Ever noticed how, in a lot of games where you play as a police officer, you don’t actually do all that much police work? Take Virtua Cop, for example: all you do is shoot people. A key part of being a polis, especially in America, but this much shooting? Hmmm. What about The Evil Within? All you do is fight against undead monstrosities. Then there’s True Crime, where you do slo-mo martial arts instead of filling out paperwork. In Beat Cop, it seems that all you do is fill out paperwork. Because being a copper isn’t all about arresting people, shooting innocent people, and fitting people up, y’know.
There’s more to Beat Cop than that, of course, but from day to day you’ll patrol your patch of New York City in point and click fashion, giving out tickets as you work a shift from 9:00 am until around 6:00 pm. Each morning you’ll be briefed on how many tickets you’ve got to give out for parking and vehicle violations along the two or three streets which make up your turf. Failing to do so sees you docked money from your wages: money which you need to pay alimony to your ex-wife.
This is the start of your problems, and by no means the end. It’s here where Beat Cop gets interesting: as you walk up and down the road you’ll encounter all manner of people, situations, and issues that must be dealt with. Poverty, crime, delinquency, drunk Russian cops, drug dealing gangs – it’s up to you how you deal with each of them, legally or not. Similarly to GTA 2, each faction inhabiting the street has a rating of how much they like you at any given point. Working with or against them raises and lowers their willingness to help you out with, say, the investigation of who killed your partner, and who framed you for another murder.
Soon, whether you’re tired of handing out tickets to meet quota or just fancy getting your Bad Lieutenant on, you’re going to start bending if not all-out breaking the law. Money troubles can be solved by taking bribes from offending motorists, and you’ll be called in to perform favours by various organised crime figures. You can choose to do good, as well: helping a young pregnant woman get a job by going around the various shops and asking if they have any vacancies, for example.
Beat Cop works, so far (this preview build only went up to the eighth day) because its limited focus, two blocks or so, means you start to get to know the runners and riders of the neighbourhood: the shop owners, the local hardmen, the people trying to get by. Likewise the pure drudgery of clicking on vehicles to inspect them, then filling out a ticket, then repeating until fade, starts to activate the Fuck This part of your brain that flickers when faced with any menial task. Sooner or later, you’ll probably snap. It took me about six days, but after that I was taking bribes and accepting sex as payment for offences. Which is quite the leap.
So far, then, Beat Cop is an interesting excursion into mundanity and violence, and one in which everybody has to have a little bit of dirt on them if they want to make any progress whatsoever. Whether it can sustain its intrigue as the days go on is another matter, but for a point and click corruption sim set in such limited surroundings it’s already got my interest.