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COPS 2170 Reviewed
Review - posted by Exitium on Fri 4 February 2005, 16:47:14Tags: MISTLand; Power of Law: COPS: 2170
Like me, most of us have to wait a very long time for any turn-based games to come out because of their relative scarcity in the gaming market, at least of late. While I have personally opted for replays of old turn-based titles and RPGs like Jagged Alliance 2 and Battle Isle 3, there have been a few games released in the recent years that try to fill the niche. One such game is the recently released COPS 2170, developed by Russian developers Mistland and published in the States by Strategy First.
It was only natural that Mistland would have another attempt at developing another turn-based title after the moderate successes of Paradise Cracked and Alfa Anti-Terror in their Russian homeland, but the reception for the former aforementioned title (the latter is yet to be released elsewhere) was definitely a lot less than spectacular everywhere else. While you may lament the poor sales of the underappreciated Silent Storm (my personal opinion of the game notwithstanding) in the United States, thereâ€™s little of value to be found in the box of Paradise Cracked. Nonetheless, Mistland likely follows the principle of â€˜trial and errorâ€™. Letâ€™s see how their latest offering turned out.
Welcome to COPS 2170: The Power of Law.
When you first start your game youâ€™ll watch a cut scene narrated by the gameâ€™s main character, Katy. Her voice is bad, but youâ€™ll have to learn to get used to it, because youâ€™ll be hearing it a lot. When you meet Charly, the gameâ€™s resident tech nerd, youâ€™ll be wishing that she was the one who did the voice of the main character, instead. Iâ€™m not sure why they chose whoever they did to voice the main character. She sounds like sheâ€™s suffering from a sinus infection, and most of the characters in the game donâ€™t fare much better, either.
Regardless, the voices are somewhat better than those of Silent Stormâ€™s, but since many of the voiceovers arenâ€™t subtitled, youâ€™ll be forced to leave it on unless you want to miss some of the charactersâ€™ personality quirks and little comments that they make every now and then. You can disable the voiceovers in the sound settings, but you wonâ€™t be able to hear them shout for alerts or make comments as a result. It doesnâ€™t help that youâ€™re forced to read dialogue text one word at a time as it slowly fills the dialogue interface screen with no ability to skip the dialogue in its entirety and read it as an entire block of text, either.
As noted, you are Katy, a young police Sergeant-Junior whoâ€™s a fresh graduate of the police academy. She lives in the world of 2170, where the government has complete authority over every single aspect of civilian life. Society bends its knee to the police authority and no one is free, for the sake of public safety and order. Cybernetic chips are implanted into each newborn child, marking their host and identifying them as unique citizens. Cities have turned into monstrous urban centers giving the term â€œurban sprawlâ€ a hazardous new meaning. According to the manualâ€™s introduction, She is unaware that her new assignment on the recent terror attacks plaguing the city will place her directly in the path of an evil genius.
The central storyline unfolds in the future where the cyberpunk culture and a highly-urban oriented society have populated North America. Players will control Katy and her team of up to seven police agents, to a total of eight characters who pursue the tracks of the rogue genius, who has plunged the city into chaos with a series of terrorist attacks. Itâ€™s up to Katy and her follow officers to unravel the truth.
COPS 2170 uses a height scaleable third-person view with rotate-able camera, so youâ€™ll be playing the game from an angled view, similar to the camera in games like Silent Storm.
Once the opening trailer is over, the first thing youâ€™ll notice is the complete lack of a tutorial. Normally, Tutorials arenâ€™t such a big deal but thanks to the complete lack of a Help interface, it may take a while to get the hang of things, especially if you are unfamiliar to turn-based strategy games, and also if you opt out of reading the manual. Much of what you need to know about COPS 2170 can be found within the gameâ€™s manual, located on the 2nd disc.
Speaking of the interface, the text used in the GUI isnâ€™t very type-friendly, so reading the text tool-tips that hover over each of the icons may prove a challenge to read due to their size, especially if your eyesight is a little impaired. As previously stated, it doesnâ€™t help that some of the little icons are so hard to make out, either. The text present to describe the characters with whom you interact isnâ€™t much better, either. The top line of text is difficult to make out because the GUI overlaps the text at the top and the box that the text is in is too small, so youâ€™ll have to press the scroll button just to read a few lines of description. Iâ€™m sure it looks much better in Cyrillic (Russian) but the font they chose for the English translation of the game wasnâ€™t a very good one. It is just a minor quibble that youâ€™ll get over if you just read the manual, which is thankfully quite readable. Itâ€™s a short manual with only what you need to know in it, though.
Most of what youâ€™ll learn about the game will be through your Journal interface that contains entries made by your character, character details, item details, as well as several news bulletins with details on the world of 2170 and its happenings. You can also make your own entries in the journal, which is a nice plus.
