‘Bad boys, bad boys whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?’ That’s usually the first thing that pops into my head when I play any type of game that involves cops. Of course there really haven’t been too many games lately that put you on the side of the law, with many opting to take a side that is in the grey and rather dark, for example GTAV and Hotline Miami. To switch it up a bit, developer Modern Dream created LA Cops, a tactical police shooter based on 1970’s police stereotypes.
I mention Hotline Miami because in a way, LA Cops follows a very similar formula. Each level is laid out where you basically go in, take out the bad guys, and complete your objective without getting killed. Like Hotline Miami, LA Cops is also a twin stick shooter. That’s where the similarities end. LA Cops is an isometric shooter and not a top down shooter, and the game allows you to control two cops at once. Not only that, LA Cops isn’t quite as bloody and gory as Hotline Miami is and is more light-hearted with its themes. In this game, you play on the “right” side of the law, dealing justice against criminals with a swift hand.
LA Cops can be played as a straight up twin stick shooter if you want where you basically take out the bad guys with your trusted weapon. It’s possible to run and gun this game with just one cop, but you miss out on the feature that makes this game different from a straight up shooter. If you choose to play more tactical by using both cops, what you can do is position them in to tactical spots where the cop you aren’t controlling can provide cover fire in the direction that his cone of sight. This works really well when you position them near doors and need an extra set of guns to clear a room. For the most part, the AI is surprisingly accurate at taking down the enemies. Killed enemies will drop guns, weapons, and even health re-gen. Dropped guns can be picked up if they are better than what you are currently using.
Of course if you’re the type who wants to play it by the book, you don’t need to kill the bad guys. You can just as easily melee with your fists which arrests and incapacitates them instead. You’ll probably only want to do this if you’re able to get a jump on the enemies and sneak up on them first before they spot you. Like in Hotline Miami, the enemies are sharp shooters and have no trouble gunning you down from across the room. If you play at the higher difficulty settings, playing this way is really challenging to the point where you’ll probably just give up and go guns blazing.
As neat as the concept is for LA Cops and the rather interesting tactical aspect of this twin stick shooter, it isn’t perfect. For starters, the controls are a bit twitchy and aiming your gun can be a little difficult at times. Also, it can be quite difficult to gauge where the enemies are at if they are off the screen. Sometimes, parts of a room are hidden off screen too where an enemy just might be standing. In this case, they’ll shoot you right away without you ever even seeing them. There are also oddities with the AI behavior where if you shoot someone in one room, enemies in another room do not here this and continue with their business. Enemies also don’t acknowledge fallen comrades so they’ll just go about their business as if nothing has happened.
Those are probably the biggest gripes about LA Cops. They aren’t quite game breaking problems but they do affect the flow of the game a bit. Despite its few problems LA Cops can still be a fun game. The challenge is definitely there and the two cop missions is a novel approach.
One of my favorite things about the game though is the art style. Everything is done in solid colors and has a bit of a minimalistic style to it. The art style really adds a lot of character to the game and helps to distinguish it from other games of this type. I appreciate the isometric view as it adds quite a bit of depth to the game and it’s nice how you can rotate the level around for better angles.
LA Cops isn’t the best game in this genre nor is it the second or third. What it is though is a fun game with a few flaws that can be overlooked. I like how you can play the game in a variety of different ways, either very tactical or straight up with guns blazing. Depending on how you choose to play the game, your experiences with it can change. I also like the 70’s themed art direction although there could have been more of a story instead of just some oddly generic cutscenes.
Is LA Cops worth a buy? That’s entirely up to you. Again, depending on your experiences with games of this type in the past, you might find LA Cops really good or not up to spec. In my case, It’s not quite as fun as something like Hotline Miami, but it’s certainly a bit more “family” friendly than that game was and it has its own unique features that make it different enough.
Review code provided to us by the publisher/developer.
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