Book ‘em, Lou.
In a city tarnished by its documented police history, LA Cops looks to capture some of the struggles of a group of '70s beat cops through the mean streets of Los Angeles. Not only is the time period retro, but the game's play style and storylines follows the theme as well. The idea is to showcase that classic run-and-gun style of old, back in the day when crooked law enforcement and the gung-ho cowboy hero was there to save the day.
The point-and-shoot, room-clearing gameplay caters to light strategy, utilizing two characters at once. But trying to use both cops together proves to be a much tougher task than it should be. While you can only manually control one cop at a time, it is possible to point to an area you want your partially inactive partner to move to. At times, maneuvers like this prove to be the difference between living and dying. But unfortunately the consistency of an AI-controlled partner is lacking. At times, the AI's decision-making is on par with allowing a child choose what to wear to a wedding.
When working a room for points (yes, points), you can either kill enemies or arrest them. AI partners will never look to arrest, which makes having them around for scoring reasons impractical. But when facing large groups of thugs, it’s imperative to have backup. So it would've been nice if your backup understood how to shoot at multiple guys at a time and not just ones directly ahead. It would've also made a world of difference if your partner could move on his own, or at least to just follow your steps. Even adding a two-player mode in such a way would greatly add a boosted touch of cooperation.
Before entering each stage, you can choose among six different playable characters, everyone following the stereotypical demographic of a healthy-working police precinct. You have your loose cannon in Chet Kowalski, the uptight paper-pushing Alex Williams, the “unwanted” female newcomer Jo Murphy, Mr. Bad Combover Teddy Green, token black guy Thomas Borland, and the quiet know-it-all Asian Katsuo. (Excuse the generalizations, but have you watched Law and Order lately… or ever?) Of course, all the cast and crew are tightly overseen by the big man, Chief Mahoney himself.
Throughout the game, random cut-scenes will appear to set up various storylines and to build relationships between characters. Unfortunately, each backstory basically begins and ends in its respective cut-scene, leaving the audience with nothing more than a few lines of bland dialogue and little motivation to pair cops up accordingly. Even when choosing which two characters to use when starting new levels, statistically all of them have the potential to being the same. So aside from aesthetics, there’s no real reason to switch from player to player.
Visually the colors and designs of levels are fairly good for the genre. Everything from the graphics to the gameplay is simple and easy to learn. Encountering frustrating waves of thugs at times, though, is unavoidable, and replaying areas many times over is extremely likely, especially with an increase of difficulty as well as the progression through stages. The frustration is further fueled by the constant changing of areas from reset to reset, so studying particular enemy movement patterns or even finding health packs in the same way is almost useless. With every restart of a level, the way you cleared a room the last time may not be the best way to do it the next time.
Regardless of it all, levels are still replayable, and at a price of 15 bucks, LA Cops is a bargain deal. Taking that bargain is a subject in its own, but at least you know your partner will not run out on you… or with you… or at all for that matter…