PAX South 2017: Justice and Corruption Are a Merciless Tightrope in Beat Cop [Preview]
Cop drama and comedy was a pretty huge staple of action entertainment in the 1980s. Franchises like Beverly Hills Cop, Lethal Weapon, Miami: Vice and more shaped all sorts of tropes surrounding partners, corruption, the mean streets, hard-boiled police chiefs and the sometimes crazy antics of the boys in blue who have to find and deliver justice. Few games have ever tried to encapsulate that specific era and genre for everything it is like Beat Cop, which appeared at the recent PAX South. This pixelated point-and-click adventure from Pixel Crow and 11 Bit Studios had us diving into the gritty city as a police officer and making tough calls to solve (or even survive) a twisted conspiracy.
Beat Cop opens to a murder in New York. A senator was snuffed out and Detective Jim Kelly was in the wrong place at the wrong time. With the blood placed on his hands, Kelly is demoted down to the lowest rung of the police force as a street officer forced to write tickets, patrol a pretty rough stretch of neighborhood and keep the businesses and citizens safe no matter what. It isn’t long before you’re introduced to the groups of people that will influence how your progression through beat cops go. For everything that you do, eyes are watching, whether it’s the people, the police, the local gangs or even the mob.
In the demo we played, Kelly starts his shift bright and early every day and time moves as the hustle and bustle of businesses and personal lives go on. Your shift ends at a set time every evening and until then, Kelly is to tend to everything he can while often filling a quota of parking tickets to make money and bring home his check each day. The street our gameplay was confined to was chaotic with events ranging from small crimes that must be responded to, regular citizens asking for help and businesses or shifty citizens asking Kelly to bend the law for a little extra spending money, just to name a few. From the get-go, it becomes very clear that you’ll be choosing what Kelly pays attention to on the fly and running in all directions to do what you can. Something will inevitably go unanswered no matter how hard you try to get Kelly from place to place.
Even more apparent was the effect of events we chose to respond to or couldn’t respond to in time. Every action you take has a consequences. Help out a business by busting a shoplifter and you’ll gain some trust from the people, but earn the ire of the gangs. Deliver some packages for the Italian restaurant and you might get in good with the mob, but draw negative attention from the police. Every step you take moves bars of respect and hatred. Praise might lead you to new clues or some fine amenities for your job, while hatred could get you fired or even violently killed. Balancing Kelly’s life is a chaotic storm of choices and it made our time with Beat Cop very different based on the choices we made in a couple different plays of the demo alone.
The story isn’t just confined to the street either. Recall that Kelly is in his position because he was caught with a senator’s blood on his hands. There are people that want Kelly to fail as a result and others just outright want him dead. It’s on Kelly to find the resources he needs, whether through legitimate or illegitimate means, to stay alive and clear his own name as an innocent man. In our time with the demo, we were threatened by a shady man who claimed jewels were at the scene of the senator’s and tasked Kelly with either returning them, replacing them or getting killed. There’s a jewel store on the street and the people know we mean well, but we also did some work with the mob and gained a favor. The question lies in if we’re willing to go the hard working route and risk losing out on our money for something else or go the easy way and risk getting caught up in corruption. This was just one of the choices that played out in the daily grind as a result of outside events.
Our time with Beat Cop gave us a lot to look forward to when it comes out in full. The world Kelly lives in is a love-letter to the ‘80s films that inspired it, from the gritty pixel design of the slummy street we handled to the retro-style soundtrack that accompanies all of it. We were compelled to dive deep into the hectic chaos that had us straddling the line between doing our job, clearing Kelly’s name and staying alive, and Beat Cop has a ton of ways to go about it.
Beat Cop is due out in Spring 2017 on PC, Mac and Linux.