One Hour: Police Stories

“And remember – shooting first is not an option!”

When I played the demo version of Police Quest: SWAT 2 in my late teens, already a devoted fan of UFO: Enemy Unknown and Jagged Alliance 2, I was simply shocked. Wait, do you really want me to play a tactical game which doesn’t want me to kill every baddy if it’s possible to avoid it? Which actually punishes me for excessive use of force? And, the worst thing, it forces me to find the Golden Mean between effectiveness and frugality because police budget is strained to the limit? What an outrage.

 

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Definitely not an excessive use of force.

 

The first and only scenario available in the demo involved a typical hostage situation with a besieged bank full of terrorists, innocent civilians, and a ticking time bomb as a bonus. Since I was used to solving tactical problems with heavy plasma guns and mortar strikes, my first attempts to win would make Waco and Ruby Ridge pale in comparison. Slowly, painfully, I learned to act as a police officer, not a xenocidal commando or mercenary leader, and then a miracle happened. I actually managed to save the hostages and disarm the bomb without firing a single shot. My brilliant solution was to provide an escape car, as demanded by the villains, and place two officers right next to the bank’s main entrance. The terrorists then left the building in a file, without noticing my men at the door, and were promptly handcuffed one after another. Clearly, this was a result of a flawed AI, and definitely not my tactical genius, but the non-violent victory made me feel so great.

These sweet memories were one of the reasons to get interested in Police Stories after I watched the trailer. Another reason was, obviously, that it looked and felt like a total conversion of Hotline Miami – without flashing neons and ultra-violence, that is. Immediately, I started to follow the game on Steam, still in a very early stage. As always, I soon forgot that I did and Police Stories disappeared from my radar.

Until yesterday. Out of sudden, I got reminded that the game actually exists by a news article. Following the link, I found out that an early Alpha version is available the download. The few screenshots I saw looked too familiar to resists the temptation.

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After clicking through a few menu screens, I arrive at the scene of the crime with a bang, my huge armoured car crashing a few motorbikes. We’re at a biker bar taken over by some violent thugs and the first thing that captures my eye is a nice reference to the Sons of Anarchy. Now it’s time to knock at the door. “Hello, do you have time to talk about our Lord and Saviour, the Government”. The man behind the door isn’t interested. I’m too slow to pull the trigger and Officer Rimes lies down on the floor with a generous dose of lead in his belly. Yeah, this feels like Hotline Miami. Even the “R for Restart Level” button is there.

My further attempts to pass the level are more successful and soon it becomes clear that the similarity is superficial. Yes, death is very cheap but Rimes is not The Jacket. In Police Stories, both heroes move very slowly, and for good reasons, because they have to be really careful. Unlike the Devolver game, here the enemy is invisible until you enter a room and then you have very little time to assess the situation and take decision on how to act. The game punishes you for unauthorised use of force and you have to be sure that the evil guy really wants to shoot you to avoid a penalty, but even then you receive more points for arresting them – and the score required to play the second level is rather high.

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Above, I wrote that Police Stories caught my eye because it looks like Hotline Miami, but it’s not entirely true. Of course, the top-down view, detailed interiors and character design are clearly similar, but the colour palette is toned down and there are no image distortions to make it look like a VHS recording. Actually, it reminds me more of the adventure classic Dreamweb.

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Speaking of differences, it’s a police operation and not a war zone, so you can’t just pick up enemy weapons. Hitting someone with a gun butt is a viable option if you want them to surrender, but it’s quite risky too, so forget jumping at an armed enemy with bare fists like it sometimes happened in HL.

One of the most important things is that you’re not alone in this. There’s always your partner behind you and it’s possible to give him simple commands – basically, you can tell him to stay put, guard a corridor or handcuff someone.

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When I’m writing these words, Police Stories is still in early development. There’s is no plot or dialogue, the inventory screen is inactive and, sadly, there are only two available scenarios. The worst thing is that the AI really needs improvement, both the enemies who are too passive and the player’s sidekick who notoriously suffers from poor reflexes. Despite that, at the current stage, the game looks more than promising and I’m ready to pay for the beta version as soon as it is released on Steam.

If you feel that this may be your kind of game, and especially if you’re a fan of Hotline Miami just like me, you can download the alpha version here.

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Weekly: Back to the Trenchcoat Future

Connor

A coat, a fedora hat, a gun and… jumping trousers? I have you at Gunpoint!

Admittedly, my previous approach to this game was utterly wrong. While my initial reaction was enthusiastic, I simply got tired of trying to finish each level with the best result possible. Now, I’m back in the noir-cyberpunk business and a more relaxed way to play Gunpoint makes me discover how great it is. Just like mentioned in that post long time ago, all I want is to make my clients happy and get the A+ rating for every mission.

One of my favourite things is the dialogue system, even if it doesn’t reach the level of Fallout 2 writing.

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Maybe it’s not much, but I really enjoy to choose between snarky and cold, professional answers – especially when my choice isn’t just cosmetic and determines the plot. Besides, just passing levels and solving puzzles (which light to turn off first?) is a pleasurable experience. Yeah, I’ve come back and now I’m ready to finish the game.

Meanwhile, it’s The Current Year and I discovered that demo versions still exist.

