After a brief two month period of exclusivity over on the PC, This Is the Police 2 has made its way to the PlayStation 4 with new gameplay mechanics and expanded offerings in an attempt to build upon the foundations laid by the successful 2016 original. While one or two of these additions may have caught its fan base off guard, does the crime beating follow-up deserve the Queen’s Police Medal or a life sentence in jail?

Following the events of This Is the Police, former police chief Jack Boyd is on the run after escaping the clutches of Freeburg’s corruption. Moving and setting up shop in the town of Sharpwood proves to be a bad idea though, as the house he decides to rent out is the target of a police raid thanks to the suspicion of drugs hidden under its floorboards. Once the accusation turns out to be correct, Jack is forced to spend the night in a cell, where he manages to convince Sheriff Lily Reed that there has been a misunderstanding. He assures her that he is a cop himself, and with an agreement made, the two band together to try and sort out Sharpwood’s crime issues.

Much like the original, the plot of This Is the Police 2 takes centre stage. In-between bursts of gameplay, stylised cutscenes tell the tale of Jack’s efforts to avoid those hunting him down, the relationship he forms with the sheriff, and the emotional issues he suffers with at home. In turn, Lily Reed is just as integral to pushing forward the narrative. As sheriff, she takes control of a workforce plagued by sexism and power-hungry officers who take the law into their own hands all too often.

You quickly feel sorry for her as the stresses of the job take their toll both in the work place and outside of it, with even Jack himself shutting down her approaches for emotional support through late night phone calls. It’s realistic, worrying, and most importantly, gripping. Witnessing Sharpwood’s descent into chaos is one that’s going to stick with you for a while, because it’s already happening out in the real world.

Structurally, the game plays very similarly to its predecessor. From an isometric perspective that gives you a full view of the town, you’ll accept and decline emergency calls from those in need and assign officers to cases as you see fit. These calls for help can be as simple as a cat stuck up a tree through to a bank robbery or an arson attack, and it’s down to you to decide if it gets your attention or not, and how much of an importance you make it to the force.

On top of that, some calls might be hoaxes, or people may have completely overblown the situation and what was originally “a child wielding a weapon” turns out to be a toy once you get there. No matter what, though, you need to deal with as many alarms as possible that you feel are genuine. Each bobby has a numbered rating, and you’ll need to make sure you meet the requirements of each call by selecting the correct amount of officers.

As mentioned, there will be calls you have to skip on for a number of different reasons, and it is here where the other half of the game’s management is found. Policemen are people, too, and so at the start of each morning, there’ll be the odd one or two asking for the day off to attend a funeral, help out their friend in a band, or so that they can read a book. Others simply don’t like working two days in a row. We’re not entirely sure how so many deputies have gotten to that position and are still using such terrible excuses, but you still have the option of denying them leave and bringing them in for that day.

Even if a cop does show up for work, it’s still not entirely plain sailing from there. Some won’t like going it alone and will ask for a partner, others won’t like the person they’ve been assigned a case with, and a few simply think they’ve done enough work for that particular shift. Because of this, you’ll need to micro-manage your staff in order to achieve the best results.

All in all, every mechanic in play combines to create a deep management simulator. There’s going to be days where you’re short-staffed but still have to cope with the needs of the town, and then there’ll be others where everyone is raring to go. Add in personal traits and opinions and you’ve got a believable work force that may just get the job done.

What’s holding the game back from a promotion, though, is its biggest issue: overwhelming difficulty spikes that can spell failure before you know it. You constantly have to manage your workforce correctly, and build up enough cash on the side to keep the person blackmailing you quiet. Failing missions and skipping on real calls has a serious detriment on the amount of ring pulls you earn at the end of each day, the game’s currency, and if you fail to earn any across a three day period, it’s game over. Some will take to the task and have no qualms managing things correctly, but for those less experienced, it’s very easy for things to spiral out of control to the point where you’ll find yourself rewinding a couple of days in order to have a better stab at things.

There’s one more thing that’s brutal on your work force, and that’s the XCOM-style assignments that see you taking control of a few policemen in special cases that require your attention. As a new addition to the series, it works well but it’s not exactly something fans of the original were clamouring for. You’ll exchange turns with the enemy, moving up and taking cover within an isometric grid that only lets you move so far, and taking shots at suspects when they move within range. Objectives are always very simple: eliminate all enemies or defuse the bomb in the back room, while your means of taking out the enemy are vast. Non-lethal engagements can be performed via perks assigned to certain cops, and the variety here gives the missions much more depth. Although, with criminals not being as polite, failing the encounters can be brutal on your employees. We regularly completed them with just a single officer standing, and so our resources became particularly strained for the rest of that day.

Conclusion

What This Is the Police is known for returns in the sequel, but its difficulty is so brutal that you may not even get to see all of it. The tactical missions definitely help to mix up the gameplay, but they take away from the more relaxed nature of the first title that we were expecting to be prominent here too. Fans of the original will find what they’re looking for – an engaging story and crime dealing management – but they’ll also have to put up with alarming difficulty spikes that can seriously hinder the experience if managed incorrectly.