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Police Quest
Police Quest 2
Police Quest 3

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Police Quest: Open Season
Police Quest: SWAT
Blue Force

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Police Quest: Open Season - IBM PC, Macintosh (1993)

Cover

The fourth Police Quest game represents a marked shift in tone from the previous games. By this point, Jim Walls had left the series, and Sierra found former Los Angeles police chief Daryl F. Gates to helm the series. He's a controversial figure - he once said casual drug use was akin to treason - and it's questionable exactly how much influence he had on this game, other than putting his name in large letters on the box. Rather, the game actually seems to be designed by Tammy Dargen, who had previously worked on the television show America's Most Wanted. To provide a greater sense of realism, the location moved from Lytton to real-life Los Angeles, and Sonny Bonds has been replaced by homicide detective John Carey.

The series had been growing successively darker with each new installment, but this one almost goes overboard, as the game begins at a crime scene where you not only discover a body of a slain police officer, but a murdered 8-year-old boy in the dumpster. There's a serial killer on the loose, one who seems particularly obsessed with both police officers and the general public. The citizens are naturally horrified and outraged, as it's apparently "open season" on everyone. Carey's investigation leads him into a run-in with popular rapper Yo Money, pits him against neo-Nazis, sends him to seedy locations like strip clubs and gets him into gun-fights in crime-ridden South Central Los Angeles. You also spend a lot of time in the morgue, asking questions about the deaths and getting all of the stomach wrenching details. It's a far stretch from the days of the first game, when you'd just hang out at diners and pick up drunks.

Nothing says evil more than swastikas hung up on your wall.

Police Quest: Open Season (often referred to as Police Quest 4 despite the absence of a numeral in the title) is the first Sierra title to use completely digitized graphics. It is not a full motion video title, however, as it still uses static backgrounds and sprites like the previous games. While Sierra had been using rotoscoping in the past, here the entire game consists of scanned photographs and fully animated digitized actors. The result looks absolutely terrible. Although the game runs in SVGA, the resolution of the images is incredibly haphazard, with most locations being horribly pixellated and borderline illegible. At any given time, the screen barely looks like anything more than a mess of pixels. The animation is smooth, but whenever the characters try to act with some semblance of realism, it looks borderline creepy, especially since it's difficult to make out any type of facial expression. Even though it looks reprehensible, at least it succeeds in illustrating the gritty atmosphere that the game aims for. It's also the only title in the series to be released on CD with full voice acting.

Most of the more tedious elements of the previous Police Quest games are gone - there's no more driving around or pulling people over, as you simply select locations on a map screen. You still spend a lot of time investigating crime scenes, using the homicide kit to obtain evidence, taking notes and questioning witnesses about the murders. It does get a bit silly that you need to remember to fill out paperwork every time something happens, to show the more realistic side of police work, but at least it only takes a few clicks. More onerous are the mandatory first person shooting gallery segments at the police academy, which need to be done several times throughout the investigation. There's no real point to them either - at least when they were in Police Quest 2, they were to aid in solving a puzzle. There are also some suspicious puzzles, like when you need to distract a dog with some pretzels or take down the final enemy by making a homemade torch out of a spray can and a lighter. These are far from the most illogical puzzles seen in an adventure game, but they feel very out of place for a Police Quest game. The game is also divided into four days, and sometimes it's hard to find the trigger to continue. It's especially difficult when you're supposed to notice that the white blob that appeared on your desk is apparently a very important memo!

Detective Carey is also a pretty lousy character. Sonny Bonds never had much of a personality, but at least he was vaguely likable. Here, one of the first actions Carey needs to do is push a reporter out of the way instead of responding to her questions. This is the sort of thing that would've likely gotten you a "game over" in earlier Police Quest games for not following procedure, but here it's mandatory. The first police officer killed is apparently one of his best friends, but even when questioning his widow, you never really get that impression. The game's all shock value, no emotion. It's technically no worse than the earlier games, but they didn't have as lofty goals either. The writers tried to give some of the secondary characters some liveliness by giving them quirks - the cowboy-talking guy at the shooting gallery, the hideously flirtatious secretary, the morgue assistant who has a penchant for awful jokes - yet they all just come off as irritating and awkward. The game was also criticized when it came out for its somewhat racist portrayals of minorities, especially the rappers, who all seem to talk in Ebonics, and the Korean convenience store owners.

South Central Los Angeles is not a pretty place.

