Over the years we have been seeing a number of indie titles coming over to PlayStation platforms that have really raised the bar as to what gamers can expect from smaller development teams. Sadly, this ever increasing expectation will leave a number of games that fall short in some regards to be overlooked, even if they aren’t bad games. No title over the last year has quite personified this type of experience as Modern Dream’s LA Cops, an isometric cops and robbers shooter that has players trying to achieve a number of goals as they try to stay alive and reach the end of each level.
BANG! Stop or I’ll…Oh
For better, and for much worse, LA Cops looks and plays a great deal like a 3D isometric version of Dennaton Games’ Hotline Miami franchise, but with a few key differences. Players pick two Los Angeles police officers from the game’s 1970s police force, who are looking to clean up the town by either arresting or shooting every bad guy in town. But, in terms of how this plays out in the actual game, the player starts at one point in a single floor of a building and must arrest or kill everyone on sight, in hopes of getting the best score possible. Which leads me to the biggest issue with this game, very little outside of the game’s mechanics feel like is more than a vehicle to push its point-run gameplay on players.
While the game’s setting is around using two police officers, nothing about the gameplay gives you the feeling like you aren’t just there to murder everyone on sight. Being able to melee someone to arrest them will give you more points, but putting a few bad guys in handcuffs doesn’t offset the dozen bodies you drop on the way. This is mainly exacerbated by the game’s AI system, that has enemies be able to react at lightning speeds by shooting you almost instantly, which can kill you, as one or two shots are enough to do the job. So, any sense that you aren’t really there to shoot everyone goes out the window, since LA Cops offers no middle ground.
Greedo Shot First
The game’s AI can and will shoot you once they see you, but they will also fail to react to any situation that doesn’t happen within their field of view. This means that if you shoot a bad guy with his friend looking the other direction, as long as he isn’t too close, that guy will not aggro or care, even if he walks by the body. Once you learn that the game’s set of rules are far from accurate, it shows that the player must exploit its oddities to best succeed. None of this means that the game doesn’t offer some form of entertainment, but that it constantly shows how limited the budget and/or time was to make it.
LA Cops uses an interesting flat coloring aesthetic on its models to give it a unique look, but past that, little of the game looks or feels like it has production value. Whether it is the bit of text on a chalkboard that looks like a bad Photoshop job, the doors exploding into confetti if someone walks into them, or the numerous animation glitches, the game just reeks of being a budget title.
Thankfully it does have some redeeming qualities that will make this fun for some people to play through, especially if they are in dire need of another level-based point-run shooter. The ability to use two officers, gives the player the ability to switch on command, as well as leave one to give cover. This works fairly well, but is all too dependent on an AI system that is unreliable, especially given the speed of your opponent’s trigger fingers. You can level up each character, or unlock new starting weapons, which can give the game more life, but also forced me to focus on leveling up one character and using the other as bait constantly.
Overall, my time with LA Cops wasn’t an unpleasant one, as it does offer some interesting gameplay ideas to an existing style, but sadly it does fall short on its execution. The 70’s motif is an interesting aspect that could have been a much more interesting concept to push the player’s actions forward, but it doesn’t. The idea of having two cops to use and being able to give them commands adds an cool twist to breaching into a room full of bad guys, but the realities of its AI collapses on itself, destroying most of its potential.
So, if you’re fan of Hotline Miami, and are looking for something that puts a few twists on its gameplay, even if it doesn’t quite succeed, you may find LA Cops to be worth checking out on sale. But, if you are looking for a game that is polished, with a narrative to tie it together, than you should probably leave this one behind bars.
Review code for LA Cops was provided for by the publisher. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.