It’s the police, and they’re out to wreck the place in Police: Destruction Street.
With most things, whether it be an 80-hour masterpiece of a game or a fine slab of Kobe beef, a good majority of us enjoy aspiring to the finer things in life; true quality. After all, if you’re gonna do something, you may as well do it right; why not treat yourself and go premium when you only live once? Most people think like that 9 times out of 10. But sometimes, the best just won’t do. Sometimes you just want it quick and dirty, be it with a Big Mac, a Hollywood popcorn flick, or a quick fix of gaming to take the edge off. A quick blast of something can be the most thrilling way of all, and it’s under this philosophy that Police: Destruction Street operates.
Police: Destruction Street has no grand aspirations, no big ideas, and no desire to reinvent the wheel, be it with story or gameplay. This game is pure, unadulterated arcade action; there is no story except for this: you are the police, and you must drive around town completing missions, scoring points in order to make it to the next level. Games today can be rather complicated, so it’s nice to find one with a premise that can fit on the back of a postcard. This is the game’s immediate strength: there’s nothing bogging down the game, nothing pulling it back; it’s just as simple as “drive, score points, progress”. Play Publishing’s commitment to making the game easy to grasp just makes the entire product elegant and better as a result.
Arranged in a top-down 2D style, you control your car with WASD and fire off collected weapons using the left mouse key. What ensues is absolute carnage; the intended idea is to blast through levels at breakneck speed, leaving the entirety of the level in your wake; which makes for a genuinely joyful, high-octane experience. Objects break with the greatest of ease, and pedestrian cars go flying when you collide with them – this is not a game made with the word “simulation” in mind, but the way it revels in silly destruction makes it all the more endearing. Admittedly, your car does not handle very well; it drives like a pregnant cow on ice, but precision driving just isn’t the point here; throwing the car around in such a reckless way just makes the game funny and more enjoyable – you get a strong sense that the entire package would be lesser had the driving been smooth. The gameplay is not precise, but it’s not meant to be – it’s clumsy, but that just means it’s ultimately a bigger, more breathless joyride.
You might get the sense by now that this isn’t intended to be a serious game thematically – there’s no gritty story and the set-up of the game is arcade to the extreme. You’d be right, as Police: Destruction Street does not play it straight, choosing to present the game in a more humorous light. It makes fantastic effect of Hanna-Barbera-esque slapstick sound effects to punctuate the dozens of crashes in the game, as well as over-exaggerated comic-book style “sound bubbles” – plenty of “bang”, “kapow” and “boom” going on here. This is a very tongue-in-cheek game, and this approach pays dividends, especially to players who might be tired of po-faced AAA titles that take themselves too seriously – Police: Destruction Street is water in the desert for players who just want to have simple, unabashed fun. God, remember fun? Remember playing games? Remember not having to sit through hours of installations and cutscenes? That’s this game summarised: pure fun.
With this fun and relaxed approach to making a game, you might be forgiven for thinking that Play Publishing might not put 100% into all aspects of the game. As far as graphics go, this simply isn’t the case, as Police: Destruction Street is gorgeous. Cel-shaded to resemble a comic book, the game explodes from the screen, and the vividness of how objects are drawn is complemented with bright and intense colour work. The style of art also works brilliantly in top-down view, and as such, this game works perfectly in its visual presentation.
However, as promising as this game is in presentation and philosophy, it isn’t without fault. As previously stated, the bulk of the gameplay consists of driving around levels, earning points and completing missions. This is a stable framework to base a game on, and has been a winning format in the past – just look at Grand Theft Auto 1 and 2. Yet, GTA was a runaway success and this was in no small part due to the variety of missions on offer, the sheer scale of things to do. This game doesn’t offer anything close to the same amount of variety – all missions are scripted in the following format: “do x thing in y seconds”, and the problem is that this mostly consists of destroying trees, buildings, cars, or picking and dropping off criminals. These works, and they certainly complement the mad-cap aspect of the game, but you’ll wish that there was a bit more variety. Still, the short number of mission types on tap will not eradicate the smile on your face gained from playing the game, and this free-form approach, while limited, does encourage great replayability.
This is a small gripe, and it’s one I wish I didn’t have to make, but this is an honest review. Frankly, the music is uninspiring and doesn’t live up to the standards that the rest of the game sets. I normally don’t expect much from any music by The Police or even any groups or entities with the word “police” in their name (although “Every Breath You Take” is a great tune) and the music in Police: Destruction Street is no different. The title track is as loud and cacophonous as an actual police siren, punctuated with someone pounding on a piano like it owes the pianist some money. The rest of the music is palatable but not exceptional – it works, but it doesn’t really fit the high-octane mood of the game, and that dampens the fun slightly. If they’d gone for some hard rock riffs cribbed from Incompetech for free, the game would have been a little better, but Police: Destruction Street’s lowkey and bass-heavy soundtrack just doesn’t work terribly well here.
Yet, for the things that Police: Destruction Street gets wrong, it gets multiple things right in comparison, and as it is, this is a fine slice of retro-inspired gaming, made to be as elegant and easy-to-grasp as possible to keep you coming back, and it works. This is a game designed to be played over and over, and you’ll more than get your money’s worth out of it. It’s not perfect, big, or dramatic, but in terms of pure excitement, it’s as fulfilling as a big needle full of adrenaline.
Verdict: Rough around the edges, but with a sweet centre, Police: Destruction Street is packed with thrills and provides quick-fix old-school arcade fun for a very, very fair price, doing it very well in the process.