This Is The Police 2 review – arresting development

This Is The Police II (PC) – a policeman’s lot is not a happy one

The controversial police management sim gets a sequel that mixes Fargo with XCOM, but is the jury still out?

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Compared to movies and TV it’s quite rare for a video game to cast you in the role of an ordinary policeman. That’s largely because the reality of the job, even the romanticised reality, isn’t really exciting or varied enough to make an entertaining game. That’s certainly something the original This Is The Police managed to prove, with an earnest but rather dull portrayal of a corrupt American city during the 1980s.

The sequel switches the focus to a smaller town where the protagonist from the first game is back to his old tricks of racketeering and occasional crime prevention. Like the original, This Is The Police II is a management game first and foremost, but there’s also a strong narrative element and a brand new XCOM style tactical level.

The original game came in for some criticism for its portrayal of law enforcement at a time when the actions of American police were under a bright spotlight. This sequel can still pull its punches, but certainly not in terms of the level of corruption in its simulated police force. Although it’s not just a sense of justice that makes you wish everyone would get back to good, honest police work…

The obvious cinematic influence here is Fargo, with a lot of surprisingly long cut scenes that are clearly trying to mix drama and dark comedy in a similar proportion to the Cohen brothers. As you’d imagine, it doesn’t come close to those standards but while self-indulgent and overly long the cut scenes are surprisingly entertaining thanks to solid voice-acting and some attractive motion-captured animation.

But the fact is This Is The Police II is a management game, and no matter how long the cut scenes are at the end of them all you’re still left staring at a map of the town and trying to work out which police officers you send to which crime and what they should do when they get there. Thankfully the options are far more varied than in the first game and while repetition is still an issue it’s no longer the fatal flaw it used to be.

Crime scenes are treated like Choose Your Own Adventure books, where you pick how the officer responds to the call – which can be everything from talking down a domestic disturbance to solving a murder. The exact options available depend on the skill levels of the officers, which improve with experience, and whatever equipment you can afford to give them (tasers don’t come cheap, apparently).

More serious crimes feature a more involved detective element, where you have to study evidence and suspects in order to build up a Cludeo style explanation for what happened. And you better hope you figure things out correctly, because you need results to maintain your budget and the loyalty of your staff. Which means that if you can’t sort things out honestly there’s the temptation to use more corrupt means of getting a collar.

This Is The Police II (PC) – you’ll be seeing this screen a lot

The big new feature for this sequel is the turn-based tactical sequences, where you get to control a SWAT team on a raid. For some reason the town of Sharpwood has an astonishingly high crime rate, of the sort that makes Midsomer seem like a bucolic utopia, and every few days your usual routine is interrupted by hostage situations, bomb threats, and other implausibly violent problems.

But the comparisons with XCOM only run skin deep and the slow, plodding action takes an eternity to get going and is too restrictive in terms of actual strategy. That’s not to mention the lack of consequences when a mission ends in a death toll that would make international, let alone national, news and which the game always handwaves away as if it was nothing.

This Is The Police II’s problem is that it’s both underdeveloped and overstuffed. The core idea of managing your resources and choosing how to respond to incidents is fine but not only does the SWAT aspect not work but as the story progresses you become embroiled in more and more illegal activities as you desperately try and pay off a persistent blackmailer. This soon begins to overwhelm the rest of the game and the actual police management aspect starts to feel almost like filler.

This Is The Police tackles an unusual subject in an interesting way but the sequel still struggles to make any of it consistently entertaining. There’s a good, perhaps even great, game trying to break out but for now it still can’t escape the prison it’s made for itself.

This Is The Police II

In Short: An overall improvement on the original but the lack of focus encourages too many unwanted features, that dilute an otherwise interesting portrayal of law enforcement.

Pros: Managing your staff and trying to fund your department by fair means or foul is engaging and relatively nuanced. Some decent narrative work, especially in terms of the visuals and voice-acting.

Cons: The SWAT sections are undercooked and inconsistent and the corruption element gets so over-the-top it detracts from the main police management gameplay.

Score: 6/10

Formats: PC (reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch
Price: £13.99
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Weappy Studio
Release Date: 24th July 2018 (consoles TBA)
Age Rating: 16

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