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LA Cops Injects the Top-Down Shooter Genre With ’70s Soul

It’s the cop show that you’ve always wanted to play

LACops2

Donuts, guns, sunglasses, and big, bushy moustaches; this is LA Cops. At first you may, like me, think that Team17’s latest third-party title is little more than a toned-down Hotline Miami. This is thanks to it’s isometric camera angle, room-by-room clearing mechanism, and the way some people at Eurogamer Expo were attempting to play it. But, going hands on with the five demo levels that are available as part of the Steam Early Access build reveals that this is a different beast. This is a beast with some funk in its very soul.

Coming from the minds of Modern Dream, the team behind the fantastic The Typing of the Dead Overkill, and lesser known indie gems The Cat That Got The Milk and The Button Affair, LA Cops is an excellent blend of style and gameplay. Controlling two of six cops, you head out to clear buildings from the bottom up, busting drug deals by smashing tables of cocaine and taking down head-honcho dealers in the process. It’s a pretty grim game, and quite tricky to boot, but thanks to the pastel colours of the ’70s and ’80s, the claret-coloured blood just blends into the scene rather well.

Gameplay is rather tight too. The current setup has you aiming using your mouse, and moving with WASD. You can lock on to enemies with the press of the ‘F’ button, and tapping the ‘R’ button lets you switch between your chosen cops. Clicking in the mouse wheel allows you to set up your partner into a position to cover you as you flank foes or breach a room.

At first, I found this quite a tricky mechanic to get my head around. I mean, it’s a perfectly simple concept to understand, but trying to execute it in a way that doesn’t end up with your partner dead can be somewhat difficult. But, after a a couple of levels things start to click – although I’m sure if I had played the tutorial everything would have made sense far faster. A method I found to be far more effective was to position one cop, then switch to the other to complete the setup before bursting in and taking on the bad guys.

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Between levels are some excellent comedy cutscenes that riff on the ideas of excellent buddy cop shows and films. Think of the comedy of Starsky & HutchMiami Vice (the poorly-dated TV show, not the terrible film), and Hawaii Five-0. It’s great to see some of the cop’s personalities being created too, meaning you want to start partnering up along the buddy-cop lines of a straight-laced clean-sheet cop with one who loves to goof off and blur the lines.

At the start of each level you’ll get to pick two cops, Katsuo, Kowalski, Murphy, Borland, Green, and Williams. Once you’ve gotten over their excellent TV trope names and stereotypes you can use XP acquired from play to deck them out with new weapons or tweak their Speed, Damage, Health or Clip Size attributes to make crime-fighting that little bit easier. It pays to keep your cop couple balanced though, as if you load everything into your favourite, when they die and you’re left with just one badge-wielder, you’ll regret it.

The only fault I could level at co-designer Ollie Clarke was the somewhat sticky nature of the lock-on system – which is a problem that can be extremely easily resolved. Obviously Modern Dream isn’t finished with LA Cops just yet, with a 2015 release date on the cards. But already things are shaping up into a solid experience thats worth keeping an eye on or even splashing the cash for Early Access.

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