stats with XP and try to complete the mission faster. I pretty much ignore Kowalski’s stats altogether, because he’s not doing much.
Running and gunning through the intro mission does get a little dull, so I stop trying to do it quickly and instead attempt it carefully. I’ve accidentally discovered that my melee attack is actually an arrest attack: I can subdue and cuff a goon if I can get close to him without getting shot. This means I can “stealth” through the level, creeping around slowly and then suddenly dashing at bad guys to cuff them. This essentially becomes a zero fatality run, which I find immensely distasteful. (For the record, I think very little of those who crow about making it through Deus Ex or Dishonored without killing anyone. BIG DEAL. I’ve gotten through every single day of my 42 years without killing anyone and you don’t hear me Tweeting about it.)
Not killing anyone, as much as it rankles me, is sort of essential in this case. Shooting bad guys means them shooting back and things — desks, counters, shelves, windows, donuts — getting shot all to hell. The problem is, peacefully arresting goons means getting up close to them before they can react, and that means rushing through doors, which means knocking doors off their hinges, which means doors exploding into splinters. I’ve never played a video game with such fragile doors in my life. If I push through doors slowly I’m spotted and shot. If I charge through quickly the door almost always breaks.
Despite never getting a completely pristine run, I keep beating the donut store mission, which means I keep gaining XP, and I keep pumping that XP into Murphy, and soon she’s a complete badass: full health, massive ammo clip, increased running speed, and a variety of weapons, including a grenade launcher. And (I assume this happens to those of you who go through games without killing anyone) it leaves me with a major boner for dealing out some massive destruction. I give the launcher a try in the donut shop. It, uh… works.
Okay, enough of the donut shop mission. With Murphy fully leveled and strapped, level 2 is now, shall we say, super easy. In fact, all the rest of the levels are super easy. Again, poor Kowalski has very little to do as Murphy rampages through the rest of the levels. Apart from killing bad guys and rescuing good guys, the only other objectives are to destroy drug tables, which as the name implies, are tables covered with drugs.
As a cop who shoots first and asks questions never, I’m a little disappointed by the lack of options present when I encounter drug table. Surely, considering that I’ve shot dozens of suspects dead, it would help in the upcoming trial if I took some of the drugs into evidence to help justify my actions. Even better, I should be able to take all of the drugs, give them to some low-level dealer who owes me his freedom, have him sell the drugs and give me the money, and blame the carnage on a rival gang. Right? At the absolute minimum, I should be able to snort a few lines before destroying the drugs. I mean, come on. Am I cop from LA or not?
Alas, the simulation does not run that deep. As with every other of my interactions in the world, it’s all resolved with bullets, and the table of drugs is no exception: all I can do is shoot the drugs, and not in the fun way.
I played version 0.3 (September 13) which gives you five missions (though the fifth kept crashing me back to the menu) of what looks like an eventual nine. It’s fun and shooty and not terribly expensive, but I think it needs some adjustment of the difficulty, as it swung from far too hard to ridiculously easy after leveling up a single cop. It’s available on Steam for £8/$12.