Dennaton Games' Hotline Miami titles are both a blessing and a curse. Obviously, some may think that the curse comes from both games' diabolically hard difficulty, while, at the same time, presenting a challenge that will keep players coming back for more. But the fact of the matter is, both games have set a successful enough model for copycats to begin coming out of the woodwork – and that's where Team 17's L.A. Cops comes in.
Produced for PC and Xbox One, this title puts you in charge of a duo of police officers that look like they came straight out of the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" video, with sunglasses, pistols and a penchant for donuts. Your job, throughout each level, is to bust bad guys, either by shooting or arresting them, while keeping your pair of officers in one piece. It's easier said than done, since the game follows the Hotline Miami formula almost right down to the letter.
It should be a flattering spin-off of Dennaton's work, but, instead, it dips way too often into frustration, mainly due to an unbalanced AI and gameplay execution that leaves much to be desired.
The Controls Are Hardly Arresting
One big problem I have with L.A. Cops is its gameplay. It's set up with twin-stick support, with the left stick controlling movement and the right controlling aiming. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of adjustment, as you'll sometimes have to manually set your sights on an enemy to take them out in a group or worse yet, position a lame-brained AI partner in an area and having to move around to accurately point it out.
There is an auto-aim button that makes it easier to target and take out an enemy, but if it's a room full of people, you'll be asking for trouble, as they come piling out and, in pure Miamifashion, shoot without hesitation. This ties in with the game's ridiculous AI issues, as sometimes you can bust a room full of guys by running up and arresting them – in plain sight – while other times a stray shot will suddenly flood the room with baddies. Balancing would've gone a long way here.
The gameplay system does allow you to "melee" enemies into a quick arrest, which is worth more points, but, honestly, shooting may be your best bet, especially when it comes to how erratically quick they react. Even then, frustrations are abound, as your AI partner could get themselves killed quickly (or, worse yet, do nothing while you're under attack), and you'll run out of ammo in a hurry unless you pick up more from bad guys. Worse yet, you can't get your hands on some of the better power weapons in the game – shotgun, assault rifle and the like – without exasperatingly playing through multiple levels and earning enough points for them. It's a painful process.
Some players may get a kick out of the challenge that L.A. Cops provides, but its problems certainly add up, especially when you're trying to clear a room and have to start all over again because your AI partner doesn't know how to shoot around a corner. Thanks, buddy.
Presentation Won't Win You Over Either
Team 17 knows how to make a charming-looking game experience, as demonstrated by its previous Worms titles. However, L.A. Cops comes across as a water-washed experience, rather than something that could've looked unique.
While the 70's cop art style is appreciated, the characters appear underdeveloped, missing crucial details that could give them better personification. And do they all really need to be wearing shirt and ties? Where's the gruff undercover officer? Also, why only one woman? Having a couple of kick-ass girls on the team probably would've made a difference.
The cinemas are okay in their stylish sort of way, but they're underdone by the terrible voice acting, which sounds like it came straight out of a…wait for it…lame 70's TV cop show. Sure, that may have been the intention, but Team 17 could've played it better for laughs. Here, it just sounds like they're trying too hard to inject life into the flimsy story. Plus, the way the captain complains about having to install a ladies' room in the station…well, that really says it all, doesn't it?
Finally, the level design has some promise, as you can rotate the camera to look around corners with ease and get a fresh perspective on where enemies may be at. However, the animations are painfully minimal, and the fact that some items can't be carried from level to level can be a frustration – especially when all you want to do is get a health pack to your downed partner so they can re-enter the battle. This just adds to the heavy frustration that gets in the way of enjoying L.A. Cops for what it is.
Oh, and one final note – whoever decided to release this in the same week as EA's Battlefield: Hardline clearly didn't give it that much thought. Two cops and robbers stories in the same week? Even if it is different in style, that's just asking for trouble. Especially against EA.
These are the criteria I consider most important for reviewing L.A. Cops.
Decent level design, but it has its flaws, and the whole washed-out color scheme annoys more than it should.
Terrible voice acting throughout, as the actors try way too hard for the lame material. At least the music is vintage cop territory.
Frustrating throughout, thanks to questionable AI and gameplay that may leave you in a deadly situation more often than not.
Replay Value: 5/10
Some bonus missions and weapons can be unlocked, but you'll need nerves of steel just continuing past the first five.
L.A. Cops isn't a bad idea in itself, as it takes the concept of Hotline Miami and turns it on its head, making you the law instead of the law-breaker. However, its execution is flawed almost every step of the way, between iffy gameplay decisions, a lackluster presentation and having to work to unlock the awesome stuff, instead of just giving it to you right away. If you have to be the ultimate police officer, stick with Hardline instead.
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