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The only thing that stops the dust is the rain. It’s a sweet reprieve, but there is no middle ground. The land is either as dry as the Betty Ford clinic, or as wet as the ocean floor. Everything can be seen from the ridge overlooking Armadillo as John Marston gently bounces along atop...

The Shield Review

Greg_Damiano By:
GENRE Action / Adventure 
PUBLISHER Aspyr Media 
DEVELOPER Point of View 
M Contains Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language

What do these ratings mean?

Bully with a badge.

You would think with the luck I’ve had with television show video games, I am either masochistic or otherwise waging a war against everything good and licensed. To set the record straight, it’s quite the opposite - I’m a sucker for anything with a license, and I believe that you can make any game great if you write it well and the gameplay rocks. I’m always looking out for the next solid product.

Unfortunately, our favorite shows and superheroes often suffer a difficult journey from the licensor to the storefront. Take The Shield: The Game, announced in March 2004 but cancelled by High Moon Studios (Darkwatch), before being resurrected in October 2006, by Aspyr Media (Top Spin 2).
click to enlargeThe Shield would have been something in 2004, but in ‘07 it’s showing its age. The game feels a little too rough around the edges to be fun, and all the grit and attitude of the Emmy-winning television show falls flat in the midst of raw, repetitive gameplay and terrible, terrible writing.
A 30-second FMV attempts to tell the story of corrupt L.A.P.D. officer Vic Mackey (Michael "Thing" Chiklis) and his truckload of stolen money. The conspiracy has nearly torn his task force unit apart, and the fate of Mackey’s team rests on his ability to shoot minority suspects and stop an arms race on the streets of Los Angeles.
Vic’s no-nonsense methods are efficient, but they can get you fired; unlike Grand Theft Auto and its stars rating system, The Shield ends the moment your Heat meter fills up. You can eliminate Heat by arresting perps and collecting evidence, or you can even plant incriminating weapons on their corpses.
(Um... if you shoot someone who is holding a gun... why do you need to plant another gun next to him? I need to learn more about the police business.)
click to enlargeHandcuffs and Murder One are just two tools in Vic’s arsenal; simple minigames keep you running through obstacle courses and interrogating thugs over lit stovetops. You find most evidence through a refreshing five-second search game, and you can stash any dirty drugs or money you find in a ‘retirement fund’ score. Nice.
I really like how the clear score system is tied to ethical strategy - the Heat meter kept me motivated to make arrests and mind my evidence. The ending gives you a cool last-second choice, and a high retirement fund can actually extend the game past its conclusion, but the mediocre gameplay really saps the fun out of playtime.
Vic has a fair list of brawling moves for grappling enemies and kneeing them in the balls. Gunplay is much more difficult: it only takes four or five bullets before you’re restarting a level. A braindead ally AI is more than happy to run ahead and fail the level for you, though it settles down in the later stages. With luck, you learn how to handle the gunmen at the right speed, though it doesn’t feel as fast or smooth as other, newer console models.
Only a few of the levels are drawn out into your typical ten-minute killing sprees, but even the simple ‘sneak through the room’ levels are so tightly wound that they wear thin as you repeat them for the umpteenth time.
click to enlargeThe graphics, like the gameplay, are good for a PS2 game but lack much-needed polish. Moving eyeballs and full mouth motions are fantastic for the cut scenes, though the PS2 sharpness and a little uncanny valley make the game eerie to look at sometimes... I wasn’t dying to earn the 25 hidden animation reels. The sound barely treads water, choking on uncomfortably timed conversations and a miniscule set of music clips.
The Shield has come a long way on television since the game was conceived; the fifth and sixth seasons have brought in Oscar winners and critical acclaim. The show pulls a lot of drama from the tensions around the precinct, but the game sacrifices that juicy character interaction for the lowest common denominator. Without the human factor, I was honestly creeped out playing a cop who terrorizes pawn shops and sex stores. Usually this kind of stuff has at least a humorous shock value, but the unsettling facial animations scared me away.
It’s more frustrating because the elements of good interaction are so apparent and underused. You walk around the police station after most missions, but your meticulously-rendered costars have little to say or give you. Why even bother?
I was happy that The Shield made great use of its police officer premise, but the game really wore me down. It probably doesn’t deserve a critical thrashing, but the gameplay and story can’t compete on today’s shelves.
C- Revolution report card
  • Ethical decisions and intrigue
  • Variety of action and methods
  • Raw, thankless action
  • Dry, empty writing
  • A little creepy
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