There’s a school of thought among videogame developers, one of which being Bungie, that believes the secret to creating an enjoyable game is identifying five minutes of intense, fun gameplay and re-creating it over and over and over again in slightly different surroundings. Doing so, according to these developers, ensures that the game will include lots of classic moments and, if all goes right, become an instant classic.
But what happens when that formula goes wrong? Enter Pursuit Force, a new racing/chasing game for the PSP. You’ve heard the plot before: crime is running rampant throughout the city, and an unorthodox group of renegade-like police is tasked with tracking the criminals down and bringing them to George W-like justice. The team of cops in this case is called the Pursuit Force, which turns out to not only be a melodramatic name, but one that appropriately describes the gameplay: pursuing the bad guy.
Pursue, pursue and pursue again, that’s the basic model for Pursuit Force. In essence, the game is structured like one of the old-school racing games we all grew up with in which the player starts in last place and has to catch up to first place before time runs out. The caveat here, though, is that you’re in “last place” as the police officer, and you need to catch up to the “first place” (read: fastest) perpetrator before the end of the track, er, level, and/or before time runs out. This formula is essentially repeated six times for each of the game’s five crime syndicates, with the action occasionally broken up by on-rails segments in a helicopter or on-foot levels that play just like a third-person shooter.
The racing segments aren’t all in cars (some involve driving a boat, for example), but the gameplay is identical regardless. Once you catch-up to the criminals, you can either destroy their car with your unlimited ammunition, or you can jump from your car to the criminals’ like a Hollywood-style commandeering. In addition to being the cooler of the two methods, this is also the faster of the two ways to eliminate your foes, as the enemies themselves have significantly less armor than their vehicle.
Still, even though you can jump from car to car, cling to the fender to shoot enemies and dodge incoming gunfire by dropping down onto the bumper, that’s really about all you can do. Once you complete a track it becomes unlocked for the Time Trial and race modes, but for all intents and purposes, you just raced through those levels to begin with, so these modes act more as route training than they do as added enjoyment.
I’ve got to hand it to the developers for giving players the option to commandeer a vehicle in mid-air, lending Pursuit Force some serious style points. I’ve also got to give kudos for the “Justice Bar,” which increases with each kill and, when maxed-out, enables players to either refill their energy bar or pull off a slow-motion mid-air attack. This provides some increased depth for what would otherwise amount to an old-school racing game in a cop-inspired veneer.
But even with these minor features in tow, the “big picture” game, those five minutes of pursuit that the developers are re-creating over and over, just isn’t all that compelling for an entire game. The developers tried to spice things up with some protect-the-moron missions, but the friendly AI is so poor, and the vehicle handling so squirrelly at times, that it all just falls flat. It’s too bad, too, because Pursuit Force has enough style and potential almost make up for its repetitive gameplay. Almost.
- Gameplay: 7
- The meat of the game is remarkably repetitive, but the Justice Meter offers some depth and the mid-air commandeering is just cool.
- Graphics: 8.5
- Looks great, considering the speed and “stuff.” Plus, I’ve seen console games that didn’t have a draw distance this good.
- Sound: 7
- The music sounds like a classic cop flick, but the voiceovers are middle of the road and the sound effects simply get the job done.
- Replay: 5
- In this game’s case, “replay” is what you experience between levels three, four, five, six….
- Overall: 7
- A decent first outing, but make sure you don’t tire of repetitive racing games, because that’s what you’re getting here.