Newport Falls is dirty. Crime is rampant and corruption is rife. It’s not just a dystopia as there is a back-story underpinning the present day Newport Falls. Sixteen years ago the city was run by Imperio, a criminal organisation that had hold of every aspect of the city. The police were powerless and Imperio was in total control until John Croft appeared. With his taskforce, he was able to reduce the impact of Imperio but just before he could eradicate it completely he was found dead and the crime unsolved. Today, Imperio still has a presence and it’s over to you.
You pick up the baton today as a newly appointed police chief with the task of restoring honour to law enforcement and cleaning up the city. Criminals must be punished and justice served. Police Tactics: Imperio is a real-time strategy title where you must coordinate a range of different police units to uphold the law. As you progress you will encounter new units, upgrade and create new headquarters and offices, deal with time of day changes which impact the types and amounts of crime in certain areas, react to emergency scenarios and even unlock new sirens! The new siren sounds are a particularly amusing and neat detail.
As the game begins there is some good voice acting that gives you the background and the history of Newport Falls presented in a comic book fashion. This is a nice intro to this sort of game and it’s handled well. As is custom for detailed real-time strategy titles your first day on the job is a tutorial that gives you some tips on navigating the world and how to go about your basic day-to-day. It’s fairly lengthy and does drag on a little bit but the first real criminal you encounter is the camera.
The zoom is limited and whereas you can get in close or zoom out – the furthest zoomed out view is a restricted top-down view of the city and scrolling around is slow. This hampered pace of movement and low field of view moves from frustrating to annoying really quickly and gets even more so the further into the game you get when you need to be able to see more action and react quickly.
Visually the style suits the game and does the job but it lacks the polish of some bigger releases. Animations are the biggest letdown – when you catch a criminal it moves into early 90s video game-style animation. Even the sound effects are of this era with deep thuds and a canned scream that would sound perfectly at home in Streets of Rage. Other sound effects also do the job but again there is a lack of polish for a lot of them. Some odd design decisions also limit your experience here, for example, police sirens are great but you can only hear them when you are zoomed in.
Zooming in is made more problematic by the lack of an ability to follow a unit. If you zoom into the action you need to scroll (either by flicking your mouse to the screen or using the classic keyboard movements) manually to keep track of your units that is challenging because of the screen scroll speed. You can assign quick buttons to each unit so pressing one will zoom to it but having to repeatedly tap to follow a police car is cumbersome.
The management of the game is mostly done through setting patrol routes either for cars or officers. For those with OCD, this will likely be a dream but you will need to make sure that you don’t miss certain roads or you will have hot crime areas pop up. As the city expands with the completion of missions you will need to continue to review these routes to ensure new areas do not go completely unprotected. At certain aspects there will be a requirement to set up roadblocks to contain and apprehend the bad guys – this is a nice addition to the standard patrol routes but you do have to then track them down manually by identity searching everyone. This is once again, frustrating.
These emergency events are also bogged down by curious design decisions. If you send an officer or patrol to a crime outside of their normal route, they will repeatedly tell you they are “continuing patrol” when in reality they are just sitting there. You need to manually drag them back onto their route so they can continue their work else they will literally sit there at a crime scene until you realise. This is presumably an oversight that can be easily patched but it adds to the difficulty of persisting with this game. As the complexity escalates this becomes a much bigger problem.
The game progresses linearly with mission after mission which after each successful completion gives you an unlock to further your progression. This is a nice touch that keeps you interested in playing through the story mode but there is no challenge mode or, shockingly, no sandbox mode. This is a surprising omission – almost every game of this type includes a sandbox or free play mode but it is absent here. Instead, for a game with a large scope and potential, it seems peculiar to restrict players to a really structured approach that doesn’t allow for exploration and experimentation.
This limit doesn’t really reward investment in your city. There is always the next specific goal to aim for which you must achieve before progressing. As a result instead of playing around with your staff and micromanaging certain aspects of your headquarters, you may be forced to tailor your patrols to a specific area. You can take your time before getting there but ultimately the game is funnelling you towards a certain path.
There’s a reasonable amount of content in Police Tactics: Imperio but after a couple of hours, you will feel like you’ve seen it all before. Due to the frustrating elements you likely will not want to persist in the story (certainly, until there have been some patches) and with no alternative that is likely to be the end of your crime fighting. Having said that, we did quite enjoy running a police precinct so if you can put up with a lot of the annoyances this could be worth a look, especially considering the price point.