“I’m too old for this shit”. It’s a simple enough phrase, but one that any movie fan will recognise. It’s right up there with “I have two days ‘till retirement” and it’s the thought that was running through my mind as I played Team 17’s new title: LA Cops. LA Cops is a strange game, I can’t figure out if the developers were deliberately making fun of the cop genre, if they were trying to honour it or possibly a little bit of both.

In LA Cops you take control of a squad of old school, loosely stereotyped cops. There is the possibly corrupt officer with a bad comb over, the female cop who isn’t accepted because she’s a woman and the shouting police captain who complains about everything. It’s a well-worn bag of tropes that ultimately fall through in respect to the plot by means of the few short cut scenes that are provided. Having control of the numerous cops is pretty redundant as you can only take two detectives with you per mission and each character has to be upgraded individually, but more on that later.

At first glance I thought LA Cops was some turn based strategy game in the same vein as Omerta: City of Gangsters or Company of Heroes, and while the top down perspective and roofless buildings give that impression it is in fact not turn based at all, and not much of a strategy game either. You and your partner have to attend call outs and missions taking on LA’s criminals, terrorists and organised crime in real time.

There is a vague semblance of plot but I have to say that it makes no difference to the experience, there are only a dozen or so missions available (including side missions) and the characters are never given time to really come through, The writing can be funny at times (the police captain complaining about the budget got a chuckle out of me) but for the most part the characters have no impact and are ultimately forgettable.

In each mission you must arrest or kill criminals, save any hostages and in some cases, destroy drug caches. You can switch between the two chosen cops, move, fire, pick up weapons and issue move commands to your partner, all in game. Moving through each level is fraught with hazards, especially before you get the chance to level your cop’s attributes. A lucky gunman or sneaky crook can take you down quickly and this will leave your other character to either carry on with the mission or search for a med pack to revive your fallen cop. If truth be told it can often be too much to ask the player to navigate through the levels, which are well designed, with both cops simultaneously (something the game designers want you to do). The AI of your partner is terrible and if he is left to fend for himself for any length of time, he will undoubtedly die. I saw one of my characters get gunned down by a single enemy with a handgun as he carried a freaking grenade launcher, it was painful to watch.

The minute to minute gameplay is pretty good, the difficulty does spike regularly so I had to go back and replay earlier missions (a lot) so that I could level up my characters. This is why having such a large selection of characters seems overkill to me, each cop needs to be upgraded individually, and with an average of three or four upgrade points being earned per mission this can take a while. I found that I quickly picked two cops and focused on upgrading them. It was a bit of a grind but it did pay off in the end. There are several weapons you can choose from and swapping out an empty handgun for a shotgun felt like a Lethal Weapon movie. In combat you will need to lock onto your enemies by pressing the X button, if you don’t it gets tricky to hit anything with the free aim by using the analog stick. Once you get onto the later levels of LA Cops, all you need to do is tap X and RT repeatedly to wipe out a whole room of bad guys. It’s not a bad system in any regard but I felt that it want as “tight” as I am used to in my shooters.

I played through the whole game and I’m still not sure what I make of the art design. It has a retro feel to it that sits well with the “old school cop” setting but the animations in the cut scenes didn’t do anything for me. Aside form a few exceptions, the voice acting missed the mark, it was too rough to be a serious attempt at a story but not bad enough for it to pay homage to the Starsky and Hutch era of television that I think LA Cops were aiming for.

LA Cops seems to lack conviction in itself, to me at least. It’s a pretty fun game to play after the repeating the first mission time and again to level up your characters. The missions provide a good challenge but the friendly AI means that you can’t rely on it to cover your back. When LA Cops gets it right and the planets align, I had a ball blasting my way through drug lord penthouses, casinos and even the police station. I can’t help but feel that it would be a much better game if it had the option of a multiplayer mode, with a friend controlling the second cop, many of these problems wouldn’t exist but they linger in the periphery of the single player gameplay.
LA Cops missed its mark with me, playing it too cautiously to be a piss take but it didn’t invest the time into the story or the characters to make me think this is a serious game. Instead it floats somewhere between the two. Once you take the time to grind, LA Cops turns into a decent little shooter, but repeating the same level over a dozen times…… I’m too old for that shit.