Available on Steam for PC and PS4, I’ve had my eye on this for a while since playing it at Eurogamer and being interested. With the PSN sale now on I decided to take a punt and fulfil my dreams of being a cop in 70s LA.
I don’t want to be a cop in 70s LA any more. It’s not fun. At least that’s according to LA Cops. It’s set in a top down (slightly offset isometric) point of view in a similar vein to Hotline Miami. That’s clearly the influence here but instead of a lone killer you’re always a double act.
The horror begins as the game fires up with a cell shaded visual style which initially looks nice but quickly looks cheap, and 70s style music which again initially feels like a nice scene setter but eats away at your brain as it looks endlessly over menus and in-game. Choosing a partner is fun, all the classic stereotypes are in play – Kowalski being my favourite – and you can level them up with experience earned in game.
Once it starts, it all gets worse. There’s some light plot running through, it’s what you’d expect – a classic police captain issuing detectives to various scenes, although my second cutscene was getting a new partner… who was instantly forgotten when the level loaded with my original picks.
A disclaimer – it’s probably better on a mouse and keyboard, I played on PS4 with a controller. You control both characters; one at a time. You can order the other to a spot near to, or position and swap to cover doors etc as you clear the bad guys down. There’s a button which looks onto the baddies to help shoot them and that’s about the control scheme mapped. The first major problem – your aiming cursor is always fixed at the same distance from your player. Meaning any aiming needs to be in line with this and you have to gauge it from the angle of the display (I struggled with close ups) or further away. The enemy doesn’t have this issue and suffers the same issues at Hotline Miami 2’s over reliance on gunplay – you can be killed from outside of the screen. At least HM2 allowed you to scroll the map to check your options, LA Cops simply only lets you rotate the map.
To ease the view, walls and doorways are cutaway. What this means is it’s impossible to tell what’s a broken down wall you can shoot over, or a gap in a doorway or just a visual aid. Missing shots can cause the baddies to come running however your partner’s cover mechanism is garbage. They will frequently have enemies running through and not shooting them, or worse – getting killed and leaving a free run through to kill you.
Locking on gets around some of this – you just have to shoot quicker than you can get shot. But the lock on sporadically targets the right person. Some of these issues may be resolved as characters level up but after doing three levels I had such limited XP to develop it was clear that some grinding was going to be required.
Scenery doesn’t just distract visually – it will impede movement as you get stuck on it leaving you even more vulnerable. Maybe a digital input like a keyboard would help, along with being able to pinpoint targets to shoot. Similarly calling a spot for your partner to go would be easier on a mouse I would think – on controller you’re limited to the same fixed arc. Want your buddy to wait by the door? Well you need to back away so the cursor is on your side otherwise he’ll be running round through danger.
Lack of co-op play is a missed opportunity. A buddy cop shooting game is made for co-op. Maybe this will be added down the line but I would suggest some more serious fundamentals are addressed beforehand.
It’s not often I regret buying a digital game as I at least get something out of it. Were it not for this review I probably would not have persevered – and playing a game because you feel like you ‘have to’ rather than ‘want to’ defeats the point altogether. My advice to LA Cops? Early retirement.
Reviewed on PS4