Weappy Games' strategy-cum-noir adventure This Is the Police has you inhabit the day-to-day drudgery of retiring police chief Jack Boyd, grinding out his last 180 days on the force and trying to keep things running smoothly for the city of Freeburg's corrupt mayor. Dogged by allegations of corruption and a career full of regret, we pick up his tale as it reaches the end. After a brief run-through of the events leading to Boyd's forced retirement, we jump right into the thankless role of policing a crime-riddled metropolis.
The game shifts between the visual novel-esque depiction of Boyd's final days on the job and a stripped down city management sim. The latter is the meat of the game and sees you charged with keeping on top of crime in the city, sending out units to answer emergency calls and keeping civil unrest in check – all the while fending off mob factions and the watchful gaze of the mayor, who can't wait to see the back of you.
The quality of the presentation is the game's strongest aspect, with beautifully animated story segments that are complemented by some exemplary sound design and voice acting. The management portion of the game unfolds on a minimalist top down view of Freeburg, and the interface is smooth and easy to get to grips with.
You start each day by organising the officers on one of two alternating shifts, before sending them out into the field. Crimes occur at random and have to be answered within a limited window of time, so it's up to you to choose how best to delegate your people in blue. Be prepared to make some hard choices; you are not going to be able to respond to every crime.
Each of your officers has a skill rating and level of fatigue, as well as a trait that ties into their personality. If your best cop has a bottle on his profile, his effectiveness in the field will be tempered by his constant need to nurse another hangover. This is one of the game's more amusing elements; it's fun to manage the increasingly ridiculous requests for time off (one of our best guys asked for a day off to finish a gripping novel). Refusal may demoralise and increase failure rates, whereas frequently succumbing to absence requests will leave you shorthanded, and on most days you're going to need every man you can get.
On top of the regular call-outs and emergencies, there are special requests that net more cash. Funds can be used to pay for extra training, morale boosting events, or getting snitches on the payroll. There's always a chance of penalty in these missions, like the loss of officers tempted away by fat paydays and gratuities.
There are larger operations that require your entire shift to descend on one location, leaving the rest of the city exposed for a tense period of time. Deciding whether to send backup or leave your guys dangling in the wind is one of the game's tougher quandaries.
The game quickly picks up pace, but crucially never gets too overwhelming. Timed events add an extra layer of challenge to proceedings, as well as interesting narrative developments. One such event we encountered early on saw racial tensions in the city create pressure for us to fire all if our black officers. Later a feminist rally put pressure on city hall to beef up the female half of our roster. The social commentary feels a bit on the nose at times but is handled with grace and a light-hearted tone.
Flaws start to become apparent in the game's pacing as more systems are introduced and the story starts to butt heads with the sim. Some mechanics are too slight to warrant inclusion and the feeling of spinning too many plates is at times frustrating when it should be challenging. Trying to play both sides of a mob war, while coping with budget cuts and staff shortages is hard enough without having to deal with extra requests like babysitting a hero cop until his medal ceremony. Events that stretch across several days start to mount up and a lot of it seems like pointless busywork that doesn't really net anything worthwhile. The detective cases are a good example of this: larger goals that require time and a potential loss of manpower for what is essentially a picture puzzle.
The need to gain any advantage over your fast growing backlog ushers you towards the game's many dirty deeds and illicit favours. Sometimes it feels like you're being nudged down the road to corruption too forcefully. The management portion of the game offers so many ways to be bad that Boyd's descent into morally dubious territory feels like an inevitability rather than a choice. It's jarring that any sense of character established in the adventure portion of the game feels like it doesn't carry over to the main campaign.
Despite the occasionally frantic spikes of time and resource management, as well as the violent (and frequently dark) content of the story, the interesting thing about This Is The Police is just how chilled out it is: the soft glow of sirens weaving around the city map, a choice collection of classic tunes to spin on Blake's record player, and the soft buzz of the radio calls being piped through the DualShock 4, it's a relaxing pick up and play experience.
An interesting genre mash-up that offers noir adventure and city management in bite-sized chunks. An expertly crafted atmosphere can't hide some rigid storytelling and shallow systems, but fans of cop movies and resource management should give this one a go.