Beat Cop’s an odd game. Now, at first, I’ll admit, it confused the hell out of me; a pixelated adventure game that’s set in 80’s USA, in which you patrol and control one street whilst dishing out tickets, learning its layout, and catching bad guys. It hardly sounded all that appetizing. Not to me, at least. Whilst much of that sang true once I sunk several hour into it, I can see some appeal for those that have a thirst for its concept. Still, even then, it’s a fairly tough game to openly recommend for a number of issues, but we’ll get to that shortly.
Detective Jack Kelly is your name, in which the game opens with a small cutscene that shows you responding to a robbery. The house in question is that of the senators house, and as you make your entrance, you’re greeted by an armed man that opens fire. Gleefully, he misses his mark, but you, you plug that sucker dead. Upon inspection of the property, you’ll soon find that the contents of a safe are missing; clearly a second perp had off with the goods amidst all of the heated commotion. Shit hits the proverbial fan for you, of course.
Being the only cop at the scene and with a complete lack of solid evidence, you’re hot in the cross-hairs of a murder investigation. That leads you to being demoted to a traffic cop, and this, ladies and gents, is where the game truly begins for you. You start out all suited and booted in your fresh rookie uniform, ready to take on your first day on the beat. You’ll meet the team, an ex-wife that’s bleeding you of every cent, and a boss that clearly hates you. Undeterred, you and Mike, your partner, are ready to work a new strip of street in Brooklyn.
That is to say that this street is your new home, and it falls to you to keep it safe and clean. This amounts to a lot of left and right walking, so be ready for a sore thumb. Each new day brings new tasks, but you’re unlikely to fulfill the majority of them. Hell, even the game tells you that you will be unable to nail them all on a day-to-day basis. Instead, you’ll need to carefully plan your tasks each day, earning money from any successful accomplishment as a result. This is where things get a bit tricky, as there’s a fair potion of management to mind.
Each week you’ll have bills to pay, including that of your ex-wife’s alimony, which naturally increases over time to make things a bit more difficult. Earning cash plays a large role in the game, and thankfully, there’s no shortage of ways to gain an income. The best way to enjoy a steady flow of money is to work towards fulfilling the chief’s main tasks. These include the likes of towing vehicles, dishing out tickets, and so forth. You know, that guy. The guy that we all hate to love, and love to hate. That’s you. There’s some depth to the system on show.
For instance, you’re able to shovel out tickets for a wide range of reasons; broken lights, illegal tires, bad parking, it’s all here. However, as this plays out, there’s plenty of other things to keep you occupied elsewhere. Despite being the chief’s main focus, vehicles are not the only problem. You’ll need to patrol the street and keep a keen eye out for perps. This includes the likes of thieves; who burst out of shops and need to be chased down (apparent by a handcuff icon) and arrested – which gives you some good street credit.
That’s just one scenario, and in Beat Cop, there are many. That said, it largely falls to you to decide what sort of cop you want to be. There’s always a choice in cop games, right? Beat Cop is no different. There’s two gang factions present that are constantly locking horns with one another and attempting to buy you out; the mafia, and the crew. There’s plenty of additional tasks in the game that will either aid or disrupt each gang, affecting your reputation with each depending on which way you go. It’s a simple, but effective system.
One day in-game amounts to roughly twenty minutes of play time, and in that time, you’ll be working towards a number of goals. Goals that rest upon the above mechanics and affect your stature in one form of another. The problem, however, is that it all runs a bit stale. The mission structure becomes tedious and repetitive, with much of the traction left to the game’s slow drip-fed story beats. I’ll commend how it intertwines with the gameplay; meeting with your old captain to gain some insights on the case that’s open against you.
You’ll even bump heads with shady characters and demand answers. It’s all been put together quite nicely, but even with its fluid interactions in mind, it runs dry before long. Whether you’re chasing robbers to put ’em in cuffs, chatting to shop-owners to gain intel, or just ticketing cars, there’s no shaking off that samey-samey vibe. Sure, Beat Cop does introduce new functionalities from time to time, but it’s a slow burner at best. I mean damn, you need to wait roughly ten days just to use your gun. Yes. Make of that what you will.
Speaking of the gunplay, there’s issues with its refinement. Several times I found myself opening fire, only to consistently miss the mark and die over and over. Whilst its systems are sturdy enough, and intersect quite decently in practice, more depth and quality wouldn’t have gone amiss. Some more time on the drawing board would have seen Beat Cop sitting alongside its more robust peers, but as it stands, it’s a generic management experience at best. It’s a shame really, because it houses some intriguingly dark humor.
I also quite enjoyed its cast of interesting characters, but as alluded to already, nothing really adds up well enough overall. The bottom line? If you’ve played any given management game of similar ilk, you’ll have seen much of what’s on offer here, just less accomplished. Thankfully, it’s very easy to pick up and play, which is an oddity for a game of this standing. The controls remain very straightforward and to the point, leaving it wide open for genre newcomers and returning fans alike. It certainly needs crediting for that.
In summary, Beat Cop allows for a respectable amount of breathing room, but fails to capitalize on its foundation. There’s street cleaning, bribes, crooks, and anything in between, and it’s all balanced and compounded by a lot of risk vs reward. Do you take a payoff and risk being exposed by an undercover cop? Or, do you uphold the law and stick to your guns? Indeed, you’re free to be the cop that you want to be, but it rarely makes sense to be good due to the lack of encouragement in comparison to the opposite approach.
In regards to the game’s audio and visual design, Beat Cop does a passable job on both fronts. There’s a nice visual variation on offer, with several themes and cultures present to add more diversity to the fields of play. The level of detail, whilst not extraordinary, helps to maintain grip. I can say the same about the game’s audio, being that it doesn’t particularly go to great lengths, but sits comfortably with the quality of the overall product. Beat Cop will find its following, but I don’t see it standing the tests of time or taking home any awards.
Whilst its story is both welcoming and gripping, and its dialogue remains on point, Beat Cop fails to build where it truly matters. The core loop, although very serviceable, becomes tedious and repetitive before long, with little mechanical depth in place to keep things fresh. There’s certainly some fun to be had here, but it tends to be quite fleeting. In essence, it’s a generic management sim that, to its detriment, rarely ever attempts to innovate.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.