Police Quest: Open Season is regarded as a black sheep amongst the series, just because it's so drastically different. It's not always terrible, but the awful visuals, stupid puzzles, and generally subpar writing make it far duller than it wants to be. It's also the last true Police Quest title, as the series went drastically awry from here on out.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Publisher:

Designer:

  • Daryl F. Gates
    Tammy Dargan

Genre:

Themes:


Police Quest: Open Season (IBM PC)

Police Quest: Open Season (IBM PC)

Police Quest: Open Season (IBM PC)

Police Quest: Open Season (IBM PC)

Police Quest: Open Season (IBM PC)

Police Quest: Open Season (IBM PC)

Police Quest: Open Season (IBM PC)


View all "Police Quest: Open Season" items on eBay

Police Quest: SWAT - IBM PC, Macintosh (1995)

Cover

Police Quest: SWAT might actually be one of the worst video games ever made. Like Phantasmagoria and The Beast Within, it uses copious full motion video with digitized actors, but instead of keeping in the adventure game elements, it's turned into some kind of sub-game, with only the barest minimal interactions. Daryl Gates, once again championed on the cover, is credited as the father of the Special Weapons Assault Team, hence the change in direction.

On the first of four CDs, you begin the game as a rookie in the SWAT squadron. Your first goal is to complete firearms training. You accomplish this by going to the firing range, taking out a gun, clicking on a target, and then repeat this for maybe thirty minutes or so. It's hard to say exactly how long you're supposed to do this - it just seems to go on forever until your commander lets you leave. Then you go to another firing range and do approximately the same thing, except against moving targets. Finally, if you elect to become a sniper, there's another set of training you have to go through, although this is thankfully optional, because it's much more confusing. Instead of just pointing and clicking, you need to fiddle with your gun's sights to make it work, sort of like a similar thing back in Police Quest 2, but more annoying. Also, make sure not to skip any of the videos of your commanders talking to you, because they'll yell at you if you do!

In this mission, you can and will be shot by a delusional granny.

Once you're done with that bit of drudgery, you can start the game proper. There are three different hostage scenarios, one each on the remaining three discs. There's one with a deranged gun-wielding grandmother in a suburban neighborhood, one in a warehouse and one in an office building. Ironically, the training segments have absolutely nothing to do with the actual meat of the game. Neither do any of the video interviews with various officers regarding SWAT tactics. All you do is watch videos take place, and, at certain moments, make decisions by clicking on various parts of the screen. Click on the wrong place, or too early, or too late, and you'll either get kicked off the team or killed. It's roughly the equivalent to a slower paced Dragon's Lair-style FMV game. To be fair, you can be assigned different parts of the team (you can only be a sniper in one of them, if you've completed the training), and since these are randomized, they won't necessarily play out the same way every time.

The acting is on the level of a bad police television drama. Your commander tries to be a hardass, and your teammates will try acting friendly with you in order to give them some kind of personality. They're paper thin, though, and the game is not at all about story or characters or action or much of anything, really. It's mostly about watching videos of dudes in full combat gear with guns slowly walking forward, and every once in awhile, hitting a button and hope you don't get shot. In other words, it's a monumental waste of time.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Publisher:

Designer:

  • Tammy Dargan

Genre:

Themes:


Police Quest: SWAT (IBM PC)

Police Quest: SWAT (IBM PC)

Police Quest: SWAT (IBM PC)

Police Quest: SWAT (IBM PC)


The Rest of the SWAT Series

In the absolute loosest definition, you could almost quantify Police Quest: SWAT as an adventure game, albeit one that focused entirely on the timed action scenes that so many genre fans hate. And at least it looks somewhat similar to other Sierra FMV titles and uses a similar interface. Sierra tossed all of that to the wind as its expanded its SWAT series in completely different directions.

Police Quest: SWAT 2 is a real time strategy game. You can choose to play as the SWAT, or as a member of a terrorist organization, a move which probably would have never been seen in a post-9/11 world. With a 2D overhead isometric viewpoint vaguely reminiscent of Bullfrog's Syndicate, you control your squad to fulfill various mission objectives. For the SWAT, it's usually to quell hostage situations. For the terrorists, it's usually to cause havoc. Conceptually, there's some cool stuff - as the SWAT, you can use bullhorns to issue demands, toss in telephones to try to talk opponents down, or call in helicopters and tanks to take care of the more brutal situations. But the action is choppy, and the messy interface is hard to deal with, often resulting in your characters getting creamed before they can even act. It's still fun planning missions though, especially since some are based on real-life situations. It's also amusing to flip through the profile pictures of the dozens of members you can choose. The terrorists look like drug-addled whack jobs straight out of a trailer park, while the SWAT are all clean cut dudes (and one or two women.) Sonny Bonds is also one of the members you can choose, the only true link to the earlier Police Quest games beyond the title.

From the third game onward, the series dropped the Police Quest name entirely and morphed into a tactical first person shooter, similar to Ubisoft's Rainbow Six 3. While the first SWAT was reviled and the second met with middling reviews, the gaming public responded well to these sequels, so Sierra continued in this direction. SWAT 3: Close Quarters Battle was designed by Sierra and helmed by Tammy Dargan, the scripter of the later adventure games. Although it's missing Sonny, his wife Marie shows up as a hostage in a few missions. Further releases include SWAT 3: Elite Edition and SWAT 3: Tactical Game of the Year Edition, each of which adds extra scenarios and features. These additions were also released for free on the Sierra website.

