Review: LA Cops

LA Cops is a title that has a lot of style going for it. It uses cel-shading, simplistic texture mapping and bright, vibrant colors to good effect to create a stylistic vibe. A twin-stick top-down/isometric shooter taking place during the good old Seventies, LA Cops allows players to indulge in some old school, smart mouth and cheesy one-liner spewing cop action. It’s an undeniably cool concept and the look of the title certainly grabs you, but at its heart, LA Cops is a barely competent twin-stick shooter that doesn’t give enough of the good things and ultimately leaves a lot to be desired in its execution.

LA Cops has a vaguely and loosely presented story that doesn’t serve to drive any substantial plot forward, but rather almost parodies tropes from ’70s cop TV shows. It’s voice acted and the little cutscenes that punctuate the gameplay are short and never anything serious. It goes through the usual motions of buddy cop humor; a short-tempered police chief, one cop going through a divorce and of course everyone on the force showing hostility towards the one female officer (chill out SJWs… it was the ‘70s). As far as presentation goes, LA Cops has some charm going for it.

As for the game itself, it consists of story missions and few side missions. Obviously this is meant to be a short and sweet digital experience, but there are enough levels and settings for a reasonable length. At its core, however, the action is rather consistent and never too interesting. Considering each level is devastatingly similar, the objectives are simple and straightforward. The level design and layout don’t substantially develop as you work through the campaign and it feels like playing the same type of level each time except that they get progressively longer with more enemies thrown in. As far as design and variety go, LA Cops does the minimum.

There is an element of building up characters using experience points, but there is no real incentive to dedicate yourself to doing so as you can clear most of the levels without ever having the need to upgrade. LA Cops also attempts to be a score driven arcade style experience, but the scoring system lacks any real strictness to compel you to play any better.

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When it comes to gameplay, LA Cops is a pick up and play shooter that’s all about simple controls. While there’s a handy lock-on button to make shooting easier, it’s almost as compulsory as manual aiming and can feel strangely sloppy. If  the analog stick isn’t pressed the right way, then chances are you’ll skip animation frames and get your direction all wrong. The stick must be pressed in a certain way to to get that smooth and precise motion. It may sound like nitpicking, but for an action packed shooter, the controls and mechanics need to be as spotless as possible.

At any given time you take two cops on a mission, and they’re both controlled by you, but not at the same time. One cop can be controlled at any given time whilst the other is controlled by AI; swappable with the press of a button. Of course, you can issue a simple command to order the AI to follow you to a certain location and back you up. Now this is a simple and functional system in single player, but it’s almost bizarre that there is no two player mode at all. A game that is about two cops working cooperatively which doesn’t have a two player co-op mode really does not make a lot of sense.

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Speaking of AI, this is where the game presents most of its issues. The challenge is satisfying, but the AI behavior is simply inconsistent, if not unusual. The enemy AI is either smart enough to detect where you are and react with an onslaught when alerted, while they seem oblivious other times even when you kill a goon right in front of them in the same room. This is especially bizarre when on occasion killing an enemy in one room will prompt an entire team to charge in from next door. The partner AI isn’t the brightest pea in the pod either, as they can either be effective in helping you out or they just go down instantly without ever firing a shot. Quite simply, the AI can range from plain dumb to extra reactive, with no real way to know how or when that happens.

On a similar note, the precision and damage of shots is also inconsistent (whether the fire is coming from you or the enemy), as it either be a one hit KO or it can take them several tries regardless of distance. Again, there is no tangible way of knowing what can happen and when.

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Closing Comments:

Despite exhibiting cool charm and unique aesthetics, LA Cops is ultimately a bland twin-stick shooter that does the bare minimum in gameplay and design. The execution of the mechanics and the AI is inconsistent and seriously dampens the gameplay. As far as indie titles on the Xbox One go, there is a ton coming out this year, and LA Cops is one game that can safely be ignored for better things.