Following on from This is the Police which released in 2016, This is the Police 2 opts to present a much grander offering consisting of various styles mashed together into a jack-of-all-trades type experience. Part visual novel, part management sim and part turn-based tactical RPG. Developers Weappy have moved on from the original locale of Freeburg and instead places the cast of undesirables, and those who govern them in the snowy town of Sharpwood. You play as character and ex Police Chief Jack Boyd (Warren Nash) who in the first game had to escape an investigation from the FBI. Without going into too much details here, Sharpwood becomes the perfect backwater town for Jack to find his feet once more. The question remains, is the ride a worthwhile one?
I am just going to jump right in here. I did not play the original game and quite early on you are asked some questions pertaining to past events that present themselves in quite a jarring manner. Whilst it’s pretty easy to relate to Jack and his plight thanks to some excellent storytelling, script and performances, the lack of knowledge of the past put me somewhat at a disadvantage, as far as the overall plot is concerned. You can get by though and pick things up fairly well. That said, a handy introduction sequence at the start of the game could have helped newcomers.
So where does one start with the gameplay. Interestingly, the very first thing you do is learn the tactical turn-based gameplay which is the newest addition. It follows the same template as every other turn-based tactical game except you have a choice to play nice with the bad guys by cuffing them, or gun them down in cold blood. Each cop character has a set of skills which can be developed outside of these missions, and it becomes evident pretty much right away that you’re dealing with a random set of characters and their mix-and-match personalities. After the initial tutorial pleasantries are out the way, a bit of banter with regards to the story you’re then thrown in at the deep end to manage the squad of officers, solve crimes of the city and take down the criminals in the tactical moments.
This is the Police 2 can be an unforgiving nightmare, in fact it revels in chaos by design. What I really didn’t like is how the random element can royally mess you up forcing a restart or just giving you a poor showing for the day if you endure its rolls of the dice. There is no middle-ground and if you do want to try again to face a new set of random parameters then you need to start the whole day over again which can take up to half an hour depending on the events of the day. Effectively you’re babysitting a bunch of moron cops who either get drunk the previous night and cause accidents at work, like to skive off for the most pathetic of reasons, don’t play nice with each other and disobey your orders in the heat of battle. So you really have to manage the force well, except this too is a pain in the butt. Their behavior is totally unrealistic for the sake of drama in the gameplay and it does grate.
As the chief, you get an aerial view of Sharpwood where jobs are sent in via radio against a strict time limit and with a star rating requirement. If your cops don’t have the required star rating between them, you have to ignore the job leaving the criminals to escape and civilians to die. It sucks, because as chief you have to manage which cops to send out (they tire easily or won’t work more than one consecutive day at a time). Each cop has a star rating which basically means how good they are at the job, coupled with the skills that they have acquired along the way each time they level up. The star rating will also increase if they successfully solve the crimes. I found that there was mostly too much politics between the officers to be totally efficient, making your team lackluster right from the off. Some cops don’t want to be paired with lower rated partners, others not with women and so on. Making it potentially more difficult than it should. What would have been a more fair approach is to let players send in the cops even if the star requirement isn’t met. At least then they could have made the encounter more difficult depending on which cops are on the team. For me at least it was no fun having to ignore an entire day’s worth of calls simply because none of my cops were rated high enough, or when the random element decided to make my star players injured or not show up for work or decide they want to play cards instead of working. Too much rubbish to contend with, where the game tries hard to humanize the characters by making them utter shit personalities to deal with.
The game’s recruitment is tied to ring-pulls from cans of beer. You are given these at the end of each shift depending on how many crimes you have solved. However, the penalties for missing crimes (due to said lack of skills from your misbehaving cops) are massive, leaving you in a sorry state of not being able to hire more officers. You can easily get into a rut and find it very difficult to climb out of it, making each passing day more frustrating. There are just too many design choices that are totally unfair to the player or force a reload and try again for a better roll of the dice so to speak. I restarted several times and with the knowledge of some calls being a waste of time, made better progress overall. But, I shouldn’t have to do this. It was not fun and became more of a chore especially the deeper you venture into the game where more responsibilities and moral choice crossroads are thrust upon you. It also has to be said, a lack of save slots makes restarting a bit of a gamble. You will overwrite your previous progress. A handy replay mission option would have been welcome for those wanting to practice or get a better result.
There is a decent game here for management fans, I can clearly dig that. It is well put together and has its charms which kept me coming back for more even if each time I came away feeling pissed-off. It’s obvious a lot of effort has been placed into the production here. This is the Police 2 does boast some excellent storytelling, a great set of characters for the main cast who are voiced exceptionally well, a neat visual style, some cool music and sound effects to wrap things up. That’s great. However, for me, the gameplay is an unbalanced hodgepodge of ideas causing far more frustration than any cool moments you might expect. The tactical gameplay is where I had the most fun, but the design choices overall just made the entire experience too painful. What would make the game better suited to my tastes in particular is a beginner mode with a much more forgiving roll of the dice. Let me learn how to play this way first, and then allow me to dive in to the real challenge later on. As it stands, my time with This is the Police 2 has left a somewhat sour taste in the mouth and I suspect that others will feel the same as well if they are taken in by the tactical gameplay and then faced with the management nonsense which makes up the bulk. So my recommendation is, for serious management fans only you will get a decent game to play. If you are after a police version of XCOM though, then look elsewhere or wait to see if Weappy patch in some better balancing.
EDIT: Since publishing this review, developers Weappy has listened to the complaints and released a patch which addresses some of the balancing issues touched upon in the review. There are still issues with the game, but not as harsh as before so please bear this in mind. You can read the patch notes here.