Police Simulator: Patrol Officers Review
Eh eh, this is the sound of the police
Years ago, there was a saying among quasi-urban police officers that went something along the lines of “most cops never draw their weapon, let alone fire it”. Whether or not that’s true today is up for debate, but it’s certainly made law enforcement a strange topic for a video game to focus on. Given everything that’s happened in the past few years, it almost seems in bad taste to focus a title on the life of a patrol officer, with many games instead opting to tell the tale of the much less morally ambiguous criminals and soldiers who also exist on city streets. And, for better or worse, Police Simulator: Patrol Officers doesn’t change that fact, because the title is generally forgettable at best and boring at worst.
Like its name suggests, the game puts you in the tactical boots of a cop in a mid-sized American town called Brighton. Your job, in case it wasn’t obvious, is to patrol the city’s streets either on foot or in a car, for the sole purpose of keeping the city safe from petty criminals. Each one of your shifts, the number of which you complete depending on how much you want to play the game, starts you inside of a police station. From there, you’re forced to venture into your patrol zone to issue parking tickets, detain drug users and solve the odd criminal case.
And, truth be told, there isn’t a whole lot more to Police Simulator: Patrol Officers than that. You don’t need to seriously investigate any citizen’s wrongdoings, there are no high speed chases to partake in, and the only time you’ll be forced to draw your issued sidearm is when someone tries to walk away from your taser. There’s a simplistic elegance to the title that makes it weirdly akin to Euro Truck Simulator, which works to both the game’s benefit and detriment. The good news is that completing routine traffic stops or chasing the occasional perp is just exciting enough to be engaging without it ever becoming overtly stressful or pulse-pounding.
The bad news is that this also means Police Simulator: Patrol Officers isn’t an especially interesting game. Whereas This is the Police tackled the moral complexities of policework, and Enforcer: Police Crime Action featured plenty of shootouts, this specific title offers very little in the way of truly fun gameplay. After you figure out its controls, which can take a few hours given how many obscure bindings there are to memorise and the fact that there’s no interactive tutorial, the game feels like working a 9-to-5 job. You start each day issuing parking tickets, can potentially clear a car crash scene around lunch, and then you end your shift sitting back in your police precinct. Which is all well and good, and not to repeat myself, does mean that it’s hard to truly get glued to your screen once the novelty of exploring the city wears off.
This is in no small part because Police Simulator: Patrol Officers isn’t an especially great game technically speaking. There’re a fair few bugs in it, which vary from t-posing AI in traffic stops to certain car crashes being too bugged to complete. The visuals also aren’t great, at least on the PC we played it on, with the animations specifically looking especially robotic and the title’s framerate tanking in the more populous parts of Brighton.
But, honestly, that doesn’t really matter when Police Simulator: Patrol Officers is very much the kind of game only worth playing to shut your brain off. Without the aforementioned shootouts or car chases to take part in, or anything in terms of moral decisions to make, the game can feel a bit tone deaf at times. Video games, moreso than many other mediums, strive on examining the role of various parts of society through interactivity. But when the interactivity is limited to pulling people over and the part of society that’s being portrayed is the police in the United States, that makes the entirety of Police Simulator: Patrol Officers seem like a bit of a fever dream to play. There’s something to be said about how games don’t need to discuss complex issues like police violence and crime, but given everything that’s happening in the world as it relates to these issues, those things should be ignored and chastised.
However, if for some reason you aren’t the type of player to care about people’s experiences with the po-po, Police Simulator: Patrol Officers is still a decent enough game on its own. Writing tickets, clearing crime scenes and arresting ne'er-do-wells is generally cathartic and intrinsically satisfying. There isn’t any fun to be had with guns or intricate crime solving, and the bugs present in the aforementioned foot patrolling are generally amusing more than they are gamebreaking. You can also play the game with a friend with easy-to-understand Steam integration, which helps make it less monotonous, but either way, if you want a more nuanced take on the law enforcement establishment, or something that’ll get your pulse pounding you should look elsewhere (like here for example).
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