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Too bad that the demo of Wolfenstein: The New Colossus was a huge disappointment. It’s not even about the ridiculous opening sequence, but even playing the first level feels bad. A shooter which doesn’t give you any pleasure of shooting. Still, everyone and their mum tells me that it’s a great game, so maybe I should give it another chance.

The only positive thing so far is that it made me realise how much I’ve always loved demo versions. Why don’t I write a post explaining why they are a unique experience…

 

Soviet City: Post-Stalinist Gulagcore

Proletarians of all planets, rejoice! A new piece of Soviet City soundtrack has been recently delivered by Dawid Hallmann.

This time, the track includes a speech delivered in a haunting, almost demonic voice by Comrade Wiesław, praising the “immortal idea of Socialism”, and the propaganda song “Pochód przyjaźni” (The March of Friendship”) about the joys of being a hard-working Communist worker who overcomes every obstacles on the path to the Red Utopia. Yes, it’s all as cheesy as it sounds, but somehow my laughter suddenly stops when I realise that THIS really happened.

Anyway, it’s another great song which almost perfectly matches the game’s theme and atmosphere. Let’s hope that other tracks, planned to be released soon, will have the same excellent quality.

Shards of Glim: Docking Blues

Everyone who’s ever tried to play Sunless Sea will admit that the gameplay is far from thrilling. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the writing and I agree that the writers deserve all the praise they receive for multiple plots, quests, characters, port encounters, etc. However, after an aspiring captain has gained some experience, boosted his stats and bought a decent ship with proper equipment, zailing becomes simply tedious. Even encounters with dangerous foes, like the Tree of Ages, don’t cause adrenaline rush anymore.

Now it seems that I’ve invented a way to break the monotony: Make Docking an Art!

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Bah, you can do better, Capt’n!

Normally, arriving at a port is a trivial matter. There is always a large circle of light next to the port to put your vessel into, no matter in which position, and you don’t even need to stop the engines to make the docking procedure complete. My idea is to strive for perfection, trying to make it look semi-realistic by bringing the ship as close to the quay as possible, with its stern turned towards the port, and then calmly wait until it stops moving. Obviously, this requires some patience and, and in case of large vessels and powerful engines, nimble fingers to avoid hearing the painful sound of my beloved frigate hitting stone or concrete.

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Perfect.

This may be the only self-appointed challenge I want to take while playing Sunless Sea. In truth, it cannot even be called a challenge, but it surely is a welcome change in the dull everyday life of an explorer of the Unterzee. Let’s just hope that the incoming DLC, Zubmarine, will introduce some improvements in-game mechanics to make zailing more colourful.

 

 

Avantgarde: The New Wave of Soviet Dubstep

In my first post about Soviet City I mentioned that there’s a painful dissonance between the game’s general theme and gameplay, and it’s soundtrack, at least to a person who understands Polish and the historical context behind the speech samples used in the game music. A folk song from the Kurpie region performed by an old lady, or the voice of a classic Polish poet reciting one of his work shouldn’t be used as a background for a game which protagonist is a ruthless official ruling a grimdark Soviet dystopia. Fortunately, Dawid Hallmann, the man behind the SC soundtrack, is of the same opinion and has recently started working on new dedicated music. The first song was published by him on YouTube today.

As the artist himself writes in a commentary below the clip, he’s curious if they’ll like the new song in the Russian embassy. Considering the reaction of Russian gamers on YT and Steam, I think they won’t be exactly happy about the change, but I think it’s a great improvement and hopefully we’ll see more of it soon.

Shards of Glim: Zeen It All

So it’s really happening. After spending mere 323 hours with Sunless Sea, I’ve just managed to finish my first Ambition quest. The Eighth Captain has completed his obsessive journey, visiting every corner of the Known Unterzee and collecting stories, rumours and whispers for his opus magnum: The Zong of the Zee.

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Now the Eighth Captain is a respected member of the high society, and even more, a new shining star on the literary horizon, resting on a mountain of Echoes like an old, wise dragon. But sometimes, not too often, he wakes up in the middle of the night with his heart pounding and asks himself the same question again and again:

What if had flown away with the monkeys?

That’s right, shortly before finishing my captain’s career I discovered an option for another non-standard game over in the Empire of Hands. For a short moment, I was even being tempted to do the stupid thing and choose it instead of accomplishing the Ambition quest. After all, mere zailing is for the plebs, the true aristocrats of the Unterzee would rather soar under the false stars. Well, I guess that now my newly born Ninth Captain has a purpose in life…

May Apathy

Things were going well for the first days of the merry month of May until that one evening, when I was simply too tired to even write a few lines and failed the goal to spend at least thirty minutes daily with my blog. After that, my motivation flew away and I couldn’t bring myself to make new posts for the rest of the month. Well, so much for Kaizen.

I won’t even bother to paste the previous goal list here. It all remains the same, with one exception: I won’t force myself to write at least half an hour each day, because I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s simply too stressing, maybe even paralysing. Instead, I will just try to publish at least 15 quality posts and concentrate on finishing playthroughs.

On a positive note, thanks to the distinguished game journalists from the RPS I’ve found another great distraction: In Search of Paradise, a perfect game for hot Polish summer. What can be better than driving through an alternative version of the U.S. American desert with Kyuss and Earth songs playing in the background? Yes, I’ll definitely have to write more about it.

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