Difficult is a good word to define the initial experience of playing of COPS 2170. With little to no introduction to the game, it may take awhile to figure the basics out even if youâ€™ve played any of the more tactical turn-based games like Silent Storm and Jagged Alliance 2 (as opposed to Fallout) because the game drops you in the middle of a police station with absolutely no advice on how to proceed.
Itâ€™s not a problem if you read the manual and familiarize yourself with the basics and controls. As I previously stated, itâ€™s all in the manual. Itâ€™s nowhere as complex as Jagged Alliance 2, so thereâ€™s no difficult â€˜stuffâ€™ to learn, like hit zones and added accuracy. COPS 2170 is really not that complex unless youâ€™re one of those people who considers turn-based games â€˜complexâ€™.
However, even if youâ€™ve read the manual and familiarized yourself with the basics and controls, youâ€™re just left to figure out a few things out on your own, like who to talk to and what to do at the start. Itâ€™s really quite stupid; due to the lack of any briefing or introduction, I didnâ€™t know which NPC to speak to, so I had to talk to all the nearby NPCs until I found who I was looking for and made any progress on the matter. Thankfully, the police headquarters is pretty small, so thereâ€™s slim chance of getting lost in there. You can also find a map in your Journal if you need to consult it. Getting your next orders are much easier, because by then you can consult your journal entries for mission directives instead of wandering around aimlessly.
Your first mission is to cease an uprising by some of the local disenfranchised homeless people that roam the Lower City. Once you have entered your mission you are placed in the middle of an office building in the middle of what looks to be a futuristic industrial plaza with architecture reminiscent to games like Syndicate Wars and Deus Ex. COPS 2170 earns points for the cool, and underused setting. Since Deus Ex, when was the last time you played a cyberpunk RPG?
The noise of police radio chatter, calls for back up and gunfire fill the air. Itâ€™s meaningless, though, because it serves as nothing more than ambience and has little to do with the actual situation. While you may hear officers bellowing what sound like orders at their underlings, itâ€™s not whatâ€™s reflected in actions those characters make in the game. There is never any police back up or support and computer allies donâ€™t seem to respond well to each other.
This is where things get really ugly: the AI of both your police allies is unquestionably bad. Police officers, supposedly ones with training, run in head first to engage machine gun toting robot enemies and fire at them at close range, sometimes missing every shot because theyâ€™re either unlucky or not close enough to hit the enemy. Whenever they do this, they tend to get completely wasted by the superior firepower of the enemy. Since most of them are wasted in an exceedingly short amount of time, youâ€™re left to cope with only the controllable characters in your party. It can be rather frustrating to see two squads of the cityâ€™s finest mowed down in a matter of minutes because of the stupid decisions that the friendly AI tends to make.
One thing of note is how all the â€˜Homelessâ€™ characters are marked as enemies even though they donâ€™t initiate combat or do anything to bother you. Mistland must have heard Spazmoâ€™s pleas for a hobo killing simulator. If there was such a game that defined hobos as perfectly acceptable targets for your violence, COPS 2170 would be that game. I can only surmise that the developers trying to convey a hidden message on Social Darwinism.
Friendly AI is Ian from Fallout
Like all other turn-based games, ending your turn takes you to watch enemy, allied, civilian and robot movement. Itâ€™s not as time-consuming as watching each of the characters take moves in Silent Storm and JA2, though, because you can toggle whether you want to view in the options screen. You can toggle viewing the movement of each of the types of groups, limit it to gunfire, or turn it off entirely. As previously stated, the some of the AI arenâ€™t anywhere as smart, so thereâ€™s times when youâ€™ll spot a couple of them just walking back and forth with no rhyme or reason to their actions. Itâ€™s especially true for the Homeless, which just as I previously stated, have little reason to be credited as enemies.
Unlike watching the Homeless, it actually worries me to be around any of my NPC allies, because they have a tendency for very stupid mistakes. Quite often, you may find yourself being shot in the back, usually resulting in instant death. Or worse, one of them decides to throw a grenade and it bounces off the back of your head, killing your entire party. Quick Saving is the rule of the day. It wouldnâ€™t be so big an issue if save games didnâ€™t take an entire minute to load up, though. Youâ€™ll be losing minutes at a time reloading from mistakes made by the stupid AI.
If you manage to survive your allies, it's still incredibly easy to get instantly destroyed by the bad guys who can kill you in a single well placed burst of their machineguns, some of which fire many times each round, if they're aggressive robots. Those things pack a punch, and they can wipe out your team in a single round if youâ€™re not careful.
However, you can easily avoid such a gruesome fate through simple use of tactics. Running ahead of everyone else with guns a-blazing isnâ€™t the best way to stay alive, period. I do like the fact that you have to plan out your attacks. Through sheer tactics and the utility cover and vehicles for support, you can easily turn the tide of battle against vastly superior enemies. If robots cause a problem, you can hack them and turn them against your enemies.
