Police Stories is a short-lived yet engaging tactical shooter that can be played with or without a friend.
The number of new co-op based games feels so limited nowadays. Sure, there are your go-to titles like the newly released Borderlands 3, but there are so few that I can think of that heavily rely on playing with someone else. While the end product has some design issues, especially being played on a console, Police Stories is a perfect game to play with a friend. It is a challenging and strategic top-down shooter that implements the rules and laws of the police.
Police Stories revolves around John Rimes and Rick Jones, partners who have become best friends throughout their time together on the force. After leaving the city, Rimes returns to his partner Jones who is now the top cop in their precinct. After a dispatch call, they discover a series of connected crimes way bigger than they ever anticipated. Together, they work together to stop a variety of different cases including defusing bombs, drug busts, and rescuing hostages. There are two different modes you can play in: single-player or local co-op. For the majority of my playthrough, I teamed up with a buddy of mine because I felt that co-op was the “true” way to play.
During the preparation for missions, dispatch will give you an explanation of the situation that needs to be dealt with. Included with this report are the number of enemies, hostages, and fake civilians that can be expected. Fake civilians will pretend to be hostages and can potentially shoot you down instead of surrendering like hostages normally will.
After the description of a mission, players get to choose their loadout. You can choose from several equipment items that are familiar to police officers. The further you advance in the campaign, the more items you unlock. In the beginning, players start out with three equipment slots that within time unlock to five. Naturally, there are items that I’d say are generally more useful than others, but all of them have their moments to shine.
I’m personally a fan of the Taser stun gun which allows me to disable enemies without doing them any serious harm. The only rub is that I can only use it a maximum of five times. It sounds aggravating, but in reality, it adds even more strategy during missions. Another useful tool is pepper spray which was my partner’s favorite item. As a close encounter weapon, the spray will disarm an enemy forcing them to surrender along with potentially spilling out important information such as a bomb defuse code.
On top of equipment, each mission you are armed with an MP5K submachine gun that has an auto and semi-auto firing mode. The weapon is included with three clips for the duration of your task. I never had an experience with running out of ammo, so you shouldn’t have to worry about that too much while playing. Unlike other titles in its genre, players will not die in one hit every time either. There is no indicator at where your health is specifically at, but if you are injured, a red aura will surround the player’s side of the screen and the character you’re playing as begins to breathe heavily.
The structure of the levels is pretty straightforward. Infiltrate door by door and complete the objectives within the eyes of the law. Missions have a point system adding an arcade feel to the game where players will lose points if they get injured or shoot people without justification. If you kill/arrest threats, rescue hostages, or find damaging evidence, then you will be rewarded with points and will be graded for your performance. To progress in the campaign, a specific number of points must be accumulated across previous missions requiring those who miss the mark to go back and get better grades.
When scouring a building room by room you only see what your character can see. Obviously, this makes sense, but there are cool features creating more preception to your surroundings. Some rooms include a hostile threatening a hostage which I was able to hear from outside locating both of their positions. Enemies will also walk out of rooms if they hear gunfire which will show off footsteps in the direction they are heading towards. However, what is odd to me is that every level is randomly generated so if I ended up dying, the setup for each room changed completely. I think a better option would have been to make all the story missions the same and then have a different mode that creates a random level giving players endless replayability.
Having followed Police Stories prior to release, I became attracted to it partly because of the communication aspect that must be utilized in co-op play. Playing with my friend, we would make strategic plans on how to deal with each room. Counting down from three to one to open a door while my partner throws in a flashbang to give us an advantage is one example of this. I loved being able to work as a team and infiltrate every room. The further we progressed through the story, the easier and more natural the game felt. Keep in mind that levels don’t need to be completed gracefully. There were times that I became impatient due to dying over and over again so I decided to just go buck wild entering doors with no preparation whatsoever. Honestly, it was really fun that way because of how dangerous it is.
While playing Police Stories on Switch it became apparent to me that it is likely better to be played on a PC. A controller can get the job done, but there are certain mechanics such as the shooting that can be frustrating to deal with that I imagine wouldn’t be with a mouse and keyboard. The sensitivity on the sticks is incredibly finicky to the point that if I even lay my thumb on the stick after aiming, my shot will miss entirely. With there being no option to adjust the aim sensitivity it became more and more annoying to deal with. On the bright side, there is a lock-on button for the crosshairs so there is no need to worry about sensitivity getting in your way. Outside of aiming I also had experiences with projectiles going through enemies on rare occasions. Like most tactical titles, this led to a lot of trial and error, but that is to be expected, especially in single-player.
When having no human companion to back you up, things get a lot more difficult than they already are. The computer will follow you and take down any hostile threats to the best of its abilities. You can also command them to do a specific action, but it naturally isn’t as effective as someone who you can converse with. The difficulty of the game wasn’t something that bothered me, either. I went in with the expectation that is was going to be hard and it felt good whenever I cleared a room or completed a level waiting to see what grade I earned.
Overall, Police Stories is a solid tactical shooter that is great to play together with a friend. It is a short experience with a story that doesn’t really matter but is competent enough to fulfill its role. I’m hoping that more levels are added in the future because the entire game can be completed in six to eight hours. Even with the small tweaks that need to be fixed, Police Stories offers fun gameplay and the need for extensive communication in co-op, which is exactly what I wanted and expected.