In the meantime, I'm just a guy who writes about videogame theory and how the medium can achieve better cinematic emulation (while keeping its own indentity). Though, if that's too boring, you can always find something delightfully fluffy in the following:
When I was a film student, I had to sit through this awful movie made by some absolute douchebag. It involved a near future where the British Police Force upheld the law through fascist and deadly means. Quite clearly, it was made by a man who had watched V For Vendetta the previous week and instead of actually understanding that it was about Thatcherism, he thought the UK would turn into a Cuban dictatorship by 2015. This irked me somewhat since before going to university I worked for several police stations. Now, Iím not someone who embraces the police (God knows Iíve seen enough idiocy to make me dislike them), but I found this student film to be a badly researched waste of everyoneís time and told him out loud in class that his depiction of a trigger happy UK police was offensive.
But I am a hypocrite.
Because I really loved G-Police. This was a game where the cops are under corporate government rule and are ordered to Ďblow shit upí on a regular basis using an assortment of military vehicles and enough firepower to level a city. In this world, you better pay that parking fine, or youíll be locking lips with an IR missile the next time you take the kids to school.
G-Police was a dark game; it was absolutely grim and relentlessly dour throughout. You were an underfunded asset in a Blade Runner-esque world where corporations ruled and your job was to primarily babysit for them. From the opening eleven minute FMV, the game purged all semblance of joy from your system. The moment youíd have fun in this game, was the moment it ramped the difficulty up to nightmare proportions. But for all the nerve wracking tension, the game was an underrated beast to play.
In the future, humans have left the wastes of Earth and colonised moons around the solar system. After a fierce war that depletes humanityís resources, the government (now just a handful of conglomerates) set up the G-Police in order to maintain stability on the colonies. The real money is in mining, but crime is at an all time high because of its illegal dealings. An ex-military pilot, Slater, receives word that his sister, an idealistic G-Police officer, crashed her Havoc Gunship into a control tower and has died. He doesnít believe that she committed suicide, so he takes a trip to the Jupiter moon of Callisto and joins the G-Police to discover the real reason behind her death. In the meantime, Slater has to patrol the giant domes and police the streets. Eventually, an all-out war erupts between the Krakov and Nanosoft corporations and Slater finds itís somehow connected to his sisterís death.
The game puts you in control of a Havoc Gunship; a sort of police Apache helicopter without rotors or Airwolf without the speeded up stock footage. It can do just about anything a futuristic helicopter can do and itís pretty complex to get the hang of. If you donít play the tutorial at least twice, then things can get ugly since this is a game that really relies on you being able to fly like a pro helicopter pilot (with bells and whistles). You have to target and scan enemies, lock on to their signal and use the best, limited, weapon from your load-out. It makes for realistic feel in a sci-fi setting. The first few levels ease you into the thick of things, so by the time youíre ready, youíll be under pressure, but you wonít be panicking and acting like some damned rookie.
The missions are really what made the game back in the day. This wasnít some relentless shoot-em-up. You were asked to just scan suspicious crates and blimps, stop gang activity, defend vital buildings, put on escort missions and the like. As the story increasingly pushed towards inevitable corporate war, the missions become more about bombing runs, Intel collection and stopping weapons reach their destructive destinations. It was all about the tension. The most memorable moments were the subtle ones like, flying through dome jump-gates to reach a target and just waiting for the enemy to strike. There was a lot variety on display here and the whole things oozed atmosphere, from the FMV and wingman banter to the futuristic city domes that all had their own personality (industrial, residential, inner city, mining, etc). The domes felt alive, with the little hover cars flying around and the traffic on the ground. Quite clearly they stole everything from Blade Runnerís version of LA, bar the art deco. With you policing the streets with your fellow G-Police officers, it was what the movie Outland (also set on a mining colony) should have been like. But all that tainted beauty came with a price...
The draw distance.
Psygnosis really pushed the limits of the PSone back in the day, but G-Police was simply too much for the console. The game suffered for its art; everything about six feet in front of you was pitch black and full of polygon pop-ups. Battles could get confusing and difficult since you had to get in close to the enemy; getting in close meant you were dead-meat, but from the pitch black, they could spot you since draw distance meant nothing to the AI. It was a tad unfair to say the least, hence the heavy reliance of lock-on and the radar. In the options, you could increase with the draw distance, but doing so would slow the game down. It was obvious from this little addition that Psygnosis really wanted you to see the game as they originally intended.
My tip is to play this game on the PS2. You can increase the draw distance without sacrificing the game speed. This is why I loved the backwards compatibility, it made all your old games run faster (so long, Resident Evil stairs).