There are many ways to use the terrain to your advantage, though nowhere as much as Silent Storm. You can hide behind crates, walls and use vehicles for armored cover. You will find yourself in a very difficult position in wide open areas, though, but thatâ€™s common sense. However, there are times when you are in extremely close proximity to the enemy, leaving little room for tactics. Thankfully such situations are few and far in-between.
Quite often, the placement of enemies is just not very convenient, so youâ€™ll have to commandeer civilian vehicles and set up a defensive perimeter before engaging them. The fact that you can also control police robots will allow you to stage a defensive perimeter much more easily. You will face problems like this throughout the game, and it makes for very interesting tactical situations. The quality of the friendly AI can certainly curtails your approach to these situations, though, and that is too bad. They will have little more use than meat shields while you set up your maneuvers. The game suffers quite a lot as a result.
Due to the implementation of cameras and heat scanners, victories often come down to quick thinking and good execution of tactical maneuvers rather than â€˜who has the bigger gunâ€™. The fact that youâ€™ll die in a few hits certainly lends strong emphasis to your ability as a player, and not to the size of your gun. If you arenâ€™t careful and fail to employ proper use of cover, you are as good as dead. The game is extremely unforgiving in this aspect.
If you find that the game is too hard, you can tone down the damage given by enemies by setting the difficulty down a notch within the gameâ€™s configuration panel outside of the game.
Character & Mission Design
Missions may vary from quelling riots to taking on corrupt organizations, like the Syndicate, should you choose to side with the Mutants in your first mission. As with all turn-based tactical games, each mission amounts to little more than killing things. However, unlike similar offerings, each mission can be completed in a small variety of ways depending on whom you choose to side with during the mission, and there is plenty of tactical choice on where you decide to mount your attack. It should be noted that there are a variety of ways to finish the game depending on who you side with throughout the game.
Rather than having levels, your characters have ranks, which determine everything from what equipment you can use, to how many members you can have under your control in your squad. Each action rewards experience points which translate into promotions. New weapons, equipment and upgrades are unlocked as you earn a higher rank upon the completion of each mission. Besides the missions you go on, there are roughly 200 optional quests located throughout the game for you to complete such as shooting ranges, and optional targets. Each of them yields small rewards that you may otherwise miss should you choose not to pursue those quests.
You begin the game as a Sergeant-Junior and have immediate access to most of the early weapons in the game, including a powerful sniper rifle that kills most of the early characters you encounter in a single hit. You also have access to a variety of medikits, grenades, ammo types and utility equipment like heat scanners and cameras. Cameras are incredibly useful and can be tossed around corners to scope out enemy locations and plan your tactics ahead. Heat scanners allow you to see through walls and view the heat signatures of anyone in the proximity of the protagonist equipped with the device. Such equipment comes in very handy because it helps you to avoid ambushes and plan ones of your own.
Ambushes are common, so youâ€™ll have to play the game carefully, and not try not to rush ahead of the rest of your squad. Good use of cameras and other utilities will prevent an unnecessary demise. Due to the lackluster AI of your friendly characters, thereâ€™s little chance of seeing them employ the same tactics as you, because theyâ€™ll just run into the enemy and get torn to shreds.
To stop yourself from dying so often, you can also use limited-use energy shields that serve to deflect bullets, shrapnel and energy weapons. They only provide resistance for a period of time, so when they run out of energy, they will go offline and will require some time to recharge before they become reusable.
Each of your characters may equip up to a total of 10 implants. There are special slots to wear them, accessible via the equipment screen. To install the implant, you should move it to the slot for implants, and it will be activated. However, removing an implant that has been activated is impossible. Implants vary from damage resistance, sight modifiers to superior use of weapons, to the very exotic, which I will not mention as they will spoil your play through.
Thereâ€™s some amount of role-playing present in COPS 2170. What choices you do make are determined by who you decide to shoot in missions rather than through dialogue. For instance, in the first mission, youâ€™re approached by one of your teammates to put a bullet in the head of a police informer who threatens the status of several of your comrades in blue. Doing so will start you off on the career of a bad cop, not killing him will start you off on the other track. Likewise, youâ€™re also approached by Syndicate members to kill off some disenfranchised mutants. When you talk to the mutants, theyâ€™ll tell you to kill the Syndicate members. Whom you attack decides your career track for the rest of the game. Your statistics do not play any role in the choices you make throughout your career, your actions do.
Turn Based Combat
The implementation of the turn based system is questionable. Unlike the many titles that use an action point system, which place you in a real time environment whenever youâ€™re outside combat, COPS 2170 forces you into constant turn based mode within Mission Zones as long as there is an enemy still alive in the whole map. The result is quickly frustrating and serves little more than to prolong what would be otherwise quick missions. That's a step backward from previous turn-based offerings, as far as I'm concerned. The only time youâ€™re put in real time is when you are in safety areas like that of the Police HQ you start in.
