Serve, Protect, Survive.
Los Angeles is overridden with the most disgusting, blood-thirsty degenerates the world has ever known. The only thing standing between them and total annihilation is LA's finest, the L.A.P.D. Sound like last week's LA Times headline? Nope, it's the 21st century, and this is Future Cop L.A.P.D.
The concept is simple. You pilot a fancy new police vehicle called a TAC (Tactical Assault and Combat) X-1 Alpha (clearly a bow to a classic sci-fi villain, Robocop's ED-209). At your disposal are several weapons of mass destruction as well as the ability to transform the X-1 Alpha into a nifty little hovercraft ("the police cruiser of the future"). You stomp or float your way through 8 areas of LA, neutralizing the bad guys so that the City of Angels can once again flourish.
The first thing you'll notice about Future Cop is that it is definitely a product of Electronic Arts. The game actually began as the next in the Strike series (following Soviet Strike and Nuclear Strike), but EA decided to change it up a bit. Imagine the Strike series set in LA without the helicopter. Now toss in some blood, and a touch of attitude, and you've got Future Cop.
The next thing you'll notice is that it doesn't take much brains to play this shooter. You'll find that each level takes a few tries; you sacrifice a few lives figuring out exactly where to go, then its simply a matter of conserving the big guns for bosses. Each of the levels has a different crime-lord that's trying to screw up the city. Southland natives will recognize such places as Venice Beach, Griffith Park, and my personal favorite, the La Brea Tar Pits (complete with worm-like vehicles trudging through the good 'ol LA river). The only thing that I found particularly frustrating is that every time you die, you have to start the level over entirely--so conserve your shields!
If you're a sick bastard like me, you'll find that the most entertaining thing about Future Cop is the unabashed gratuitous violence. EA really brought out buckets of blood for this bad boy. The little bad guys are even motion-captured, so you know you're getting some real-life carnage. Each scene even comes complete with a "crowd control" sequence, where you get to mow down dozens of stupid little men, Smash T.V. style. The graphics in Future Cop aren't ground-breaking, but they're solid. There's some decent light-sourcing, and the explosions look great.
Gameplay you ask? Well, it's a bit complicated to begin with, but once you get the hang of it, it's nice. The X-1 Alpha is fitted with three weapons - a small gun, a bigger gun, and a huge gun. At the start of each stage you can choose exactly what kind of weapon you want, from the brutal flame-thrower to the massive plasma flare launcher. You've also got the dispatcher with you every step of the way. And get this-the dispatcher is actually really cool!
Future Cop comes with another mode that will make Herzog-Zwei fans foam at the mouth. Although it is a mere side-attraction to the main game, Precinct Assault is a fantastic game to play with a buddy who needs to be taught a lesson. First, you select which stage you want to play in (each of the games eight scenes can be selected). Next, you begin to send out troops to destroy the other guy's base. Don't get me wrong, this is definitely no Command and Conquer - you only have a few different kind of troops at your disposal, and if you know the stage well, you can win easily. For the sheer entertainment value of seeing your opponent's face as you pummel his base ("Blue base is under attack!"), this mode is a keeper.
Future Cop definitely has its flaws. The two-player mode in the normal game, for example, sucks. Because the game relies on the players' ability to see everything around him, the split screen simply makes it difficult to maneuver. You'll find yourself saying "where are you?" and "how do I get there?" a lot. And as I mentioned before, EA should have thrown in some sort of check-point system so that when you die, you don't have to start over. The lack of this feature was enough to make me turn the thing off because I didn't want to do the same stuff over and over again.
If you're into bloody, shoot-em-up, sci-fi action, however, this game is the Yoko to your Lennon.