LA Cops is a top-down 3D shooter from Team 17, best known for their addictive turn-based strategy series Worms. The game is a throwback to 70’s cop shows; with droopy moustaches, big mutton-chop side burns and mirrored sunglasses the order of the day.
The game very much has a tongue-in-cheek feel to it, from the character having typically American cop names like Kowalski and Murphy, and the loading icon – what else but every cop’s favourite snack – a glazed doughnut; Team 17 have gone all out to give you the impression you’re starring in your very own episode of Starsky & Hutch.
You’re put through a tutorial, set at the police academy (no – not the movie), which gives you the bare basics of how to play the game – how to move your character, shooting and auto-aim, and how to switch partners. From there, you’re on your own and into the main story mode. The tutorial feels too short, and fails to tell you how to do crucial things – like picking up ammo or swapping out your standard issue firearm for something with a little more kick. There is an overview of the controls within the pause menu, but it would have been nice to learn this in the tutorial, rather than a case of trial and error.
LA Cops uses a buddy co-op system, with you controlling one cop, whilst the other covers you. You pick two characters from a pool of five, each with varying levels of different attributes, which can be upgraded in between levels. You’re also given the option of three difficulties before each mission – Normal, Hardcore and Nightmare. Before the level starts, you’re presented with the mission objectives, which usually consist of taking down all the henchmen, destroying items within the locale and reaching a hostage / crime lord. The objectives are displayed constantly via a HUD in the top right hand corner of the screen, so you know what needs to be achieved. You can also add a mini-map via the game settings in the pause menu.
Each mission is preceded by a cut scene, with every cop show / movie cliché covered – maverick veteran cop with a failing marriage? Check. Said maverick paired up with a headstrong female cop? Check. Irritable, sexist chief of police? Check. The scenes are minimalistic but stylish – but… the voice acting leaves it little to be desired. I realise this isn’t a triple A title, so I’m not expecting a Troy Baker or a Nolan North calibre performance, but the wooden acting takes away from the scenes a little.
Once into a level, pressing triangle swaps controls of either cop, and you can call your partner forward using the X button. I did find that calling your buddy to move up means they take the most direct route, which sometimes mean they run into a room full of enemies, and are mowed down in a Bonnie and Clyde-level hailstorm of bullets, whilst you’re non-the-wiser until you hear gunfire and your buddy’s HUD goes red to signify their demise.
I also found aiming a problem – a major issue considering this is a shooter – as the right thumbstick is insanely sensitive, which meant I became reliant on the auto-aim (O button) to take out every criminal. You do have the option to arrest via the melee button (L2) or go in all guns blazing (R2).
The levels themselves are well constructed and laid out, but the ratios of enemies to individual room seems completely random. Some rooms have one bad guy staring off into the opposite corner of the room as if in a trance, whilst others have three goons packing full-auto firearms, treading an impossibly tight patrol route with very little chance of taking anyone down without taking a few rounds to the chest. As soon as an enemy spots you, the identifying arrow above their head turns into an exclamation mark, and they’ll come rushing at you all guns blazing – often with back up from the next room.
The in-game soundtrack is a constant rock riff – which feels right and pumps you up to take out the bad guys. You can switch the music off via the pause menu, but you’re left with footsteps, gunfire and the odd soundbite “It’s the cops”, “Cover me, I’m going in”. I felt that taking the music away also took away the sense of adrenaline.
After completing a mission, you’re taken to the chief’s office for your score – based on a number of factors; such as how many arrests you made, how little damage was caused and if you lost your partner to name a few. I became frustrated with the game, having the restart a mission due to the suffocating difficulty of the enemy AI killing me or my partner, so didn’t complete the game as I was on the verge of doing damage to my PS4!