When playing This Is The Police, it is hard to not draw parallels between events in the game and in the real world, especially those in the US. There’s no doubt that the police have a difficult job of not just upholding the law, but also trying to engage with various communities to keep the peace. In Weappy’s game, players take on the role of Police Chief Jack Boyd of the city of Freeburg, where decisions must be made that will almost aggravate someone.
The story begins just as Jack has been told he has 180 days left in the job by the Mayor, a man that that just oozes copious amounts of insincerity and disdain for Boyd. He tells you to keep your head down for the last 180 days, do as your told, and then enjoy your retirement. The only problem is that Jack doesn’t have much in the way of savings and so sets himself the aim of getting $500,000 before he leaves the station for the last time as Chief. Of course, the Mayor’s office isn’t just going to hand Jack half a million dollars as a farewell gift, so the Police Chief has to bend ignore the rule of law at times to get towards that figure.
The City of Freeburg is a city with a crime problem and each day Jack has to assign officers to different situations. This part of the game is like a management sim, with a model of the city used as a map. It’s here that you’ll spend most of your time, managing the various available officers and resources at the bottom of the screen. As each day progresses, crimes get called in and you must dispatch officers to deal with them. The higher the officer’s rating, the better chance of success they’ll have at a crime scene, with each successful job earning them an improved rating.
If things were easy to manage, then there would be no crime to deal with on the streets of Freeburg, but This Is The Police drives home the pressures that Boyd faces from a hostile Mayor’s office. Every so often, City Hall will set a task that makes you pause and think about your actions. One of the first scenarios is firing all black cops due to a rise in attacks against black people in the city. You could do as the Mayor says and potential earn a bonus like an extra officer or detective slot, an improved SWAT team, or a wage rise. Or you could ignore this demand and face the consequences, which generally means a funding cut, leading to a smaller force.
In my first playthrough I angered the Mayor so much that I literally ended up with just four officers and two detectives to split between the two shifts. You can make officers work both shifts, but they’ll get tired and be less effective, and the less effective they are, the further your budget gets cut. I became trapped in Catch-22 situation where I didn’t have an effective force due to budget cuts, and so was punished with more budget cuts. A second playthrough was much better handled, because I started to pick my battles.
You’ll never be able to stop all the crimes going on, because officers can only respond to one crime at a time and can only be assigned another job once they get back to the station. I found it a touch annoying that I couldn’t redirect an officer that was on the way back, potentially managing to reach a scene within the limited response times. It’s an inefficiency that shouldn’t plague a police force in the late 70’s/early 80’s in which the game is set. Other events will also crop up, like helping out City Hall, a crime family, or a local business with an issue, each demanding a certain number of officers be sent and potentially within a time limit, unless you want to see the relationship sour.
Running the police force doesn’t pay big, but crime and crime bosses do. You might occasionally get a call to overlook a particular crime in exchange for a little financial reward. Other times officers may find things like guns or drugs at a scene, which you then have the option of bringing back to the station as evidence, or feeding the black market and getting a gang to sell it on your behalf.
As I mentioned earlier, the size of your force depends on how happy City Hall is with you, but you do determine who is hired and fired. Firing officers can be done for legitimate reasons like them turning up drunk or constantly failing assignments, but if you feel someone is taking up space when a better recruit is available then you can fire someone illegally, though that may lead to worse consequences in the long run. Of course, an officer can be killed on duty, and in the worst case scenarios a whole shift team could be wiped out if there isn’t enough back up. These instances can hit you hard if the labour pool doesn’t have new personel to fill the openings and the experience those you lost, forcing you to mix up the shifts to have two competent teams.
You’ll also have detectives on staff to investigate bigger crimes like homicides and gang activities. As your detectives investigate pictures appear in the file and you have to determine the correct ones and in which order they go in, based off reading witness statements. This usually gives you the opportunity to catch the criminal, but things change when there’s a serial killer on the loose, sending clues to the police themselves. The annoying thing here was the lack of witness statements, which only became available after confirming the pictures you want selected. I found I had picked one by mistake but couldn’t go back and change my choice. Up until that point that investigation was interesting but that limit takes the wind out of the sails.
The main 180 day campaign of This Is The Police plays out the same scenarios in the same order each time, with the story changing based on the decisions you make. There are plans for a sandbox mode with a bit more variety in the calls that come up, but for now once you’ve played through a couple of times you’ve seen it all.
John St. John plays the part of Jack Boyd well, with the attitude of a world weary officer permeating through much of the delivery, and the writing is decent too, if a bit cliched at times. In terms of visuals, the city model comes to life with dots that mimic sirens as police rush to crimes, to the selection of mostly jazz music that you choose from at the beginning of each day. This musical selection can be widened spending Jack’s hard earned cash.
This Is The Police leans on cliched scenarios and characters, but it represents some of the real struggles a police force has to deal with, like budgets being cut and a city with a lot of social problems. While Weappy states that the events of the game aren’t inspired by recent events, some of things that happen are rather poignant when viewed in that light. At the same time, This Is The Police is a tough game to get to grips with and there are certain annoying limitations. like not being able to reroute police to another call feel like annoying limitations rather than part of the challenge. A sandbox mode will help to keep things fresh when it is released, but even now This Is The Police is a decent simulation title.