Tuesday, April 21, 2015

LA Cops

Rating: 6.5
Happy Price: 2.99


LA Cops is about two cops that are on a mission to take out the drug and gang infested streets of Los Angeles. It's done with an isometric view, a unique art style, and quick reactions. Basically it's Hotline Miami with a partner and a cleaner art style.


Enemies are quick to shoot, and deal tons of damage when they connect. This forces the player to be strategic and be precise when executing the plan. If there are three enemies, in three different rooms close to one another, the smarter approach is to go in each room silently and arrest each person individually. Guns blazing in that situation would cause all the surrounding enemies to rush toward the sound, which can go one of two ways. Another situation is one room with three or four enemies. This situation calls for telling your partner to "go in". As the partner charges, so does the player and the partner AI will take out a couple of enemies and so will the player. It's moments like this where LA cops shines. 

Level Design

There are only 10 levels to play, and they all consist of the same objective. Destroy servers, Take out all criminals, go to elevator. The other version of that is Destroy drug table, take out criminals, go to elevator. Destroying a server and drug table is pretty much the same exact thing, but just a different model. The levels feel repetitive and tedious after a while, since the narrative is not compelling. This gets worse in the later stage of the game. In the eight level there are multiple floors. The player can clear out a whole floor of 15+ enemies, then die on the second floor and have to restart from the beginning of the level. Getting through the first floor was hard enough. When comparing to Hotline Miami, this game fell short at balancing the difficulty of the game and the reward of completing a section of a level. The layouts of the levels are good however, each stage seems to have unique sight lines and requires a different strategy. 

One thing I found strange was the materials and what could be penetrated by a bullet. There seem to be glass cases or objects that would seem to be waist height. However the player is not educated on what can be shot over or shot through. I always felt a little unsure of what I was doing, or could be doing to make my life easier. Hotline Miami had two materials, glass and everything else. Glass was clearly labeled in the level and I knew the enemy could see me, and I could shoot them. I feel like that simplicity is missing in this game, as it mixes a bunch of unique objects in levels for a authentic aesthetic, but don't always interact well with gameplay.


I became totally disassociated with the story in the third or fourth scene when a balding middle aged white man had a black man's 1970's dialect. I think it was a bug, but a major bug that should be easily fixed with another audio track. Not only does it happen once, but reoccurs as the narrative progresses. I don't know what happened there, but a character model that resembles Jimi Hendrix should have been created for that voice. I can tell you there is a huge drug problem, and one of the cops is likely crooked, and its that white guy with the black man's voice. I got too frustrated with the game and story to see what happens, maybe he was wearing a costume the entire time. I do enjoy frustrating games, I've beaten LISA and Hotline Miami, but both had very compelling stories I felt engaged in. Something has to drive the player when playing a frustrating game like this, and I never felt into it. The screenshot below shows the black character model that should have been used as the antagonist, but wasn't.


The art style is great. It's fun and consistent which contrasts the violence and brutality of the gameplay well. The art style is a great way to hook the player in to make the purchase, and that's exactly what happened to me. It's very polished and smooth, and gameplay exhibits this as well. Animations are extremely fluid and clean, I don't know the frame rate but it seems to exceed 30fps. I found the movements of the player and act of shooting guns to be better than Hotline Miami, which I have been using as the benchmark since these two games are so similar. Hotline Miami could have been created in the mid 90's with its art style. Lets say in an alternate universe they made a sequel in 2016, it would probably look like this. 


If you are in the market for a fast paced top down/isometric shooter, just buy Hotline Miami. LA cops has the element of building up characters' stats, but thats the only thing unique. Hotline Miami has a legendary soundtrack that makes the frustrating experience easier to deal with. It also had smarter checkpoints so the player doesn't have to always start over. Theres nothing more frustrating then doing something awesome like busting in a room and taking out 8 guys through some voodoo magic, then dying in the next stage because you missed one guy in the corner. The narrative is missing, nothing really hooks the player, and its not a long enough game to justify the 14.99 price on the ps4 right now.

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