Saturday, April 8, 2017

MadCap At The Movies - "Power Rangers" (2017)

Teenagers with actual attitude?

Zordon being a dick who berates children and throws them into pits because they don't do things he likes?

Alpha looking like something out of HP Lovecraft?

All of this and more as MadCap gives a review of Saban and Lionsgate's attempt to tickle the 90's nostalgia bone.

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Friday, April 7, 2017

MadCap's Game Reviews - "This Is The Police"

Covering the downfall of a good man into a spiral of chaos, confusion, and darkness is something that's been covered before. Most recently in pop culture is that of Breaking Bad, though where that was the tale of a man driven to his edge and then driving right back in order to do the only thing that he felt really gave his life any meaning, This Is the Police is the tale of a good cop gone horribly, horribly wrong as he deals with the effects of aging and the feeling that his best years has passed him by.

Set in the incredibly sort of vague time of 198...something, we follow the tale of Police Chief Jack Boyd during the last 180 days of his tenure over the city of Freeburg. It's worth noting that he's voiced by Jon St. John, most famous for being the voice of Duke Nukem and now giving me the hilarious headcanon that all of Duke's adventures are nothing more than metaphors for Jack's tortured subconscious as he deals with his drinking and crippling addiction to pills. But, to his credit (as he has voiced many other characters besides everyone's favorite Masculinity parody), he brings a voice to Jack and helps to make him a very sympathetic character.

You would think, given the heavy emphasis on Jack Boyd, that the game would be heavily story-driven and that you'd have a great deal of direct control over Jack as he operates during his dark descent into the criminal underbelly of his city like in the aforementioned Breaking Bad. Perhaps this could be done in a third-person style similar to LA Noire, you might think.

You could think that, but you'd be hilariously rather wrong.

No, This Is The Police is a real-time strategy game.

Yeah, no, I was confused, too.

Via an isometric map, you as Jack command the forces of the Freeburg Police Department. You can hire and fire from your two squads, A and B. You send cops out on calls and detectives out to solve cases in a way that is really more reminiscent of a dispatcher than a police chief (and, having served in the former job, this game is a great deal more tedious). I'd say that's all you do as far as the crime solving goes...because that's really it. The success of the policemen in question is based on their own ratings (150+ is generally what you want to aim for), how well they interact with others they're sent in with., and other seemingly completely random factors.

I'm not kidding, either. Everything I've read says that the aforementioned two factors are really the meat of what decides if a cop lives or dies. However, I've had several cases where I've sent out officers on a call and they've all been killed off. Out of nowhere, even when a call doesn't seem like it should have had all that much risk involved. And seemingly for no reason other than the game just decided to piss on my shoes that particular day.

The detectives you have a bit more to work with, assigning them cases and piecing together crime scenes via frames collected in their investigations. Complete the picture, solve the crime, and go arrest the culprit(s). Sometimes, this will even lead into hunting down criminal gangs within the city to give a far more police-y feel to things. However, like with the beat cops, if you put inadequate detectives on the aren't going to have the evidence you're looking for. And sometimes, depending on the descriptions given by witnesses, you may get conflicting information and never be able to solve certain cases.

And if that were all, I bet you'd imagine that the last 180 days of Jack Boyd would be rather boring to play through. And you'd be right, hence where the story comes in. Thanks to the indiscretions of a former deputy Jack ends up, in one way or another, working for the Mafia. To make matters even more interesting, Jack has set himself up with a goal by day 180 - make $500,000. Why that and not a million? Simple. Everybody goes for a million and he wanted to do something different.

Did I mention I really like Jack's character? I think I did. The humor really is good when it's good, it's just a shame that it gets relegated to cutscenes between the days.

Nevertheless, in order to do, Jack ends up double-dealing with the Mafia. And for those of you who think you don't have to thanks to a comment made early on that Jack could just spend his 180 days and just make his money and quietly, he can't. And you can't white knight either. The Mafia will put you in the ground for it (yes, I tried). It's a literal case of damned if you do, damned if you don't. One way or another, some blood's going to be split and Jack's going to go on his journey.

Luckily, with the mafia comes a few perks, namely being able to discretely get rid of officers and detectives who decide to get too mouthy or threaten the stability of Jack's department. Of course, such things don't come cheap...and that's not including when the Mafia asks for some police assistance or for them to turn a blind eye to certain crimes. Of course, that doesn't mean the Mafia isn't willing to compensate Jack for his trouble...most of the time, anyway.

But double dealing with the Mafia, getting cops and detectives killed, and letting crime go unchecked will put Jack on the bad side of City Hall. The Mayor is a Grade A bag of dicks who will force Jack to perform unethical acts (such as using violence to end mass protests...three times), have his pay reduced for not performing up to expectations, and continually cut down the funding of the police department (which means getting rid of officers).

Because the best way to make your cops more efficient is to make sure there are less of them.

So the game becomes a balancing act between pleasing City Hall and pleasing the Mafia.

There's also a gang war early on, but it ultimately doesn't amount to anything in the grand scheme. You can actually completely ignore it (and I did. Twice) and eventually one side will triumph with no real consequences. It's a rather pointless interlude.

And, of course, the intense strategy game ends with a bigger war between the Mayor and the mysterious French-named vigilante, where Jack places troops and then waits for results. Like he's been doing the entire game.

I'm not going to sugar-coat it, this isn't a good game. It's not bad, either, there's quite a bit to like. Jon St. John makes a very compelling and interesting character out of Jack Boyd and his story is triumphant, tragic, and everything in-between...even if it has more emphasis on the latter than the former by the end. However, I feel the focus is in the wrong place mechanics-wise and that this game really would have been better suited to be more in the style of LA Noire as I said earlier.

The story is pretty good, but you have very minimal choice as to how things play out and it takes forever to get there. The third and final leg of the game feels particularly stretched out in a way that wreaks of padding.

If you're up for strategy and a lot of it, go for it. You will get a very nice tale to go with it about a man coming to terms with aging and the fact that the past never really can come back, no matter how hard you want it to. When it's gone, it's gone. There's no getting it back.

Rather like the time you waste in the longer, dragged out sections of this game.

This Is The Police is now available from Weappy Studios and Nordic Games for Windows, OS X, Linux, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.