Let’s kick off this review with a quiz to test your common sense.
1. When under fire from a vicious gun-toting madman, do you? A) Dive for cover and return fire. B) Use someone else as a human shield. C) Wander closer.
2. Whilst attempting to strategically round up dangerous gangs of the aforementioned gun enthusiasts, do you? A) Flank them with an incisive squad manoeuvre. B) Bomb the entire area regardless of civilians. C) Happily stroll around in a small circle until you get killed.
3. When endeavouring to neutralise a psychotic gun nut who is standing five feet away and about to open fire upon you, do you? A) Shoot him down quickly. B) Ask if he’d like to talk things through. C) Expend all your ammo shooting into the wall 90º to his left.
4. Upon finding you have no ammunition left in the middle of a frenetic firefight, do you? A) Grab the spare ammo clips from a fallen comrade and rejoin the fray. B) Run away. C) Ignore the ammo clips lying around you and just stand still and wait.
Here are the quiz results. If you got mostly A’s: Brave and resourceful under threat, you would make an excellent cop. Mostly B’s: You appear to have one or two screws loose. Mostly C’s: Quick, go out and buy Cops 2170 straight away! This game was tailor-made for you.
Cops 2170. You are a cop. The year is…oh you guessed. Cue the typical futuristic cityscapes, marked by affluence and modern technology in the better off areas, and derelict slums housing the degenerates and low-life scum. You play as newly promoted police sergeant Katy, who is still a little wet behind the ears for her current level of command.
The storyline, although clichéd and repetitive, is possibly the only element of interest throughout the entire game. With a corrupt police force entering into shady dealings and accepting bribes from dishonest citizens, it soon becomes apparent that treading the merging line between good and evil is not as straightforward as it sounds. Without dropping too many plot spoilers, it will suffice to say that the forking storyline forces you to make your own decisions that to a certain degree affect how the game plays out.
Sadly, to access the moderately entertaining storyline you’ll have to fumble your way through the dismal game mechanics, which appear more confused than a chameleon on a tartan tablecloth. For a start, modern urban warfare does not lend itself well to interpretation as a turn-based strategy game. Yet somehow, Cops 2170 has squeezed fast-paced action and frantic firefights into a turn-based mould. The result is an ungainly mess.
Imagine the scene if you will. A dark street, cops on one side, naughty rebel-type bad guys on the other. Each cop takes it in turn to move forwards, spending their measly few action points on closing ground between themselves and the wayward gun-brandishing villains. Now the baddies’ turn, so they move incrementally toward the cops. Even when forces clash, what would in reality be a chaotic battle of blazing guns and death screams, is in fact reduced to a protracted, prosaic affair, with each character patiently waiting (or indeed dying) while everyone else takes their turns in strict orderliness.
Where’s the tension? Where’s the excitement? Where’s the illusion that you are actually fighting a battle and not picking your nose whilst waiting for the dumb AI to break the impression even more? Forget action, the combat is more like a slow game of chess, but without all the finesse and tactical nuances that make chess such a more worthwhile option.
Right, so here’s the deal. You are in charge of a few cops, and you must go out and complete missions amidst the turmoil and perpetual warfare around you. Each of your characters has an allocation of action points to spend per turn, which you can use to make them move, shoot or otherwise interact with their surroundings. Sadly, the number of action points is initially so little that it takes a good few turns just to get outside the front door. Traversing to the other side of the map is a nightmare slog; with your characters obstinately refusing to run more than the scanty few inches allotted to them each turn.
And with so few action points to spend, you’d assume that your controllable cops would make proper use of them. But no, they insist on running zigzag paths wherever they go, halving the distance they could cover if they actually ran in a straight line. Then they’ll frequently stop for no apparent reason, halfway to their destination. Gnn! Even better, when they finally reach a baddie and start shooting at him from point-blank range, their aim will often be an entire 90º off to the side of the target. A blind man could do better than that. Why? Why are you doing this to me you pathetic, puerile, and crassly asinine silicon cretins?
Oh we’re not finished yet. We’ve still got to talk about the lovely line-of-sight model, which is so horrendously volatile that enemies and allies alike flutter in and out of view without warning. Sometimes an enemy won’t even pop into sight until he is almost rubbing noses with you. Such unpredictable vision negates any chance of using tactics, as you can rarely be certain of where the enemies actually are.
The AI is very possibly the worst attempt I have ever seen to recreate human intelligence. Fellow cops and baddies alike are soulless zombies, seemingly driven by randomness. Their actions and decisions generally make absolutely zero sense whatsoever, and the word ‘tactics’ does not even enter into their vocabulary. They just shoot everything in sight, and plenty of things not in sight as well.
The inclusion of invisible walls also prevents you from inflicting damage on enemies from certain angles. You can just unload your entire arsenal at them from a few feet away, and yet not a hair on their head will be harmed. Some waist-high fences also act as invisible walls, meaning you can’t shoot someone who is clearly in view on the other side of one.
There’s more! The voice acting is dire, and exacerbated by the fact that the voice and sound across the levels are repeated infuriatingly often. Speaking to other AI cops will more than likely result in a response you’ve already heard and developed a loathing for many times already. Your characters also talk nonsense, sometimes speaking two entirely contradictory phrases within seconds.
To round off this splendid package you get extremely dated graphics and unconvincing character animations. Plus, with the precipitous learning curve introducing you to the game with the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the head, what’s not to like?
There is a very tiny weeny fragment of game hidden beneath this shambolic detritus, but don’t waste your time by searching for it. Cops 2170 is outdated, outclassed, and outright appalling.