LA Cops Review – Let’s Book’em!

Developed by Modern Dream and published by Team17, there's no denying that LA Cops is similar to Hotline Miami. That's not a dig at LA Cops by any means, as without imitation and iteration we wouldn't have the FPS, RTS, or any other gaming genre. So while imitation isn't necessarily a bad thing the hope is that when you do something similar, you also do enough different to distinguish yourself while improving upon what came before. Does LA Cops manage to do that? Hit the break or watch the video to find out.

Presentation:

The style of LA Cops is fantastic. From the cell shaded rooms and characters to the ridiculous 70's cop show setting that recalls some of the best movies of my childhood. Even the music is great for a while, though it does get old due to the limited selection of tracks available. I really do have very little to complain about with this games presentation but there are a few issues. The first is that the camera doesn't zoom out enough to see an entire room, which means that you might have to walk halfway through a room away from all cover before you see that the far end is littered with Uzi wielding enemies. The second problem is that the objectives window is massive and useless. Most missions are just about killing all enemies, with maybe destroying some items, but the objectives window takes up such a large portion of the top right of the screen that it can block incoming enemies.

Mechanics:

The gameplay of LA Cops is an isometric twin stick shooter with an element of tactics thrown in to differentiate it from Hotline Miami. When I first started playing the game, having not played Hotline Miami before this, I did not immediately have a good time. The game felt very tactical, having two characters you could either take direct control of, or use a 'move to' command to position your AI controlled partner. Bullets shot into walls draw the attention of enemies in adjoining rooms which can quickly overwhelm you as well, so it seemed necessary to stealth through levels, handcuffing as many enemies as possible before all hell finally breaks loose.

Sadly that's just not what LA Cops is. That is possibly what it aspires to be, but if so it falls short. In fact the only strategy that seemed to work was to go in guns blazing and lure enemies through doors. You have a second cop that the game instructs you to station at doorways, or to send him into a room through one door while you burst through a door on the other side, but sadly he's near useless as a true partner. Sometimes he will kill 4 or 5 enemies in as many seconds, and other times he will stand there not firing a single shot while enemies run through the doorway he is guarding. This leads to him being murdered, and shortly after you being murdered.

In LA Cops you get two police officers and a single, randomly placed resurrection per level in the form of a health pack. To use the health pack you need to find it, grab it, and return it to the body of your fallen partner. In reality it is almost always a better idea to have your partner stay far back out of harms way as a second life than it is to risk him by sending him to near certain death by trying to fight.

It doesn't help anything when the games mechanics seem like they are fighting you either. In a fast paced twitch style shooter like this where bullets are at a premium for the nice guns, it should be obvious what it will take to kill an enemy so that you can start to engage the next. In LA Cops I could sometimes kill an enemy in one shot, and other times it would take two or three shotgun shells at near point blank to take them down.

If you are locked onto an enemy and you have a clear line of site then you will always hit that enemy, which is essential for controller play and indeed feels essential for keyboard and mouse too, which is odd. It is so powerful that you can sometimes take our waves of 5 or 6 enemies without taking damage, simply by alternating the lock-on and fire buttons. The problem is that the game doesn't lock-on to the enemy closest to your reticle and instead it locks-on to the enemy closest to your character. This means you might have two enemies rushing through an open door, but you accidentally lock-on to an enemy behind you and in another room, leading to your death. Interestingly the lock-on feature is disabled in impossible difficulty, which makes controller play feel truly impossible.

Doors are another source of frustration in LA Cops. Most doors are closed when you first come to them and you can swing them open either way just by moving into them. Sometimes though the door will explode for no reason leaving you exposed to enemy fire. Additionally doors can be used to stun enemies by swinging the door into them, as long as they aren't walking in the remote direction of the door. If they are then you'll just end up pushing on each side of the door and slowly opening it.

Another way that the game stands out from the crowd is it's stable of playable characters. You can pick from an assortment of cops, each of which can be leveled up individually. This makes each cop unique as you experiment, but you quickly realize that unless you want to repeat the same levels over and over to grind for XP it's just better to stick with two characters throughout the game. XP is shared among all officers as well, so you can either spend your XP leveling up one cop, the two cops you are using, or seriously dilute it by spending it on more cops. Make no mistake either, you'll need to spend you XP if you want to get anywhere in the game, leveling up things ranging from starting weapon, clip size, health, damage, and speed.


Conclusion:

LA Cops has many problems that keep it from being a classic like the game it takes inspiration from, but it does enough to stand apart that it's a fun game in it's own right. With 9 levels to play, a selection of bonus levels, multiple officers that are really just different skins, and an attempt at tactical gameplay that just turns into an interesting way to handle multiple lives, LA cops is a fun little game that kept me interested for a while but ultimately didn't make any headway into my daily gaming schedule.

LA Cops gets a 2 1/2 out of 5, but with the caveat that most of it's problems could be patched. Indeed the developers have stated that they are working on the partner AI, so this could all change in the future. My recommendation is to pick it up if you find it on sale for $10 or less, but unless you are a huge fan of this fledgling genre I wouldn't pay full price while there are more coherent offerings out there.

Author: Billy C
Source: Review copy provided to Twinstiq.com by Team17 Digital Ltd.
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5
Developer: Modern Dream
Website: http://www.la-cops.com/
Platform: Reviewed on PC, also available for XBox One and Mac.