Indie games can drive consumers to buy consoles nearly as much as AAA releases. What else are you going to play in between the big retail releases, and where else would you find more creative and experimental game designs? With this in mind, Team17, creators of the Worms series have started an indie initiative in which they help fund a publish indie games. LA Cops comes to Xbox One from this initiative and has looked promising since it was announced.
LA Cops is a stylish isometric tactical-shooter that's is inspired by seventies-era cop shows. The game's satire and art style strike a less serious and more light-hearted and fun tone. La Cops stars two cops of your choosing who are out to clean up the crime-ridden streets of LA. The game takes many cues from PlayStation exclusive Hotline Miami, but it doesn't perform nearly as well.
Level design here is virtually the same as Devolver Digital's controversial shooter. You find yourself in a building made up of rooms and corridors full of enemies that are looking to take you out. Your job is to clear methodically away the enemies out without dying, plain and simple. LA Cops, however, tries to freshen up the template originated by Hotline Miami by having a single player control two characters at a time.
In theory, this adds a more tactical approach to the game. You have to take care of two guys instead of one so you try to position them in areas where they can help each other. You can use the dual-positioning to your advantage by having one guy flank as the other attracts the attention of enemies. Or you could have both burst through separate doors of a room simultaneously to take the bad guys by surprise.
Level progression is made by killing or arresting enemies (arresting provides bonus points) on a floor. Once the floor is clear of all enemies, you will proceed to the next floor and its fresh supply of criminals. Some levels only feature one floor while others have three or four. Altogether the game features 20 sections.
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LA Cops is a tough game, but perhaps less so than Hotline Miami. Unlike that game, your cops can actually take a couple of hits here before they bite the bullet. There are also donuts lying around on each floor that will restore a little bit of health.
Losing one of your two cops won't end the game, thankfully. There is usually a revival kit laying around that one cop can use to resuscitate the other. But if both characters fall, you must begin the section you are on all over again.
That being said, it does offer difficulty options. There is Normal, Hardcore, and Nightmare. I played throughout the game in Hardcore, which was a challenge. I died at least ten times on each section of the game, but I never gave up. Somebody's gotta bust those crooks.
Fun yet flawed
LA Cops can be enjoyable, but sometimes its flaws overshadow the fun. First, the AI is too unpredictable. A nearby enemy might not hear your gunfire, and yet another enemy will hear a shot from the same distance and become alerted. Controlling two cops at once is hard enough without the bad guys behaving inconsistently.
Leave one of your officers behind, and he won't fend for himself very well. Sure, the dude can guard an area, but he won't put up a real fight. Without your input, your partner hardly ever takes out attackers on his own and usually ends up dead.
Now for the worst part of the experience: the controls are too clunky. You move with the left stick while aiming with the right stick. The problem is, aiming with the right stick is way harder than in other twin-stick shooters. The stick moves too slowly and doesn't respond as well as it should. At least the game has an auto-aim feature that helps make up for the clunky aiming.
Pressing the X button automatically snaps the aim onto a nearby enemy, but once that enemy is dead you have to press the button again to set your aim on someone else. That can be tough when you have 5-6 enemies gunning for you at once. You can't really pray and spray because you can only aim at one enemy at once.
Another drawback (in my mind) is the soundtrack. It's full of funky seventies-style riffs that fit the game's atmosphere but do nothing to keep you pumped up. You want a shooter's soundtrack to keep your heart pounding and your palms sweaty.
Finally, one of the biggest flaws is the game's length. On hardcore mode, I was able to get through the game in about 5-6 hours. I've also heard reports of people getting through it in around 2 hours or less.
LA Cops is funky and stylish, cleverly capturing a light-hearted tone despite all the bad guy shooting. Although I really enjoyed it at first, my enthusiasm dwindled the more I played it. At $14.99 I'm torn. If the developers improve the game's controls, it could easily turn things around. I'd be happy to revisit it without the unresponsive aiming. But at this moment in time, I can only suggest grabbing this game on sale..
I really wanted to like LA Cops, but it got too frustrating way too quickly. That's a shame because I'm a huge fan of Hotline Miami and would've loved a more tactical version of it. LA Cops doesn't hit the mark. It's a full of great potential but needs more work to really capture the magic.
The game is available starting today for $14.99. Just be careful before you put your faith in these cops. LA Cops needs to spend a little more time at the police academy.
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