If you grew up watching shows like Hill Street Blues, T.J. Hooker or Miami Vice, then you must have thought about being a cop at least once.
Cleaning up scum from the streets, getting in foot chases, and receiving that sweet media attention are all glorified in the movies, but our media rarely shows what real cops have to do on their day to day: writing up parking tickets, interviewing uncooperative witnesses, and balancing work with a personal life. If you want to get the full police experience, with none of the real risk, then come explore Beat Cop with me.
Beat Cop, developed by Pixel Crow and coming to Steam this Spring, follows Jack Kelly, a cop framed for murder and theft who's been demoted to the lowest ranks, pending investigation. Jack Kelly is a good cop, and the people close to him know it, but his new colleagues couldn't care less. To them, he's just another deadbeat who doesn't pay his alimony. There are various other mini-stories that develop throughout the demo, but those are likely to change and expand with the full game. One neat bit of polish in the demo is that the precinct's visuals change along with the story. It's attention to detail like this that makes the game world feel real and alive.
"[Beat Cop] does a great job in making you feel like you're a true cop in New York in the 80's."
The game is split up into days, and each day starts with a briefing from the sergeant. In classic 80's cop movie style, the boss is a complete hardass who isn't satisfied with anything not done by the book. The other cops in your unit all take on standard character roles as well. The brown-noser everyone else looks down on; the fat cop who always talks about food; the obscene guy who talks about his dick at every opportunity; the female officer who doesn't take flak from anyone. These morning briefings, with their colourful cast of characters, are the first of many ways Beat Cop really makes you feel like you are part of an old cop show.
After the briefing, it's time to hit the streets. There's a lot on the schedule in a day for a beat cop in New York. You have to write up parking tickets, stop petty theft, talk to the locals – and, of course, make sure to grab a doughnut to keep stamina levels up. There is always a daily goal to complete, which usually involves a parking ticket quota. But throughout the shift, random events will pop up that require you to intervene immediately. The entire shift is timed, so it's a balancing act between meeting your main objective and dealing with all your other tasks.
Really, Beat Cop as a whole is one big balancing act. There are a variety of goals to complete: a daily goal from Sarge, various mini-quests the player picks up during their shift, as well as overall trying to progress the main story and prove Jack's innocence. Failing to complete any of these goals in the allotted time results in some kind of penalty, usually upsetting one faction or another. It seems that by completing quests for one faction, you'll more than likely upset other factions that were negatively affected.
My time with the Beat Cop demo opened my eyes to one primary facet of the game: just how hard it is to be a good cop. Playing as Jack, you have alimony payments to meet, but just don't have a high enough salary to pay them. There are legal ways to get that money, but they're time consuming, and time is a precious commodity. The easiest way to make some extra cash is to take bribes, but are you willing to look the other way to progress your own needs?
"If the developers add yet more depth to the game and work on adding some kind of replayability factor, then Beat Cop has incredible potential."
The game does a great job in making you feel like you're a true cop in New York in the 80's. The pixel-art visuals are very well done and manage to brilliantly capture the gritty look of the city despite their simplicity. The soundtrack is great, and feels like it could have been pulled straight from any popular cop movie. The sound effects really make the city feel busy and alive, though hopefully there is a bit more variety in the full game. Civilians will also offer interactions, giving the environment a bit of extra depth. Beat Cop also isn’t afraid to use the racism of the time to make the world feel real. Civilians will complain about “blackies” ruining the neighbourhood, “greasy” Italians and drunk Russians. It's New York street crime in the 80s; what do you expect?
Beat Cop has a lot of promise, but there are a few areas that I'd hope Pixel Crow will iron out before its release later this year. First of all, text moves at its own pace, and it’s pretty quick. It’d be nice to either slow it down, or allow the player to progress at their own speed. There are quite a few spelling and grammatical errors throughout the game and on Beat Cop’s Steam store page. Some quests don’t give the player a lot of feedback, making it very difficult to track them in your already busy day. And finally, the stamina system needs a bit of work. Kelly will occasionally mention that he needs to eat, but not eating doesn’t seem to offer any negative effects.
Even after just playing an early demo, Beat Cop could be shaping up to be something special. By just fleshing out the game's core features, it's already a sure-fire solid addition to Steam. If the developers add yet more depth to the game and work on adding some kind of replayability factor however, then Beat Cop has incredible potential. It's definitely a title to add to your wishlist.
Beat Cop is set to release on PC this spring.