Being a cop is an unenviable, tough job, even at the best of times. Public perception is an uphill battle, and the amount of scrutiny is intense. Why would anyone in their right mind want this job? The answer, you hope, is that they join up to serve the public trust. They put themselves in harm’s way to stop bank robbers, drug deals, gang shootings, and more, keeping us all safe. Well, veteran cops don’t start out that way — they are the result of innumerable ride-alongs with a training officer, practice, drills to learn the law, and a whole lot of time. Police Simulator: Patrol Duty puts you in the brand new size 9s of a rookie officer straight out of the academy. Lace em up, boot — let’s get out there and stop some crime.
Police Simulator: Patrol Duty is very much an early access title, with all that entails. Bugs, balance, and features are still objects in motion, with major updates on the horizon. Currently there are only a handful of semi-complete systems to play with, but it neatly demonstrates what developer Aesir Interactive is aiming to achieve.
As a fresh graduate, you’ve been assigned to the Brighton Police Department. A complete rookie, you aren’t given a whole lot of responsibilities. In fact, your assignment is to patrol the area around the department and issue tickets for parking violations. Walking the streets (you can’t be trusted with a car yet) you’ll spot vehicles that are parked with a tire on the curb, expired registrations, and vehicles facing the wrong direction. Like the real deal, you are judged for every action you take while in uniform. Issuing an improper ticket will cause you to lose credibility as an officer, so you’ll need to pay attention to all the details.
After a few days of beating the pavement issuing tickets, you’ll be given some more responsibility. No, you still can’t be trusted with a car, but you’ll at least learn how to use another essential piece of law enforcement gear — a radar gun. Watching the major thoroughfares, you’ll watch for lead-footed citizens going faster than 35mph. You’ll also run into regular citizens breaking the law. Well, littering anyway. This gives you your first opportunity to interact with the public at large — your biggest test yet.
Stopping a citizen on the street is nerve wracking for both sides. As a rookie cop, everything you do is under extreme scrutiny, and as a citizen you wonder if you’ve worn clean underwear and if you’ve done everything in your life correctly. As both of you question the interaction, it begins nonetheless. In one interaction I saw a careless passerby drop a paper cup on the sidewalk. A minor infraction to be sure, but one I need to address. As I approach the man I notice that his eyes are red and he seems evasive and nervous. A quick consultation of my manual tells me that I’m cleared to question the person, detaining them until I can ascertain if there is more to this situation. Could he be under the influence of drugs? Could he just be upset at something in his life? I ask some basic questions and the man seems genuinely contrite about his littering. I let him go with a warning, instructing the man to dispose of the trash properly. It’s within my job duties to make these judgement calls, and I’m choosing to err on the side of caution, assuming positive intent. I leave the conversation with the nagging feeling that I’ll never know if I was right.
Writing tickets, catching speeders, walking the beat and meeting the people who live around here, I start getting confident with my assigned duties when I’m handed a brand new tool — a camera. It doesn’t take long before I receive my first major callout — a minor fender bender. I jog the few blocks to the accident (I really want a car at this point) and find the scene. From the initial brush it looks like a minivan took a corner too quickly, clipping another vehicle. Both drivers are already out of the vehicle, but thankfully everyone is being civil. I address the driver of the vehicle that was struck first. As I check his ID, the man readily admits that he was going too fast and that he’s very much at fault. Well, that was easy, but there’s always two sides to every story. His driver’s license isn’t expired, and everything checks out, so I sit the man down. I’m going to bypass the cuffs — they don’t seem warranted. I turn my attention to the SUV and its driver.
Approaching the man, he is very relaxed. I ask for his ID and he produces…well, I don’t know who this license belongs to, but he looks nothing like the person standing in front of me. The victim now has my attention in all the wrong ways. I question the man and he is insistent that nothing is wrong, and that he’s the man in the photo. I advise him that he’s going to sit on the curb as I finish up my investigation. I take pictures of both vehicles, I note the skid marks in the streets, I take pictures of the collision points. A quick check of my manual confirms that the mismatched ID coupled with the evasive attitude gives me probable cause. I’m not keen on any of this, so I opt for backup and a wagon to pick up the SUV owner. What I found next changed everything about this callout.
Opening the front seat I found drugs. Opening the back seat I found drugs. Opening the other rear seat? You guess it, more drugs. This “victim” was a drug trafficker, and I just happened to have stumbled onto a major drug bust. If I had simply taken the pictures, exchanged insurance, and wandered off I’d have been none the wiser, and there would be a whole lot more drugs on the street. Not too bad for a rookie.
The roadmap ahead for Police Simulator: Patrol Officer is as long as it is wide. There are a ton of features ahead, starting with a major one coming next month. In your car you’ll be able to use the onboard computer to run background checks. It’d make interactions like the car accident a lot easier if I could easily separate Mr. Rogers from Mr. Manson. In early Q3 they’ll introduce night shifts, road flares, flashlights, and something I’m excited for — cooperative multiplayer. I’m not sure if it’ll be Turner and Hooch or Training day, but I’m eager to hit the streets with friends.
Mid Q3 brings another district to explore, another car, and a new duty just entitled “Drug Dealers”. Late Q3 introduces free roam for the city. Q4 and beyond brings bag theft, graffiti, drunk and disorderly, smog emissions on vehicles, escorting suspects to jail in handcuffs, medical support for civilians, and modding support. Given the number of shattered windshields I spotted, I’d hope that I’d be able to issue fix-it tickets on those soon enough as well.
To say that the team is ambitious with this roadmap is an understatement. We’ve gotten our hands on just a taste of what’s to come, and it’s already a solid simulation of the reality of being a police officer. Not unlike the military, it’s equal parts tedium and terror. It’s difficult to know when you’ve done the right thing, and most of the time your actions will go unappreciated. Still, when you step in and make all the difference between calamity and calm, it’s also equally rewarding. Here’s to hoping that the Aesir can deliver on the amazing potential this game has to offer.
Police Simulator: Patrol Officers has launched on Steam Early Access, with a current review rating of “Very Positive” with over 1600 reviews reporting in.