|This has been a difficult review to write. COPS 2170: The Power of Law is by no means a good game, and yet I would find myself playing it for hours at a time. I don't suggest you run out and buy it, but I do suggest developers MiST Land keep making games and Strategy First keep supporting folks like our Russian friends. |
You'll remember MiST Land from the flawed but promising Paradise Cracked. That game was a Fallout-type RPG set in a Blade Runner-type future world. COPS 2170 is set in the same world; heck, where in the first game you often had to blow your way through patrol drones and police officers, in this game you work alongside them as newbie police sergeant Katya.
I have a love for police games thanks to the first couple of Sierra's Police Quest titles. In those games, you had to work by the book. Failing to do so, most notably during a certain traffic stop, could get you killed. I know, kids these days love the freedom to kill every NPC in the game world, but you try playing as a law enforcer someday. It's a hell of a lot more challenging than shooting everything in sight. Knowing how much Paradise Cracked was influenced by X-COM, I had high hopes for COPS 2170. Come on, surely a game about police would be packed with nonviolent takedown methods and tough choices about whether to go for the kill and face the consequences.
In fact, X-COM was heavily in my thoughts while waiting for COPS 2170. It's the perfect template for a futuristic police game, though the research component would have to be reconsidered. I imagined randomly generated encounters with lawbreakers (maybe allowing for seizure of weaponry and money, to support the future dystopia theme) surrounding missions that supported an overarching plot.
Instead, COPS 2170 has almost nothing to do with police other than on a cosmetic. The main character gives lip service early on to following the rules of law, but that's the only passing time you'll feel like you're a police officer. The rest of the game is all about blowing shit up. We're not talking in an ironic way, like the brilliant television series Sledge Hammer! We're talking in a cynical way, as in arbitrarily calling the player's team police officers when they could as easily be mercenaries or hackers or just really angry game reviewers.
Let me hammer home that point: Police action is this game's raison d'etre, and it's not present.
Anyway, with that out of the way we can get down to brass tacks. Gameplay control itself is similar to Paradise Cracked's hex-based system. Outside of combat situations, the system isn't much of a factor; you can move anywhere on each area's rather large map. During combat, the game switches to turn-based mode, with each character allotted a certain number of action points determined by that character's statistics.
This introduces one of the game's first very serious flaws. The level maps are often rather large, and are populated by friendly NPCs as well as enemies. In the early levels, that was a huge annoyance, as the characters had to use their (very limited, at that point) action points wandering around hoping to bump into bad guys. In fact, I didn't engage a single enemy early on until I was given a chance to take out some NPCs. By the time I got to each conflict, the NPC police officers had already resolved it. That robbed me of experience (you only get it for direct kills). Plus, it's dull as get-out to do the turn-based thing on a huge, unfamiliar map when you can't even see any NPCs outside your Sight range.
This issue is resolved later on with the growth of character action points, as well as the fact that the same NPCs are facing tougher enemies, and so get killed before they can take out the baddies. More left for your gang to mop up.
Gameplay is rigidly linear. You get one real choice, whether to support your fellow beat cops or a gang of corrupt elite officers. That's decided on the very first map when you get to choose between taking out an internal affairs officer or the corrupt sniper who has him trapped. In fact, it's very possible most players will never experience that subplot, since the IA guy looks like any other cop, and I have a bad habit of talking to every NPC on every map. Even in Paradise Cracked, players got to move around the city. Here, the player is fed level after level in progression. Oh, wait, there's an optional dream sequence level later on that felt bizarrely out of place. Otherwise, you may as well be on rails.
Heck, some levels come one after the other with no break to restock at headquarters. That's got me stuck near what I suppose is the end. I wish I'd known I might be protecting the mayor's mansion from wave after wave of killer robots. Instead, I packed for the mission immediately before it, an urban hostage rescue. The only ammo to be had is from dead cops, since robots don't drop any, and none of them actually packed the heavy weapons I need. I can either reload and lose a couple of hours of play, or stop playing. Guess which I chose?
Anyway, the basics. Graphics are okay. The engine is 3D, but there are few atmospheric effects, and everything looks a bit chunky. That's fine. That I can forgive from a small developer. What I can't forgive is the abysmal scripting and voice acting. Yes, MiST Land is a Russian dev house, but they've had a few titles come out in English-speaking countries. Heck, they obviously got English speakers to do the voiceovers. Did none of them think, This is an awfully bad translation and jot down some notes to correct the grammar? Did nobody at MiST Land think to throw a few hundred bucks at any native English speaker on the Internet for clean-up duty? Apparently not. The dialogue is almost literally painful.
All of this said, I was since when I wrote that I want MiST Land to do well. There are bursts of promise here and there, though COPS 2170 is definitely a large step backward from Paradise Cracked. Also, to any otherwise unoccupied devs out there, it's time we had another real police game. Until then, I'll be firing up some games from the good old days.