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It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate time for the release of This is the Police. However, like the game’s creators, I have no desire to make any political statements in this review. There are plenty of things about this game to discuss without broaching the subject of current events. It bears mentioning, however, that This is the Police does not shy away from the topics of racism, sexism, rape, corruption, terrorism, or other such atrocities. With this matter out of the way, let us begin to discuss the game itself.
As a combination visual novel and police management sim, This is the Police attempts valiantly to blend its gameplay with a strong narrative. At the outset, the player discovers that they are Jack Boyd, the sixty-year-old police chief of Freeburg. Jack has only 180 days remaining before the Mayor installs one of his family members as police chief. Immediately, we are shown just how unlikeable and corrupt Freeburg’s Mayor is, and this fact is hammered home early and often throughout the game. The visual novel portion kicks off the game and teaches us about Jack’s home life (or lack thereof) and his desire to track down his wife of many years. In addition, he bids farewell to his longtime deputy and begrudgingly welcomes a new, younger replacement. Boyd’s deputy has suspected ties to Freeburg’s mafia and, though he was acquitted, decides to step down and eventually flees the city. Indeed, Jack’s deputy was involved with the mafia and begs Jack to help him repay his debts. We are given reason enough to assist him, but the player is still presented with the option to do so. Choose to help, and Jack assumes his deputy’s debts and is now beholden to the Sand family mafia. Refuse, and the mafia calls on you anyway. Whatever you choose, you learn that Jack is focused most intently on making a cool $500k for his retirement fund, and the game allows Jack to do so in a variety of ways.
After the rather lengthy introduction and a short press conference, wherein the player can choose the responses to each question, the game switches to its management section. Each day, you must assign police to tasks that pop up throughout the city. Most of these are 911 calls that require your attention. Often, however, the Mayor will ask that you assist in less important matters. The mafia will also begin to ask for your officers’ precious time and attention. Of course, as with any management sim, the player will have to soon make tough choices. Do you prioritize one type of 911 call over another? Do you ignore the mayor’s pleas for assistance and instead help the mafia in order to make more money? What will you do when the mayor orders you to fire all of your black officers because of a death threat they’ve received? These ultimatums happen regularly, and provide the bulk of the game’s difficulty. Cutscenes occur with regularity as well, in between many of the “day” transitions.
As one might expect, each choice you make carries rewards and consequences. Support the mafia over the mayor? Make more money in the short run, but city hall cuts your budget and requires you to cut a space on your roster, reducing your effectiveness. Suck up to the vile and corrupt mayor? Money trickles in much more slowly, but you can choose a boon from the city each week, such as more staff or a fatter paycheck. Snub them both, and quickly realize how hard it is to operate with no money and a hampered police force.
Music and Sound
While this provides a general overview of the game, the strongest and weakest points of This is the Police are found in the specifics. First, let me say that the soundtrack is fantastic. Each day, the player may choose a record to place on the turntable (a cassette or CD later in the game). From funky jazz to soothing classical, these tracks are sure to combat the stress of your job. Chopin and Beethoven are on display here, along with the Pearce-Pickering Barrelhouse Band, along with a few soundscapes presented in the late game. The music selections fit both the style of the main character and that of the game perfectly.