This is the Police 2 (or TITP2 from now on) is at its core, a tactical management simulator. It tries to mix up the formula by borrowing elements of different genres, but the heart of it is all about running your station, and keeping the town in check.
Set in the town of Sharpwood during the winter, the prologue sees a group of the town’s local law enforcement taking on some members of the Necktie gang, the local drug dealers. Playing out on a turn based grid, similar to XCOM, it acts as a tutorial for the game.
Except…it isn’t. Well, not entirely. Y’see, the main bulk of the gameplay is actual an isometric town map, in which you respond to a variety of calls in which to dispatch your officers to. It’s actually quite a depressing rug pull.
I can’t remember when it was that I lost interest in tactical RPG’s. I sunk hours into Front Mission 3, Vandal Hearts and Saga Frontier 2 back in the PSone days. Hell, I even finished FM3, and that game was long. I think it must have been XCOM (on the PS3) that lost my interest, because it was so nails. So going into TITP2 blind, having not played the first, this opening was actually quite a delight for me.
So, I was a bit bummed out to find out it’s not like this throughout the game. This kind of gameplay only happens on a few types of call-out, and they don’t come very often. What does make the bulk of the game, is the day to day micromanagement of your police force, down to choosing the next day’s duty roster, and who gets the freakin’ guns, or the pepper spray. Vocal protests spew forth from my own mouth when “Officer Bleh doesn’t want to work two days in a row” or “Deputy Why has got a sick cat to look after”. Alright, yes, it’s a faithful recreation of real life management staffing problems, but it’s the antithesis to why we play games: to escape this kind of mundanity.
Once you’ve selected who’s going to be on shift for the day, you’re taken to the overview map of the town. As time passes, you get calls to dispatch units to. Ranging from belligerent old men making dirty protests in banks, to hit and runs, to cat burglars stealing various items, it’s up to you to decide who goes to what. Each officer has the same attribute and stat bars, and some are better than others at certain things. For a hit and run, you’re going to want to send an officer with a good speed stat, should you have to chase them. For the man shouting on the top of his truck cab, do you want the negotiator, or the stealthy officer to tackle him down without being spotted?
Once your boys in blue have arrived at the scene, you’re presented a text adventure range of options to choose from, and to assign an officer to. Do you a) sound your siren, b) fire your gun in the air to startle them, or c) ram them. Sometimes though, it’s not as black and white as you think. Trying to tackle a bike thief with a strong officer, you’d think would be inconsequential. Nope, tackled too hard at speed, thief broke neck. Died.
What you think sometimes as a clear cut solution, can sometimes unravel very differently in the short debriefing screen afterwards. It’s not always that bleak in Sharpwood, though. Sometimes you will catch the purse thief. You will apprehend the bootlegger, and you will be rewarded for it. For every successful case resolution, you earn ring pulls. At the end of each working day, your wins and losses are tallied up, and if you’re in the green, it adds to your balance. You can use that balance to recruit new officers or buy more equipment for your force.
The first few days of November seem to move pretty sedately, as an introduction, averaging about 5-7 calls a day. Some officers won’t go on patrol with women, some won’t go out with the rookies, giving you a taste of how to handle your force without too much strain. But as the weeks roll by, you might see morale slip in some officers. You’ll find you can’t answer every call, and you’re left to decide what’s more important, or what might hopefully have no dire consequence. You’ll find some of your team are taking to drinking, and won’t want to come in. Of course, you can dismiss these soaks, but if you haven’t been solving cases and busting heads, you won’t have the funds to replace them.
So far, I’m painting quite a depressing picture of police life, even in simulation form. It’s not helped, given the bleak scenario you’re dealt with. It would be easy to compare TITP2 to Fargo, to the point of being lazy. I will concede that there’s a bit of a Coen-esque vibe in the story, but it’s unfair to pigeon hole it and call it a day. It does suffer from a weird pacing in its narrative though, and even at time of writing I’m not fully sure about what’s happening.
After the aforementioned prologue, you have a member of the Necktie gang in custody. We then cut to an elderly drunk named Nash answering his door to a Russian toilet salesman who’s really keen on checking the layout of the house over. Back at the precinct, we discover the Necktie’s have 27kg of heroin stashed in the floorboards of a house, with an elderly man living there. So far, you’re thinking, “Ah, so the old boy is a front/lookout, and the Russians have been tipped off about the dope and are scouting the place out”. Standard stuff, no? Following a rather aggressive arrest, we discover the old fella is actually Jack Boyd of the first game, on the run from Freeburg and its mob influence. Okay, so there’s the tie to the first game. Standard.
Cut to Sheriff Reed guarding Mr. Boyd in his cell and his alibi being roused, and he offers a look at a case (one of the games mini-puzzles that has you sequence a crime together with pictures and clues), and then…he’s now working alongside Lilly Reed.
You see, Sheriff Reed has a hard time controlling her men. They talk over her, often conversing amongst themselves and ignoring her initial requests. So, in a weirdly unexplained mutual agreement with Jack, he’s now the de facto sheriff. It had me a bit baffled, frankly. Not because I don’t buy the notion that he is undercover for various reasons (Neckties, Russians, etc) for this type of game/narrative. More the sudden jump from reclusive old drunk to man in charge of precinct, within the space of a few in game days. Not so much jarring and sudden tone, more something you’re supposed to roll with as a standard practice.
However, don’t let that come across as a negative of the story, or the game as a whole. Whilst my heart did sink at the false start of a promised tactical shooter, I’m currently engaged in the game, and will likely see it through.
Whether the story ends up original or a clichéd, trope-tastic mess, I want to experience it. Occasionally cutscenes are acted out in full motion, in a weird blend of mocap and rotoscoped, Scanner Darkly-style direction, remiscent of Another World (or Out of This World, for our transatlantic cousins). Considering it looks very minimal, I’m actually finding it visually appealing.
Coming into this blind has given me the benefit of not being biased. Whilst a bit schizophrenic on what type of game it wants to be, it’s engaging enough to hopefully see through. Some people may struggle with the management mundanity, and having to make difficult choices and the consequences. Those that are used to overview-em-ups like Sims, Football Manager and the Total War series, may find this a new twist on the management sim.
As mentioned, it would be easy to dismiss as a Fargo knockoff, instead of a game that’s trying to find its out story niche. It may be a bit disjointed in its pacing, but its core story is an engaging one, enough to keep me wanting to play through.
Just don’t be annoyed when Penkin doesn’t come in for the fifth day in a row because he’s got an “important gig” coming up. That man is testing my patience as it is.
This is the Police 2 is available now (reviewed on Base PS4)
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a review code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.