Beat Cop Review

For Detective Jack Kelly, responding to a simple burglary would turn his life upside down. Under investigation for shooting the suspect, evidence missing, and now a Senator calling for his head, somehow he’s got to clear his name. That won’t be easy, now that he’s been busted down to Beat Cop.

It’s clear when playing Beat Cop that Pixel Crow have watched a lot of 80’s cop dramas. Right from the start menu, the game evokes the brash, over the top style of shows like Miami Vice crossed with the day to day reality of Hill Street Blues. You play as formerly Detective, now Officer Kelly, working the beat in New York City and trying to keep his head down while trying to clear his name in his spare time. He has three weeks to get out from under the investigation or he’s off the force, or worse. Until he can prove his innocence, he still has a job to do, keeping his beat safe and free of illegal parking.


At its core, Beat Cop is a resource management game, where your most precious resource is time. Each day will start the same way, with a briefing from your Sargent to summarize your goals for the day. In the beginning these objectives will be simple, usually involving patrolling your beat, responding to calls from dispatch, and writing tickets for people who park illegally. As you progress, more challenging situations will present themselves, along with more mundane requirements that you will still have to perform before the day ends. The clock is always ticking, and just like in real life, there never seems to be enough time to do everything you need to.  You might be asked to keep your eyes out for a specific suspect, or to stop a doomsday cult, but that won’t prevent your Sargent from chewing you out if you don’t also write your quota of tickets for people who park illegally, have broken lights, or who’s tire treads are dangerously worn. The Mayor is on his ass, and of course, shit rolls downhill. Meet your quotas, and respond to all of your calls and your reputation with the Police will go up. Fail to meet your quotas or miss too many calls, and your reputation will go down, and potentially your  pay could be docked for your dereliction of duty.

Complicating your patrols are the efforts of two crime organizations that are constantly at odds on your street. The west side is run by the Mafia, based out of Louie’s pizza restaurant, and on the east side is The Crew, which is headquartered out of the pawn shop. Over the course of the game members of each gang may come to you asking for favors, or be implicated in a crime that you are investigating. How you choose to react to these situations will result in gaining or losing reputation with each group, and will drastically affect how they react to you and the level of cooperation (or lack thereof) you can expect from them. Depending on what kind of a cop you want to play, turning a blind eye to their more criminal activities could be quite lucrative, but probably won’t change the opinion of the brass about your innocence. Money is short though, and sometimes in order to make your regular alimony payments, writing tickets might not be enough. There are plenty of opportunities to handle certain side jobs for one side or the other, or even to take bribes from ordinary citizens to avoid getting one of your tickets. Don’t be so quick to go dirty however, because Internal Affairs sometimes runs sting operations with plainclothes officers to try to catch you on the take. Getting thrown off the force is a quick way to a game over, but so is failing to make your alimony payments, so sometimes you have to make quick decisions to stay ahead of the game.

As you settle into your new job, you will get to know the owners of the stores on your beat, some of which might offer you services like selling you food or affecting your reputation with the crime organizations in the area (for a modest fee, of course). Often times they will get caught up in cases that you’re investigating, other times they might be the potential victims of a robbery that you have to stop. You have a reputation with the people on your beat as well, and if you successfully stop these crimes in progress, and the people on your beat start to like you, it will affect their reaction to you in the future.


On some days, special requirements will be set by your Sargent during your daily briefing. In addition to a quota of tickets that you’ll have to write, you may also be given objectives like looking for a car with a specific plate, to keep an eye out for a suspect that is believed to be in the area, or some other unusual development on your street that will affect your patrol. One mission that I went on was basically the plot of Red Heat, where I was tasked with escorting a Soviet cop who was in New York to learn about American law enforcement techniques. Another was to enforce a total parking ban because we were expecting a visit from Prince Akeem, a callback to Eddie Murphy’s hit 80’s film Coming to America. There was also one subplot with the local priest which may or may not have been a reference to Trainspotting, but I’d rather not dwell on why. Balancing your time between your ticket quotas, special requirements, and any on the spot calls to respond to crimes in progress, all while ensuring you’re stuffing your mattress with enough cash to support your ex-wife and daughter is challenging, especially since you’re also trying to investigate your own case before its too late. A case that not everyone wants solved. You’ll quickly find out that there’s more to this burglary than a simple theft, and diamonds are the least of your concerns.

 

Though entertaining, the game isn’t without its flaws. There aren’t any shortage of things to do each day, but ultimately it boils down to variations on the same theme. Depending on how engaging you find the main plot, the repetition of writing tickets, towing cars and running down perpetrators may start to wear a little thin. This is especially true if you replay the days more than once to try to improve your performance, since there is no save functionality in the game except for the autosaves that happen at the end of each day. This means that you will have to repeat your day from the beginning if you want to try again, each day taking about 20 minutes or so to complete.

While the game has multiple endings based on the choices you make, unfortunately you can only have one save game at a time, limiting the opportunity for experimenting with other options short of a complete re-play. There is a Rewind Time functionality that lets you back up through your current game, but only at the cost of overwriting events from that point in time. There are times when attempting to emulate police drama of the era, that Beat Cop‘s humor can seem cheesy at times, or fall completely flat at others. From the point of view of someone who grew up with a lot of the 80’s movies and shows that Beat Cop takes inspiration from, I enjoy all the subtle nods and references, but to a younger player much of that content will go right over their head without registering (I’m somewhat disappointed that they didn’t show Kelly’s demotion in a cinematic, ending with his former Captain calling him a loose cannon and demanding his badge and gun for full 80’s callbacks.)

 

 

All of that aside, Beat Cop still has a lot going for it, with its colorful pixel art style and clever use of police tropes in a new and interesting format. Its balance of time and money management forces difficult moral choices that successfully capture the feeling of being a cop on the edge, forced to cut corners in order to see justice done, or sometimes just to get through the day. Try to stay on the right side of the law at all times and your reputation with the Mafia and the Crew will plummet. The end result being to find yourself caught between two powerful organizations who want you dead, as your beat turns into a deadly war zone. Whatever you choose, you’ll have your work cut out for you if you want to solve the mystery of the missing diamonds and discover what it is that is really going on.

Especially since you’re getting too old for this shit.

 

FINAL SCORE THE GOOD THE BAD
7.0
  • Excellent use of police drama genre
  • Forces difficult moral choices
  • Choices with consequence
  • Multiple endings
  • Only one saved game
  • Autosaves only occur at end of day
  • Humor sometimes falls flat
  • Can get repetetive
BEAT COP (PC) · Played through Day 18 (~15 hours) · Code provided by publisher

 

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Jack McBastard
Editor in Chief and Co-Super President at Digital Fiasco

Hailing from parts unknown, Jack McBastard is more machine than man, twisted and evil. He doesn’t agree with the other four dentists, and always stays crispy in milk.

Favorite games include Bioshock, Metal Gear Solid, Uncharted, XCOM.