Each of your movements, including firing a gun, reloading a weapon, driving a vehicle and basically moving around is based on the amount of action points you have. You will have less action points to spend if you are burdened by heavy equipment like sniper rifles and machine guns, so be sure to unload unnecessary ammo and donâ€™t be a pack mule, itâ€™ll only slow your characters down.
Most weapons in the game have multiple fire modes, each of which uses a different amount of action points and determines the accuracy of the weapon as well as the amount of rounds you expend. Hereâ€™s a snippet from the manual:
Aimed fire â€“ This firing mode is highly recommended. The additional time needed to aim results in a much higher accuracy rate than other firing modes.
Normal fire â€“ Situations may arise where it is not â€˜convenientâ€™ to aim and fire. This is when normal fire is used. Because of the urgency you wonâ€™t have time to aim carefully, but your rate of fire will be higher than if using aimed fire. According to statistics, a police officer will fire approximately twice as many bullets in this mode than with aimed fire.
Burst fireâ€“ Automatic weapons allow officers to fire bursts, giving an additional bonus in combat. Usually this results in low accuracy due to the recoil. Even the most experienced shots will be unable to aim carefully using this mode, but often in sticky situations, accuracy is not whatâ€™s important. Itâ€™s the rate of fire that counts. You will probably need less time to fire a burst than an aimed shot, but normal fire is still the quickest.
Each gun can be loaded up with different types of ammunition provided that they are of the same caliber. These range from ammo with the ability to stun, to explosives.
Because you can only control one character at any given moment, youâ€™ll have to cycle through each of your eight characters in the party. You canâ€™t group them up and have all of them moved to the location you desire. Youâ€™ll have to do it one at a time. Iâ€™d have no quarrel with this if you only had to go through this during a combat sequence, but youâ€™ll have to put up with it for the entirety of the game, whether youâ€™re in combat or not.
Much like the mission zones, the control in the safety areas leave much to be desired. Similar to the turn-based phase, you can't move all your characters at once, and because it isn't really set in real time, you'll have to wait for one character to move at a time before you can select the next. This too, amounts to frustration. Previous turn-based offerings were a lot better in this regard because those games essentially switched to true real time and allowed you to move your characters however you pleased without hindrance.
This very problem existed in Mistlandâ€™s previous offering, Paradise Cracked. However, the developers must have noticed it, so double-clicking on any place of the map while in a 'safe zone' will instantly teleport your character to that point without having to wait for them to walk. It's a good fix, but the game would have worked better from the proper implementation of real time mode in non-combat areas.
Dialogue & Interaction
When your characters interact with the NPCs, there is no choice to be made during the dialogue. Your actions, which usually revolve around killing one character or the other, determine your choices throughout the game. For instance, if you're facing two groups opposed with each other, after talking to both sides and hearing them out, youâ€™ll have the choice to attack one of the groups in order to side with the other. Doing so will cause the group of the person you attacked to be marked as foes, while those whom you didn't attack will be marked as friendly. From the very first mission, you are presented with moral and ethical choices that can determine how your entire career will progress.
If you attack anyone by accident they won't turn against you and become enemies immediately. They will do so if you keep shooting them on accident, though. The game allows a certain amount of leeway to avoid unnecessary results. For the most part, NPCs will only turn against you if you target them specifically.
If I have a slight peeve, itâ€™s how I donâ€™t like how characters interact with each other. No matter how far away a character is from the character initiating the dialogue with the NPC, he or she may intervene with his opinion even though he may be standing at the opposite end of the map, away from where the discussion is actually happening. This is really silly. It wouldnâ€™t be such a problem if the game warped all the characters to the location, but it doesnâ€™t. Youâ€™ll have to bear with your characters speaking to each other in long range. I suppose they do it via radio contact, but thatâ€™s questionable since they behave like they are there in person.
If thereâ€™s one thing thatâ€™s exceptionally good about COPS 2170, itâ€™s the soundtrack by Alexander Shukaev. Itâ€™s by far the best thing about the game, and if they released the soundtrack separately, itâ€™d definitely be worth buying. The soundtrack consists mainly of futuristic-sounding techno-industrial tracks. It is comparable to the music by Front Line Assembly and the soundtrack of Command & Conquer Red Alert 2.
All in all, COPS 2170: The Power of Law is a flawed game with a very interesting premise marred by bad friendly AI and the questionable implementation of the TB system, but it has its full share of good points. It doesnâ€™t touch upon the strategic scale complexities of Jagged Alliance 2, or the tactical beauty of Silent Storm, but itâ€™s still a decent title and deserves a play through.