Anyway, G-Police was a tough cookie but once you really pushed yourself to complete an extremely difficult moment it felt like you had become a better player overall. That was your reward at the end of the day. You got your thrills from tactically outsmarting the enemy in dogfights and by being immersed in the atmospheric plot. Itís a rarity to find a game that balances these attributes and integrates an intriguing story into a game that could just as easily gone without one. You could say it was the Tie Fighter of PSone games.
G-Police: Weapons of Justice
G-Police did well enough to warrant a sequel, but so many things went wrong that the franchise ended after this title. I suspect most people who bought the original was put off by the difficulty spikes and handling of the gunship, so they never bothered with the sequel. I also think it has something to do with Psygnosis having money troubles at the time.
Iíll be blunt here, Weapons of Justice feels kind of rushed. The missions feel shorter and there are less of those atmospheric FMV sequences around. The story is weak and doesnít really go anywhere (itís a rehash of the original but this time with the Marines as the bad guys). Graphically, itís too busy and it suffers the same draw distance issues again.
The story is set just after the original, with the G-Police in strung out shape after the Nanosoft war. Theyíre finally able to ask for reinforcements after communications were blocked by their orbit of Jupiter and the military answer the call. Commander Grice and his Marines help out with Callistoís gang problem, but suddenly turn on the G-Police when itís revealed theyíve only come for Nanosoftís advanced weaponry. Slater, now a veteran pilot whoís accepted his role as a G-Police officer, leads several daring missions to take back control of Griceís martial law and stop him before he uses the technology to start another war off-world.
The sequel went out of its way to create more variety in a bunch of missions that were rehashed from the original. You felt less like a cop on the job and more of a guerrilla tactician in a series of relentless action set-pieces. To aid you were several new vehicles; there was the Rhino (an APC that was rarely used), the Raptor (a bi-pedal walking tank with jump abilities) and the Corsair (a spaceship designed for off-world combat). Again, you were flying around in the Havoc Gunship and its upgraded version called the Venom. The new vehicles felt weak when compared to the gunships. They were restrictive ground vehicles involved in missions where you could just as easily fly around and bomb the hell out of your enemies. It wasnít a case of thinking tactically in a new way either; you usually endorsed the same aerial hit-and-run tactics as before, only this time you were on the ground. The Corsair was different, since this was space combat and you were no longer limited by the gunshipís capabilities or the colonyís domes. But ultimately, its appearance was too little too late (at least it does give you one epic battle at the end). For some reason the controls on the gunship were changed...for the worse. I think it was so all the vehicles followed a similar control pattern instead of the player having to re-learn everything again and again. It felt clunky and Iím not a fan, but you do eventually get used to it. Graphically, the obligatory overhaul was in effect.
Weapons of Justice implemented more colour in Callistoís world. More gas towers shooting flames, more vehicles driving around, more sickly neon lighting and more buildings for you to navigate. But all that came at a price again. Yep, the draw distance issues were back. Psygnosis decided to put up this blur effect to countermeasure the poor draw distance and personally, while everything is graphically improved, the smeared visuals spoil all the detail. I bet Diesel was pissed when their beloved in-game logo adverts were hard to read. Even though the details have been improved, a lot of the story is played out through real time; which is awful considering the characters are blurry polygon men and everything is played out by faceless people talking from behind blacked out windshield of a gunship. I suspect Psygnosis really didnít have the time or money to really make expensive FMVs, so they just bookended the story with them and cheaply made real-time cutscenes instead.
For all the harsh words I have about it, Weapons of Justice is still a fun game. Youíre still employing a thinking manís approach and tactically picking your targets and destroying them through various means. The only real problem I have with it is that itís just too familiar and the improvements arenít really a large evolutionary step. By all rights, it should have knocked the original out of the ballpark, but it comes across as an afterthought; the story is merely an epilogue with an ending that suggest there was to be a third game.
And yes, there was supposed to be a third G-Police story, presumably on the PS2, but it never materialised and Psygnosis went bust. Itís a shame because G-Police had the makings of an amazing franchise. It was way ahead of its time because it successfully merged tense tactical dogfights with story that was more interested in characters than the action. You really felt like a cog in a greasy futuristic machine world that didnít care much for your presence; not once do the civilians and miners have a major impact on the story (other than secondary objectives), this is all about working for Ďthe maní and survival of the fittest.
G-Police made a reappearance on PSN a few years back, but I donít think it particularly made any resurgent waves., probably because it looks really dated and a little bit odd. It really was one of the first few Ďadultí console games that didnít treat the player like an idiot, nor did it confuse the meaning of Ďmatureí with Ďmust swear a lotí. The gameplay for both games still holds up today. Not bad for a series thatís over ten years old now. Itís a franchise that needs to be reappraised since it helped define the PSoneís target audience.