SWAT 4 was developed by Irrational Games, who later went on to create Bioshock, and uses the Unreal 2.0 engine. In a nod to its lineage, the tutorial instructor is named Sonny Bonds. An expansion was released called The Stetchkov Syndicate, and can be found bundled together in the SWAT 4: Gold Edition release. SWAT: Global Strike Team was developed for consoles by Argonaut Software, and released for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Although a completely new game, it is a tactical first person shooter similar to the third and fourth SWAT games. SWAT: Target Liberty was developed for the PlayStation Portable by 3G Studios and returns to the overhead isometric perspective of SWAT 2, although it's focused less on strategy and more on action. SWAT Force and SWAT Elite Troops were also released for mobile phones.

Police Quest: SWAT 2 (Windows)

Police Quest: SWAT 2 (Windows)

SWAT 4 (Windows)


[Related Game] Blue Force - IBM PC (1994)

Cover

It's never been officially documented how or why Jim Walls left Sierra, but someone apparently decided that his services were wanted elsewhere. And so, he went to Tsunami Media, the folks behind the Ringworld adventure games, to helm Blue Force, which may as well be an alternate version of Police Quest 4. It certainly feels like it, and it's much closer to the spirit of the earlier games than the one Daryl F. Gates did.

The setting this time is the small city of Jackson Beach, and the hero is Jake Ryan, a rookie on the police force. It's his first day on the job, but naturally he gets swept up into dangerous situations mere minutes into putting on his uniform, including defusing hostage situations and hunting down gun runners. Like the early Police Quest games, there's a bunch of random police work to be done, all of which include gathering evidence, booking suspects, and remembering the radio codes to report incidents or call for backup. It should all seem extremely familiar, although it's odd that you never have to lock up your gun in a locker outside of the jail, something which the first three Police Quest games pummeled into you. There are no driving sequences, either, as you simply point-and-click on a map. The only major difference is that you ride around on a motorcycle rather than a squad car, which doesn't affect much.

The overarching plot involves the hunt for the murderer of Ryan's parents, an unsolved mystery for eleven years that naturally the newbie cop manages to solve in a couple of days. In the meantime, he also mingles with a single mother and her son, the victims of a domestic abuse case from early in the game. It's all sorta cheesy, again, but it's likable. It's a quaint contrast to Open Season too - in that game, bad guys would repeatedly drop f-bombs, whereas in Blue Force their curses are censored, cartoon-style.

Jim Walls himself makes a cameo appearance in Blue Force.

Blue Force makes copious use of digitized actors, which is strangely handled far better than it was in Open Season. The backgrounds are still hand drawn, and the actors aren't nearly as pixellated. The animated looping portraits during dialogue look a little bit silly, but overall it still looks fairly cohesive. Mr. Walls himself even guest stars as a worker for the city records department. The game was released on both disk and CD-ROM, but the CD version does not contain any voice acting, and is almost identical to the disk release, other than an audio interview with Walls. All actions are selected on a command menu, which looks like a police badge and is brought up with the right mouse button. Little has changed since the Sierra days, although the Speed adjust function is sorely missed.

Blue Force was widely criticized at the time of its release - Walls' storytelling clearly hadn't improved much since the early days of Police Quest. The magazine Computer Gaming World once voted it one of the worst games of all time, noting that the writing was on par with the worst episode of the TV show CHiPs. That comparison isn't too far off base, but it's not really a bad game, just a dated one, even back when it was released. It's a must for Police Quest fans, although most others will find its charms elusive.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Tsunami Media

Publisher:

  • Tsunami Media

Designer:

  • Jim Walls

Genre:

Themes:


Blue Force (IBM PC)

Blue Force (IBM PC)

Blue Force (IBM PC)

Blue Force (IBM PC)

Blue Force (IBM PC)


Compilations

The first compilation was released on CD in 1995 and includes the first four games on the series, including the AGI and SCI versions of the first game. It's dubbed the Daryl F. Gates' Police Quest Collection, even though he only worked on one of them. Successive releases include the Police Quest Collection Series in 1997, which added the first SWAT game to the roster in addition to the adventure games, and Police Quest: SWAT Generation only includes the first three SWAT games. In 2006, Vivendi released the Police Quest Collection, which includes the original four Police Quest games, although it's missing the AGI version of the original. Like the King's Quest, Space Quest and Leisure Suit Larry collections issued at the same time, it purports to update the games to run on modern systems, but it really just configures the games to run through DOSBox. Good Old Games also offers the first four games bundled together (as well as another bundle with the first two SWAT titles), and like the other compilations, is missing the AGI version of the first game.

Police Quest Collection


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<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Police Quest
Police Quest 2
Police Quest 3

Page 2:
Police Quest: Open Season
Police Quest: SWAT
Blue Force

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