games / Columns

The 8 Ball: Top 8 Law Enforcement Games – Red Dead Redemption, LA Noire, More

September 18, 2018 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Red Dead Redemption

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! Last week I tackled criminal games, so this week is the other side of the coin with Law Enforcement games. These are games where you primarily play a cop, take control of emergency personal, or are generally trying to do the “right” side of the criminal vs. cop debate. One game not on here (because I haven’t played it) is This is the Police, which has decent reviews, I just haven’t played it. Let’s begin:

#8: Emergency

Emergency would be higher on this list if they actually changed it from the editions I played. I’ve played Emergency 5, 2014 and Emergency 20 and I think the all feature the same first mission and most of the same assets. It’s the Cities XL of the Emergency simulator franchise. Also, mysteriously, old versions of the game are de-listed on Steam once new editions come out, I wonder why. Still, the nugget of the idea of this game is good, you are basically the dispatcher for police, fireman, ambulance and other emergency vehicles. I just wish it actually played better.

#7: Max Payne

Throughout most of the game, everyone is after Max Payne, both cops and criminals. The cops think he killed a DEA agent and the criminals are after him because he was undercover with them as part of a DEA sting. Max’s goal is to get out from under the frame job and discover who is making the drug “Valkyr”, which some drug addicts were using when they killed his wife and child 3 years earlier. To get to the bottom of things, Max usually busts through doors and stylishly kills everyone using bullet time, while dodging out of the way of their return shots. Max Payne did a lot when it came to environmental realism, physics, just being a cool (and at the time), cinematic action game and so on. It also helped put Remedy really on the map for a lot of people.

#6: Red Dead Redemption

Here’s the thing about Red Dead Redemption, as a complete game its better than most of the games on this list, I have no doubt of that. You may even question it’s placement on this list, after all John Marston was a criminal in a former life. While that’s true, the game’s entire narrative focus is on Marston catching up his old criminal buddies to be given amnesty for his crimes. While anyone who has finished the game knows this doesn’t pan out for him, it’s the driving force behind Marston as a character. Also, his interactions with various sheriffs is fairly cordial, especially with the Armadillo one. The bounty hunter missions are help display the law enforcement nature of Redemption. While you can go full criminal, shoot up towns and be a criminal, it’s much more interesting and fun to play Red Dead Redemption on the right side of the law.

#5: Police Quest 4: Open Season

Reading up on the game, I had no idea of the behind the scenes machinations of it, or how it was viewed as insensitive by having Daryl F. Gates involved. Frankly, I had no idea who he even was when I was playing it as a kid, back in like 1996 or something. What I appreciated about the game, at the time, was the voice acting, the realism and the general procedures you would have to do in order to complete a scene. Sadly, I never actually finished Police Quest 4, I had the diskette version of the game and during one of the gun certification mini-games, the disk would fail and the game would crash. Still, I always respected the game and it’s one of the few early memories I have of PC gaming.

#4: Driver: San Francisco

People have fond memories of the original Driver 1 and 2 games for the Playstation 1 but that is crazy. All the Driver games sucked prior to Driver: San Francisco. The real nugget of Driver: SF is the “Shift” mechanic that lets you inhabit the bodies of other people in the city so you can commandeer their life and their car. This plays heavily into the actual story of the game, since it’s all taking place inside Tanner’s comatose head, you have to help out the various citizens of San Francisco to help their lives. Once Tanner eventually wakes up from his coma business, he uses his newly-gotten coma knowledge to stop Jericho in the real world. As Driver: San Francisco points out, comas can solve all of the criminal problems.

#3: Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit

You can play as both a cop and a criminal in this game only playing as the cop is a lot more fun. Both factions get the EMP and spike strip weapons. Criminals get use of a jammer (to block weapons) and a turbo boost. Cops get use of roadblocks and helicopters. And the helicopter can fly ahead of the criminal racers to drop spike strips to catch them. The police progression is also more rewarding (and easier) than the racer stuff, I feel, since it requires a bit more finesse and tactical thinking. Also, this Hot Pursuit game was the last truly good Need for Speed game.

#2: LA Noire

God I wish I could actually get into LA Noire. I’ve tried, I have over 15 hours in the PC version but the game just does not click for me at all. I appreciate the hell out of the graphics, level of detail in re-creating a 1940’s Los Angeles, and Dan Ryckert a lot in the game. I just never got a good grip on the questioning mechanic and some of the other basic gameplay stuff in the game. Questioning people seems really fuzzy in spots, like you are asking or responding to something in one way but the game misinterprets it in a different way. Also, while driving is fine, melee combat and ranged shooting felt awkward to me. Still, I give this game a lot of credit for being realistic in how it handles historical police situations, the overall production values, and (as said above) for putting Dan Ryckert in it.

#1: SWAT 4

The day that GOG announced that SWAT 4 was available on their store front, I immediately went there and bought it. It is the definitive police game, even though it came out 13 years ago. Part of this is likely due to it being executive produced by Ken Levine, and say what you want about him, is games tend to have a more ageless quality than most other stuff. SWAT 4 places you in the boots of a SWAT team leader (of red and blue team) as you tackle various missions to secure hostages and arrest criminals. You are scored higher for doing things “correctly”, like not letting your team get injured/killed and not shooting-to-kill suspects when you encounter them. If you want a game whre you actually feel like you’re a police officer, this is still the only realistic (yet fun) game on the market.

For comments, list your favorite law enforcement games and why.

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Dungeons & Dragons, Marc Morrison