Could this be the police game we need?

Played on PC

I thought I knew what to expect from Beat Cop, as fidgety synths kicked into gear and a sprinkled jam doughnut emblazoned the screen. I figured it would be some kind of shooter, possibly a twin-stick, that draws heavily on the dense literature of old school cop fare — Magnum P.I, Quincy M.E, Kindergarten C.O.P, that sort of thing.

How refreshing it then was to discover that Beat Cop, while clearly revelling in its 80s pastiche mindset, is a game which is cognizant of the issues surrounding policing, addressing them within the gameplay of its roughly two-hour demo.Beat Cop StreetThere’s a lot of the banal surrounding Beat Cop’s set-up, from the petty office quibbles to the task of finding parking violations and judiciously handing out tickets. However, any fears of this simply being an idyllic ‘bobby on the beat’ stroll are laid to rest fairly quickly through a combination of unexpectedly poignant dialogue and meaningful gameplay choices, as our stiff-haired avenue-ambulating protagonist, Jack Kelly, decides who is deserving of the full force of the law and who can be offered a reprieve.

But before getting into that (and trust me, we will be getting into that) let’s talk about the bread-and-butter.

In a marked shift away from the Rambo-in-a-uniform antics of many cop games previous, Beat Cop takes a grounded approach to the day-to-day trials and tribulations of an officer.

Perhaps due to some mass strike within the traffic warden community, the bulk of your day is occupied by writing and dispensing tickets for cars which somehow flout the rules of the road, by being parked illegally, having faulty tires or lights or bearing false plates. As the day ticks along a few events may pop up, diverting your attention from the pressing issue of parking violations as robberies, murders and disappearances plague what is quite possibly the most treacherous street on Earth.Beat Cop OfficeNot only is Kelly required to meet a ticket quota, he must also deal in a timely manner with all sorts of ne’er-do-wells and solve any quarrels that may arise.

Herein lies the main challenge of Beat Cop: a balancing act of fulfilling ticket quotas and completing a number of side objectives, made trickier by a time limit which has you racing against the setting sun and a stamina bar which depletes far too quickly for a short period of mild jogging.

The stamina can be upgraded with food, but still, the micromanagement of running in order to not feel too pooped felt like an unwelcome hindrance.

In a marked shift away from the Rambo-in-a-uniform antics of many cop games previous, Beat Cop takes a grounded approach to the day-to-day trials and tribulations of an officer.

Aside from cars and crooks, there is a main plot running through Beat Cop concerning a murder for which Kelly was framed before being put on the beat (a very lenient sentence, under the circumstances).

This runs tangentially to the action of the game and requires chats with various characters to try and piece together the fragments of the truth. The way this plotline is handled is interesting, as the pre-alpha gave the impression that it could be ignored altogether.

So, if you want to play Jack Kelly as a man apathetic about his wrongful murder charge but wildly enthused by parking violations, then that option’s open to you. Godspeed.Beat Cop ControlsThere are a few bugs of varying extents in the game, as is to be expected from a pre-alpha. Putting these aside, the main gameplay issues come down to niggling tweaks more than anything else. The required molly-coddling of a pitifully meagre stamina bar, the lack of clarity between which car tires are and aren’t roadworthy and the protracted checking of cars for any faults are all issues which can be seen to. Overall though,

The required molly-coddling of a pitifully meagre stamina bar, the lack of clarity between which car tires are and aren’t roadworthy and the protracted checking of cars for any faults are all issues which can be seen to. Overall though, Beat Cop is a great premise which already shows signs of being fully realized at this early stage.

What most excites me about the release, however, are those elements of the story which hint at the possibility of a truly subversive video game about the police force. We’ve had stabs at this subject matter — including recent Weappy Studio release This Is The Police — but it feels like games have failed to properly tackle the issue. It’s far too early to say for certain, but from this pre-alpha there are at least hints that Beat Cop might be the game to assume the mantle.

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