Future Cop: LAPD
- August 31, 1998
- Playstation 1
- EA Redwood Shores
“Future Cop: LAPD” is a strategical 3/4 down shooter released on PC, Mac and the original Playstation (if you still have one and can find a copy that still works) in 1998.
For those unaware of the viewpoint of a 3/4 down game, imagine the viewpoint of Smite, the MOBA. To anyone who has not even heard of Future Cop: LAPD (from here, abbreviated to “LAPD”), it has no affiliation at all with the actual Los Angeles Police Department as it is quick to remind us every time we load the game, so we can be free of giant mech suits and low poly tanks for a few years yet. Within the game you play as an operative controlling a mechanical exosuit equipped with high-grade weaponry, and yet is surprisingly fragile from a “how many hits can I actually take before I die” perspective, though there are power-ups to combat your innate frailty.
First, the campaign. While generally lacking in compelling story, it serves its purpose. It discloses some obvious details (such as why the mechs are employed in situations against armed, but unmechanised opponents) as well as giving a single-player experience for those players simply wishing to play through a game with a goal, with some tense moments of potential failure (of which there are a few to a moderately skilled player). Overall, however, the campaign offers nothing of note. No critical victories or failures that distinguish it from its peers, even in its day. Now, however its story is simply laughable. Our games have progressed to where (some) games have more nuanced situations than just a “we’re good, they’re bad” mentality. RPGs can handle such greyishness expertly if the work is put in to make characters believable. But, even by today’s standards, the campaign serves its purpose as faithfully as it did at release. One thing must be mentioned to its undying credit, though: the campaign had a two-fold save system. In its day, PS1 memory cards costed 20 USD, or roughly equivalent. Undoubtedly parents would not spend $20 on some “useless” piece of plastic, or at least some wouldn’t. So LAPD has the option to save on a memory card, as would be expected, but it also employed another method of saving, that many older gamers will recognise from games where they could not save, but needed to maintain progress. This system was progress codes. Upon setting up a new level, the player would be given a code, which they could note down and then enter into the game at a later date, and that would allow them to pick up from the level from which they left off. The combination of the two shows a little bit of foresight on the part of the developers.
If we turn to look at the multiplayer matches, however, this is where LAPD really shines. Multiplayer can be played against a friend (through splitscreen, naturally), or against an AI, named “Sky Captain”, who had several advantages over the player. To really get to grips with this, the basics must be explained. In LAPD multiplayer, the goal is to get one of your tanks into the enemy base intact. At that point you win the game. To create tanks, you require points. To earn points, you play the game. 1 point gained for each turret you claim as your own, 1 point for every enemy tank, helicopter, or turret you destroy, and 10 points if you destroy your opponent themselves (losing them ten points in the process). Within your base there are many turrets (already claimed to protect the base and will respawn in your colour [red or blue]). There are also small black boxes within your base, walking close to them and activating them will build one of two vehicles, each for 1 point. Tanks, which will immediately go out into the world and shoot enemies on their way, gradually making their way to the enemy base until they are destroyed, and helicopters (for some reason called “planes”, but what do I know) which will constantly fly around your base and offer additional protection. You may only have 20 of each vehicle at any one time. Once you have accrued 50 points, you can buy mega vehicles called Juggernaughts or Sky Fortresses, which essentially perform the same task, but with ruthless efficiency. Juggernaughts will not count as a victory if they make it to the enemy base, however, so buying them at the right time is key. Sky Captain, as well as being able to fly, can build units from outside his base, giving him the unfair advantage. Luckily, he’s not very good at retreating, and you can easily win the first round with not a lot of skill. Fighting Sky Captain is an endless struggle, however, as a new round will begin where he is harder to defeat, and so on (I tend to find we become evenly matched at round 3).
The mechanics of multiplayer are well defined and easy to use, and I have never encountered a glitch. The tutorial is a fun and sassy instructional video, and yet there are still flaws. Primarily, controls. To move your character you can use the analogue sticks of directional buttons (as was standard) but the analogue stick is far too sensitive to changes of direction, which will have you snaking around the arena in a drunken haze. However, using the directional buttons is awkward as your main point of control. If you’re able to get the analogue stick movement down to an art, I would definitely recommend doing that.
My only real downside is that a more up to date version was not release with smoother controls and a more developed story, maybe some more development into multiplayer to boot. But, with astronomically poor opening sales, I can definitely see why it didn’t make the cut for a second game.
Definitely worth checking out if you can get your hands on it.