When I heard that LA Cops was coming to the PS4, I was pretty excited. I knew this was going to be a game I’d need to play, I’m a sucker for a good cops n’ robbers storyline. If you’re unfamiliar with LA Cops, here’s a link over to a Let’s Play we featured on an episode of the Monday Indie Spotlight.
However the question still remained, was this going to be an enjoyable take on a top-down shooter or would I prefer solitary confinement?
LA Cops takes on a very simplistic/ minimalist art direction, in their approach to this 70’s era cops and robbers top-down strategic shooter. While this choice sets the game a part from most, it isn’t necessarily for all the right reasons. This simplistic approach doesn’t detract from the in-game play, it makes for a clean and clutter free environment that allows you the space needed to do what has to be done.
However there are issues that arise as a result of the top-down point of view and minimalist approach, you’ll often find that its easy to miss when there’s a window or glass door that allows you to be seen by the enemy. Typically you find this out the hard way, when the bullets start flying and you hit the floor.
Another aspect of the game that suffers as a result of being a bit too simplistic are the cutscenes, the characters are presented with just enough features/ definition to accurately determine gender. Unless of course you’re referring to Murphy, in which case it’s the context in which she’s introduced that helps with that assessment.
There really isn’t much that can be said regarding the story, LA Cops clearly wasn’t designed with much of one in mind. The bits and pieces of story that you receive are in the form of cutscenes that carry you into the next level, however they don’t have much bearing on the mission. For the most part the disjointed cutscenes feel as if they’re a vehicle in which they’re able to sneak in humorous moments and remind you that the game is set within the 70’s.
The style of gameplay contained within LA Cops lends itself perfectly to being the type of game that doesn’t need much of a story, but works well as a means of killing time to be played in short bursts.
LA Cops takes a slightly different approach than most top-down shooters, this isn’t one where you’re able to run and gun your way through every mission. As you’ll quickly learn, you’re out-manned and out-gunned at every turn and it only gets harder as the game progresses.
Your only chance is to be strategic, exercise patience, and take full advantage of how you choose to utilize the officers in your unit. The character control structure of LA Cops is different than most, here you’re in control of a pair of police officers but you’re only able to control one character at a time. This is where the strategy element comes into play, you’re able to toggle between your officers as needed to best position yourself for the take down. While you’re controlling the primary character, the A.I. will be exerting limited control over the other by shooting at any enemies that enter it’s field of vision. However you need to be conscious of how you’re setting up the situation, if you’re careless in how/ where you place the secondary character they’ll just become bullet fodder for the bad guys. Done right, you’re able to set traps that’ll allow you to get the upper hand and take control of the situation.
However the A.I. support is inconsistent as your secondary character doesn’t always react as the enemy enters their field of view. When it does react, it’ll pivot as it tracks across its range but doesn’t reset back to the original position. Potentially leaving you exposed when in a fire fight.
You’re awarded points for every arrest/ kill that you make, arrests are scored higher than kills. However as you progress you’ll find yourself opting for the kill, over the arrest out of necessity. Depending on your score at the end of the mission, you’ll earn XP to upgrade everything from character health to ammo capacity. It’s worth mentioning that the XP generated is pooled amongst your characters, however you have to separately upgrade each character.
Even though the game features a wealth of character upgrade options, it shouldn’t feel like a necessity from the start. Early on it feels like the enemies are on par with your own characters, however by the 3rd level it seems like the enemy is more accurate and able to sustain more damage. Leaving you thinking whether or not you should spend some time in the first level grinding for XP. Unfortunately when you want to spend the XP, you need to go back to the level select/ character selection screen to access it.
There is also the issue posed by the top-down perspective when coupled with the simplistic design, its difficult to gauge when you’re about to approach a glass or solid door. As you’re sneaking up, to what you think is a solid door, to enter a room you’ll find yourself being gunned down because it was a glass door. The first time this happens on a level, you’re no longer caught off guard as you’re aware but in the later levels it’ll happen at least once.
There’s also the slight concern that the twin stick controls could be tightened up a bit, the aiming mechanic feels a bit too loose driving you towards the auto aim button. The downside with auto aiming, its turned off at the hardest difficulty.
Even though this game is perfectly suited to be picked up and played in short bursts, the button configuration on the PS Vita is less than ideal. Tapping the rear touchpad is required in order to fire your weapon, this doesn’t make for a very comfortable shooter experience.
The inability to upgrade your characters at the end of the level is inconvenient, as you’re forced to go back to the level select/ character selection screen. If you’re not paying attention at the character selection screen, you’ll miss that you have the ability to upgrade your characters. Within the upgrade screen you’re also able to purchase new weapons, however if you want to equip it you need to make sure you’ve confirmed it. It just feels as if there was a disconnect when porting the game to the PS4.
There’s no denying that LA Cops has its moments where it’s a really fun ride, however its not perfect. Taking everything into consideration the game is worth playing, however I’d recommend buying it on sale. Currently priced at $14.99, LA Cops is better suited at $10 price point.