Video Game Review: Beat Cop
Get ready to walk the mean streets of Precinct 69.
It wasn’t long ago that we were bemoaning the lack of police-centric titles with the release of This is the Police 2, but lo and behold here we are with a copy of Beat Cop in our virtual hands. The retro look hearkens back to the early days of the Police Quest series, though the raunchy sense of humour means it’s most definitely mature fare.
Adapted from a PC release, Beat Cop handles the transition capably. You’ll walk up and down the block, interacting with people, issuing traffic tickets, cuffing perps and more. A representation of your duty belt covers the bottom of the screen and contains the button prompts for each action, making things easy to keep track of, while info like daily quotas and story beats are tracked in your notebook.
Most of the time things work fine, but there are some definite shortcomings. For starters, you don’t move very fast, and the sprint meter drains with incredible speed — that can become an issue when you’re on one side of the block and are expected to respond quickly on the opposite end. The mini game in which you search a car works poorly as well. Both issues can cause you to fail objectives through no fault of your own. That’s never a good thing.
Beat Cop takes place on a pixilated block of Brooklyn circa 1986. It’s got some clever nods to the era and will certainly evoke NES-era nostalgia. Beyond that, there’s not much to it. You’ll see the same handful of cars and people repeat constantly, and many of the narrative elements take place in unseen apartments via text balloons.
You play as Officer Kelly, who was recently demoted from detective following a burglary at a Senator’s house where somebody ended up dead and some diamonds ended up missing — which certain elements believe you have in your possession. On Day One you’ll be visited by Captain Yablonsky, who offers to help clear your name provided you can return the diamonds, but only if you do it before he retires in three weeks.
That gives you 21 days to unravel the mystery, but as it turns out, the main story arc has little relation to what you’ll actually be doing during your time in Beat Cop. So while investigative tidbits are handed out here and there for you to follow up on, it feels tacked on instead of being a focal point, and there’s nothing you can do to accelerate the timeline or uncover anything a moment earlier than you’re meant to.
Instead of trying desperately to exonerate yourself you’ll instead fill your days walking the beat with your No. 1 activity being to write tickets for parking violations or because of a broken light or bald tires. You’ll also respond to calls, deal with the locals, lock up shoplifters and engage in other generally mundane stuff. It’s not bad early on, but as time wears on the lack of variety in what your days look like starts to drag things down.
Many actions you take will have a ripple effect on how you’re viewed by one of four groups: the police, the mafia, the Crew (an African-American gang) and the general public. As you’d suspect, your choices often influence more than one of these based on who you favour, making it something of a balancing act. Of course, should you get in too deep with one group there are ways of smoothing things over if you have the cash.
Speaking of cash, you’re gonna need it since you’ll have to pay your ex-wife and maybe scrape enough together to flee NYC for Mexico. You’ll earn a pittance ($50/day) for doing your job and a bonus for doubling your ticket quota, but you can also take bribes or handle business for the mafia or Crew.
While it doesn’t add up to the most compelling experience, Beat Cop would’ve rated higher had it not gone so far with the vulgarity. It’s ostensibly born from a love of ’80s cop movies, which explains the yelling sergeant, but there’s just too much ugliness from the constant stream of dick jokes, sexism, racial slurs (though never the “big one”) and profanity. It’s not even that we found it offensive per se, more that we found it unnecessary and unfunny.
Beat Cop ends up showing more potential than it delivers on with too much focus on the day-to-day and not enough story elements. It also would’ve honoured the ’80s more effectively by being less crass and more referential with jokes that make you smile instead of cringe.