There are sometimes fine lines between game genres that even developers and publishers don’t understand. Then again, Excalibur Publishing have got this whole ‘simulator’ thing going (ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous) so it’s hardly a surprise that they would cram anything that comes close to the definition into the category of simulation.
Then again, one could argue the point… take the example of Sim City. While the game falls securely into the category of “management”, the idea behind the game is more of a mass social simulation than anything else. That example applies to Police Simulator as well. The game is called a simulator, and many aspects of it make it a simulator, but when a genre assignment has to be made, it feels like it should fall into the management category. The box proclaims that it is a “unique mixture of simulation and real-time strategy”, which really just reinforces the idea.
Simulators, for all intents and purposes, are meant to be highly realistic, where management games can deviate from the path of realism just a little – which is what Police Simulator does. Sure, it has some elements that are based in real-world principles, but the application of these ideas deviates from the nitty-gritty complications that true simulators thrive on.
Police Simulator is a strange kind of game, and one that will not appeal to the main-stream overly much. It is a title that can be ploddingly pedantic, yet there is a strange compulsion that drives a player inclined to try it out to keeping things going. It’s the kind of game that will become slow within a few minutes, prompting the user to set it aside – only to load it up again five minutes later to try a few new ideas.
The premise of the game is that the player is a senior police official, and needs to manage the crime fighting forces of an unnamed city. While you’ll start out with one police station, within a week or two of in-game time you’ll have larger areas to patrol, and will be dealing with more serious crimes. It is up to the player to set up duty rosters, hire staff and train them (as well as handle other human resource requirements like holidays), buy and maintain vehicles, acquire new premises and make sure that everything runs on a tight budget. And, of course, the player will need to make sure that crime doesn’t become a problem.
Missions take a game week to complete, and generally have simple goals (or simple to understand, at least.) With the progress of time the game becomes more complicated, requiring the player to manage several police stations, as well as deal with worse kinds of crime. The player will need to employ staff beyond just standard “beat cops”, including detectives, CSI agents, riot police and undercover operatives to stem the increasing crime that grips the city.
Police Simulator is an oddly compelling game for those inclined towards management titles. It’s more microcosmic than the run-of-the-mill management game, requiring players to pay attention to the needs of individual staff, rather than entire facilities. Also, the player will need to manage investigations and crime responses, which is the only real excitement in the title. Don’t get me wrong, it’s actually fun to play. But it requires a certain kind of approach that not everyone takes when it comes to gaming.
While it is an enjoyable game, prospective players should be aware that it is far from being a technical marvel. To that end, it actually feels like the real deal (because police station computers probably aren’t running high end graphics and sound set-ups.) The graphics are a bit bland, with the player spending all of their time in various views of their patrol area, which include a top down map, a crime-level map, and so on. These are supplemented by several pop-ups which allow the player to manage the station. Other than the movements of patrols and such, there is very little animation in this game. But the graphics are effective in their functionality, allowing the player to understand what is going on at a glance.
The same counts for the sound. It is uninspiring and repetitive, but serves its purpose perfectly.
Police Simulator certainly isn’t for everyone. It is slowpaced and a bit ugly, which cuts out a number of players already. But those who like management titles with solid models (and don’t necessarily care about the presentation) may well find this rather addictive game enjoyable.
At A Glance:
A fun management title for those who enjoy that kind of thing.
The presentation is rather bland, though.
Publisher: Excalibur Publishing
Distributor: Apex Interactive