This is a milestone on this website. This is a collaborative review of a computer game with my best friend, Austin Simpson. Austin plays very different games than I typically play. You know what I like. Austin enjoys more avant-garde indie games and horror games. He also has an affinity for console classics from the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. Austin is a prolific writer—he’s been published in a number of prestigious social psychology journals. Music journalism and criticism is another one of his specialties. He is currently blogging at https://dec13plus.blogspot.com. He is also working on planning a local history work discussing a niche topic in our region.
This is a game that is a hybrid between a tactical shooter and a horror game. There’s something here for everyone. Check out our work below.
As with any comprehensive review, the whole gaming experience needs to be evaluated, so it should go without saying that there will be spoilers ahead. In Police Force, the game follows an officer responding to the “deadliest 911 calls” in an unnamed municipality. While Black Eyed Priest Games plans on the final game featuring four cases, only the first case is available now. In Case 1: Barker Residence, you play as a lone police officer, armed only with a pistol and a flashlight, as your respond to a domestic disturbance call. In the introductory text, you learn about the Barker family, whose patriarch has been experiencing psychiatric disturbances. A neighbor reported hearing disturbing noises from the home , where Barker lives with his wife and daughter, late in the evening on Halloween 1988. The scene opens with the officer’s flashlight illuminating a jack-o-lantern in the house’s entryway. As the officer proceeds to explore the house, Mrs. Barker is found stabbed to death in the kitchen. Over the next few minutes, the player proceeds to explore the house, uncovering evidence and getting a little bit of a backstory on the Barker family, before finding Barker’s daughter caged in a dead-end room in the home’s basement. As the officer makes to exit the room, Barker bursts in, and it’s kill-or-be-killed as he charges the protagonist. Once he is subdued, the game ends.
There are a number of things that Police Force does exceedingly well. First, the game does an excellent job of building tension throughout, with no ease in dread until after Barker’s sudden charge during the basement finale. Throughout the house, you’re continually expecting someone to pop out of the shadows, and some nightmarish imagery (a mannequin sat behind a divider in a room, some creepy effigies sat around the basement) really adds to the experience. The game also required you to switch between investigative mode and firearm mode. This mechanic added to the tension by not allowing the player to be ready to fire at any moment. Indeed, when the villain runs toward you, it’s pretty unlikely you’ll have your weapon out, and, on my first play-through, I was killed before I could fire off enough rounds to stop him.
While I did enjoy playing this game, it isn’t without its major flaws. First, there is nearly nothing in the game besides the opening text that suggests it is set in the 80s. The graphics are fairly modern, so there’s no retro influence there. (Admittedly, retro graphics are a bit of a fetish for me, and you can have a game set in the past that doesn’t use them turn out perfectly [e.g., the unbelievably good Stories Untold].) I was also underwhelmed by the myth-making once you’re actually in the house. With the exception of a little bit of scrawled text on the wall and a note in the daughter’s room, you really don’t learn anything explicit about the Barker family as you move through their startlingly clean, under-decorated home. While I admit I’m spoiled in this post-Gone Home world, I could’ve used a little bit more clutter to round the realism of the situation out.
Despite its flaws in world-building, I really enjoyed playing Police Force and actually booted it back up for another run-through immediately after I finished. (The game does only take about 5 minutes to complete, so no huge time commitment here, truly.) I’ve appreciated Black Eyed Priest Games’ prior work, especially Quiet Haven, and I’m eagerly awaiting the upcoming three episodes of Police Force. I’m hopeful the developer will be able to keep up the tension in a variety of policing situations. If so, this one could end up an indie hybrid classic.
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