Beat Cop Review
The 80’s were great, admit it. Synthesizers had finally taken off, hair got really crazy, and TV was amazing in a campy dumb kinda way. The intro to Knight Rider pretty much sums up everything awesome about that era. In a lot of ways the 80’s truly gave birth to the cop drama. Not to say that they hadn’t existed before, but at about this time their aesthetic finally crossed over into the realm of high art. The characters are ridiculous stereotypes that, in some ways, you can’t help but love. They’re always warning each other that one more screw up is going to cost them their badge, or a bulletproof vest you didn’t know a character was wearing saves their life. Pixel Crow’s new game, Beat Cop, is a self-proclaimed love letter to those tropes and for the most part it does good on honoring its inspiration, but unfortunately, it’s usually at the cost of fun.
After responding to a break-and-enter some bad shit goes down. You’ve got blood on your hands and have been framed for the theft of a senator’s priceless diamonds. That gets your ass demoted straight to the beat. You see, Jack Kelly was a detective once; straight as an arrow. But you can’t stay straight for long in a town as crooked as this one. You learn quickly that pretty much no one likes you. The Mafia is out to whack you, the Crew — a local street gang — wants to see your red and blue blood spilled, and even your bosses are up your ass. All while you’re just trying to make a buck writing parking tickets.
“You’ll be given a quota of parking tickets to write, and maybe one or two side tasks to investigate.”
Beat Cop is secretly a time management sim. It’s a game that asks you to do a million things at once and you have to prioritize them on the fly. A la Overcooked! but with less thinking and decision making. The game is broken up into a series of days, or shifts, which all play out more or less the same. You’ll be given a quota of parking tickets to write, and maybe one or two side tasks to investigate. You’ll write said tickets while being constantly hounded over your radio about fresh APBs, or people on the street will demand you catch a purse thief, or some old lady will want you to buy donuts for her. I didn’t do a good job of selling it but it’s actually a cool concept, unfortunately, the fun got lost somewhere. Pretty much every event boils down to “go here, then go here.” No thanks, the last thing I want to do in a video game is meaningless busy work.
Beyond that, the game often expects you to play it a certain way. It’s got a faction system that correlates to your actions, so when I help smuggle drugs for the Mafia, the Mafia likes me. Great, that’s all fine and dandy, except I hate pretty much everyone in this game. So few characters are actually likable (player character included). I don’t want to help the bad guys because they’re garbage people but if I only do the virtuous thing it’s going to end with a game over screen pretty quick. The gangs will only accept a small amount of morality before deciding you’re better off dead. I like crappy people in my campy entertainment, but at the end of the day you’ve got to give me someone to root for.
“Beat Cop drew its own chalk outline and willingly laid inside it.”
The style of Beat Cop is the reason I didn’t get frustrated with it sooner. It’s just so damn good looking. Pixel art (when done right) is such a compelling art style. It’s nostalgic because we grew up with games that looked like this, but it’s also novel to see a visual style we have certain expectations for, sidestepping those expectations. When people get shot up and their guts splatter across the pavement in all their 8-bit glory the kid inside me is delighted. Equally so when walking around a fully realized city block with painstakingly detailed buildings and storefronts. Beat Cop nails it. And the soundtrack is just as good. Kavinskyesque synth anthems throb in neon and backlight the whole hardboiled aesthetic.
I had high hopes for Beat Cop. As someone who loves Tarantino’s over the top nonsense, this title held so much promise. If the gameplay was tweaked here and expanded upon there, this review would have an entirely different tone. But as it stands, Beat Cop drew its own chalk outline and willingly laid inside it.
*** PC code provided by the publisher ***
- Great art style
- Fitting soundtrack
- Interesting concept
- Repetitive tasks
- Factions aren’t likable
- Difficult to be virtuous