Breathe in and Smell the Seventies
Orange carpets, every room thick with cigarette smoke, and a tiny eleven-inch black and white TV entertaining eight people with a black and white championship snooker match. Okay that was just our house, but how many other postage-stamp-sized tellies entertained the world with a plethora of programming that crucially didn’t require colour in order to fully enjoy them? I’m talking cop shows. Who among you were lucky enough to enjoy Charlie’s Angels in all their rainbow tinted glory? Lucky sods. The seventies, as I remember them, were full of colour and fun. LA Cops has taken this nostalgic and eye watering colour palette and applied it to a fun cop show game. Grab your black and orange carpets and travel back to a time of afros, rampant sexism and excessive gunplay. Splat those bad guys across their linoleum floor and then make an inappropriate joke about it. You know it makes sense.
My initial and somewhat unfair reaction to LA Cops was ‘oh, this is a poor man’s Hotline Miami’. But while both games have a quirky feel to them, LA Cops is much more of a comedy version. Still retaining some of the excellent gameplay that made Hotline so much fun, LA Cops even adds a few extras. In this game, you are never alone. You will always undertake your drug busts and hostage situations with a trusty partner. You have a tasty line-up of six different cops to choose from. I always stuck with the same two: Kowalski and the only female cop, Murphy. Successfully completing missions earns you valuable XP you will need to level up your officers. Sticking with the same two characters means you can lump all your XP onto your chosen duo and level up faster. XP points can be assigned to health, damage, speed and clip capacity.
This is a reasonably short game, but if you think you can speed through it, you need to cuff yourself to the nearest radiator and think about your foolish behaviour. At the beginning of the game you are massively underpowered. One shot and you’re down. One more shot and your partner is down and its mission failed. This isn’t a problem in the early levels but as you progress and the goons become fiercer, tougher and more abundant, you’ll wish it was the 80’s so that Tom Selleck can slam through the door and save you with his moustache and Colt. Levelling up is the key to beating this game, and unfortunately in order to level up enough to be Hawaii Five-O rather than The Two Ronnies, you will need to repeat levels. Just pick your favourite or the easiest and invest some time.
Once you can survive more than a bullet or two, the fun really starts. Each mission is comprised of a building you and your partner must slowly navigate. Guns pointed and twitchy, move from room to room either shooting or cuffing each bad guy you find. You can swap between control of your officers, positioning one to cover you or setting up a sneaky doorway ambush. You can also summon your partner to your position, burst into a room together or send him or her ahead to take a risk or a bullet for you. You need to take it slow, you need to be tactical and unless you’re a daredevil playing Hardcore mode, you’ll need to lock your target before you go off willy nilly. Of course, gunshots are occasionally rather loud, so depending on how close everyone is to your recently dead and splattered enemy, you may end up on the receiving end of a sudden charge of several men all rushing to fill you with holes. This is where having your partner lurking behind the door is extremely handy. Make sure he’s well armed and if you’re very lucky he’ll take out six in a row. If you’re very unlucky, you’ll both be chopped liver in under a second.
You can use L1 and R1 to spin the camera to see slightly out of shot enemies, but in later levels that have big wide open spaces and many bad guys randomly roaming, the spinning camera doesn’t quite reach far enough. But of course in real life, unless you have inner ear trouble or you’re tanked up, the world doesn’t usually spin. Embrace the realism and be extra careful. Slowly slowly catchy monkey, and hope the monkeys don’t all notice you at once.
Later levels will deliberately throw more criminals at you. You’ll get a brief warning and a pointy arrow before a wave of enemies comes charging in your direction. Be warned that as you progress through the missions, the enemy waves will get larger. It adds a fun aspect, keeps you on your toes and spoils your slowly slowly catchy monkey master plan. Don’t underestimate this game. It gets proper tough. Take that time to level-up very early on because the later levels are harder than Kojak’s cranium. Do note, however, that if you’ve got the skills and the dedication there is a tempting Platinum dangling not too far out of reach.
A game that grows on you like Dave Starsky’s chest hair. While LA Cops isn’t an epic game, it is pretty good. Beautifully bright graphics and comedy cut scenes make a clear distinction between itself and the darker and more seedy tone of Hotline Miami. This is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. If Hotline Miami is the Godfather, LA Cops is the goofy Police Academy graduate who blows his own foot off.
S J Hollis Rating – 7/10