Don’t worry, that donut’s only bleeding jam
Police procedurals are one genre that have always gotten rich representation on TV via such series as Hill Street Blues. However, cop-em-ups have always gotten the shaft in favour of mere police-themed shoot-em-ups. Beat Cop looks to change all that by providing a more pure simulation of being a boy in blue, where you’re doing everything from writing tickets to checking license plates. With its pixelated graphics and point-n-click bureaucratic gameplay, Beat Cop is reminiscent of Papers Please, with a little bit of Police Quest mixed in there.
Unlike Police Quest though – where you had the moustachioed Jim Walls telling you to do things by the book, damnit – Beat Cop allows you to be a maverick who plays by his own rules. You play as Officer Jack Kelly, a former plain-clothes detective who’s been bumped down to foot patrol – walking a daily beat on a dilapidated urban street. With a shady past where he was implicated in a murder investigation: Kelly is almost instantly embroiled in yet another web of intrigue and violence when another cop is gunned down on his first day at the job – with the drive-by shooting being meant for him. Kelly has to unravel the mystery of the conspiracy against him, while doing his daily duty as a beat cop.
Reflecting the enormous burdens of a police officer, Beat Cop is all about managing your precious time. Every day, you’ve got a quota of tickets to write for different vehicular infractions, such as if someone has parked in a no-parking zone or is driving with knackered-looking tires. This will require you to do a quick check of each car, also letting you check the parking meter to make sure their time hasn’t expired. You’ll have to correctly fill in tickets or your daily pay will be docked, but it takes time to do a thorough check of each car. However, there’s a little girl running up to you who’s lost her cat. Your radio is buzzing, telling you to cordon off the scene of a reported murder. Every day is a real struggle to keep up with all the developments on the street, and it’s up to you to portion your time to do everything.
Beat Cop isn’t just about doing your duty as a cop, and saving your ass from getting canned – it’s also about keeping your head above water financially and staying on the right side of the various factions on the street. There’s the everyday citizens – who you can stay on the right side of by protecting the ethinically diverse shop-owners from thieves; letting the odd ticket slide or helping tenement dwellers with child custody drama. There’s also the Mafia – who you can do various favours for via a pizzeria, where a suited goombah will you you innuendo-laden tasks, such as asking you to “take care” of rival drug dealers by having their truck towed. Then there’s the gangs who might ask you to look the other way when they’re dealing smack on the corner. You’ll be rewarded with bribes and quid-pro-quo favours from those you help. A little extra off-the-books cash certainly helps when you’ve got alimony payments to your ex-wife looming.
When you bend the rules to gain an edge on the street though, you’ll always risk hurting your standing with your fellow boys in blue, and the timed decisions you’ll constantly face can really wear on your nerves as you keep walking tightropes of moral ambiguity.
Beat Cop looks to be a very exciting and unique title catering to a woefully underserviced niche. I sure can’t wait to play the full game and find out the mysteries of Jack Kelly’s past. Keep walking a beat around the culturally diverse HeyPoorPlayer block (I’m the surly fish n’ chip shop owner) to catch a review red-handed when the full version of Beat Cop comes out later this year.