Nostalgia is a funny thing. We like to look back on the good ‘ol days with a fondness, but we tend to iron out all the bad shit. I recently remembered walking down the halls of my former junior high school for some reason and remembered those days were pretty awesome, until I really took a look back and realized they were kinda rubbish. That’s the fun kind of feeling you get while playing Beat Cop. You look back on an era thinking that things weren’t as terrible as they are now, until you’re shown how bad it really was. So we’re taking a trip down memory lane in more ways than one in this review.
Beat Cop puts you in the role of a detective who busted up a crime at the Mayor’s house, only to discover there were two people at the scene, and the one who got away stole a bunch of diamonds from a safe. Somewhere along the line, you got accused and were busted back down to rookie status while Internal Affairs checks out your story. You’re now back to being a beat cop monitoring one of the lesser parts of New York City during the mid-’80s. On top of the obvious problem, the chief is retiring soon and can only help you for three more weeks to help you solve the case. Plus, your wife is screaming at you for alimony and your current paycheck doesn’t cover it. So now you get to ride the thin line of good cop and crooked cop to make ends meet and clear your name.
The gameplay is simplistic but can get to be a hassle very quickly. You’re on a 16-bit street that you point-and-click to move on. Double-clicking gets you to run, but you can tire out quickly. You’ll be monitoring several businesses and the activity along the street in order to maintain some law and order as well as clean up the street itself. You get to deal with liquor and porno shops, a church, a shifty pawn shop, an electronics store, a cleaner, a couple restaurants and other family businesses. You’re given a few items at your disposal which includes a notepad for all your duties and notes, handcuffs to nab purps, a gun for self-defense, a radio to call in people or tow cars, and a watch to keep track of timed events.
As you progress you’ll have to two with two major problems: you’re still a cop under investigation that few people trust, and you’ve got to make money to deal with the wife who left you. Getting your paperwork done is a necessity, but sometimes cops don’t care, and might end up caring too much if you do all the work required and then start slacking off. Robberies, parking tickets, drug deals, shady business practices are basically all in a day’s work, and that work can pile up quickly. You will eventually be put in the position of working with the mob who own the local pizza joint, as well as looking the other way for other people. Doing things on either side of the law has it’s advantages and disadvantages, it’s up to you how far you want to lean on either side of the law.
Beat Cop can become tedious at times, as you’ll have a daily routine that often includes writing up 10 tickets a day, so you’ll have to search up and down the street to find things to ticket. It won’t be hard to do once you find them, but sometimes it isn’t an easy gig. Then there are events that have to happen in a certain order, and on occasion, you can’t open doors or talk to people until the time comes up or you do certain things first. If I’m truly a cop who makes these decisions, it should be up to me whether I do them or not, not the game taking the choice away from me until I actually accomplish things one way or the other.
Then there’s the elephant in the room that we need to address because it’s here: racism. It isn’t as full-blown as you would expect, but there’s a lot of old-school derogatory terms used throughout the game as you walk by people or have conversations. I understand the need for realism in a game, but at the same time, this really wasn’t necessary. It doesn’t drive the plot, it doesn’t influence your choices, it doesn’t give way for any greater depth to the people or environment around you—it just sits there as a reminder than this is how they must have all talked in the ’80s. It feels more like a bunch of programmers got to live out their dream of having mature content in a game, and this was the best they could come up with.
Beta Cop is a good game to try out on different levels, including going all good and all bad. It’s got some flaws in the gameplay and the obvious racial content, but if you can look past those elements it plays pretty well. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone under 18 as you’re dealing with a lot of adult themes including drugs, prostitution, organized crime, and porn—but that end of the content is pretty tame for adults. The design work is kinda fun and a lovely throwback to old-school gaming, along with ’80s references like Top Gun being in the local theater and a diner called the Moonwalk Cafe. It’s at least worth a play-through if you get a chance.
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