Cops & Robbers – Weekly Recommendations 13/06 – 19/06

Every week I give three gaming recommendations (very) loosely tied to something topical. These recommendations span platform, generation and genre and are all games that I have played, enjoyed and highly recommend. As always, comments are very welcome so please do chime in with any recommendations of your own. Check back each Monday for a new set, and click here for past entries.

Last week, Spanish police apprehended three members of the hacker group, Anonymous.  Implicated in the PlayStation Network security breach which led to the theft of personal information of millions of users, these three masked vigilantes could be facing upwards of 3 years in the slammer if convicted.

There have since been conflicting reports that the accussed may not have been fully involved in the PSN hack, and continued attacks on other gaming companies and websites - Nintendo is the most recent to be breached - point to the true scale of a problem that is never going to go away.

With video game police work in the news, I thought now would be a good time to look at three of my favourite examples of the long arm of the law in gaming.

1. Max Payne – PS2, Xbox, Windows (2001)

Max Payne was one of the most stylish games of its generation. It jumped on the Matrix slow-mo bandwagon and made “bullet-time” more than just a cool sounding feature; being an integral part of the game but not at the expense of narrative and character development.

A third person shooter, Remedy’s classic follows our titular DEA agent on a nightmarish journey to avenge his murdered family and clear his name. It riffs on film noir and the action borrows heavily from Hong Kong action movies, with the story being told through the use of graphic novel strips as opposed to standard cut-scenes. Max’s internal narration keeps things moving and becomes increasingly drug addled as parts of the game descend into surreal nightmares which offer some bizarre deviations from the featured gun-play.

Max leaves a trail of bullet-ridden corpses throughout a harsh, wintery New York City which serves as a dramatic backdrop for the slow-mo bullet-time. Bullets can be seen cutting through the air - some finding their fleshy targets others imbedded in the masonry or sent hurtling off into the distance. On occasion the camera will leave Max and follow the bullet into its intended target, bringing you even closer to the action.

While the slow motion combat may seem a little dated, the gritty story and interesting characters still resonate. The series lives on in the much delayed Max Payne 3, which can hopefully retain the character of the first two games, whilst making the combat fresh.

2. Virtua Cop 2 – Saturn (1997)

Virtua Cop 2 is a stand-out of SEGA’s rich arcade history as well as being one of the best home console, arcade conversions of the fifth generation. An explosive journey through a city full of criminals and super villains, it stands as a near perfect example of how to make a light-gun shooter.

Colourful triggermen emerge from all conceivable angles – leaning out of windows, hanging out of cars and even flying through the air – and as a member of the over-worked Virtua City Police Force you are encouraged to shoot first and ask questions later. It never makes the mistake of loitering in one area for too long, constantly moving from one huge set piece to the next and keeping you on your toes. Branching paths add to the experience, allowing for some freedom of choice within the most linear of genres.

Accuracy is a must as breakable items line the horizon and the larger than life bosses require a keen shot. It only takes one bullet to bring down most of the unfortunate minions, but they will react differently depending on where you hit them. A head shot is the preferred method of dispatch and a disarming slug to the hand will earn you justice points, but a crotch shot is the most rewarding method of incapacitation for any discerning marksman.

With SDTVs a thing of the past, it’s increasingly difficult to play Virtua Cop 2 at home. But if you are going to keep your old bulky television for one light gun game, make sure it’s Virtua Cop 2.

3. Heavy Rain – PS3 (2010)

From the opening install-screen origami lesson, Heavy Rain is an engrossing experience full of twists and turns. Even where it falters as a game (the controls are awful) it succeeds as a filmic, interactive experience which makes you care about the fate of the characters and feel responsible for the events that befall them.

Heavy Rain revolves around a spate of child killings by the Origami Killer and follows four people whose lives are directly impacted by the murders. Ethan is the father who fears his child is to be the next victim, Madison an investigative journalist, Norman is our FBI agent and Scott is a private detective. You come to control all of them at different junctures of the narrative, and they may all perish short of the ending, depending on your actions. Death may be caused by a player choice which irrecoverably sends the story in a certain, fatal direction or, more disappointingly, because you were too slow off the mark with a QTE.

Heavy Rain is filled with player-led decisions. These choices are not black and white and are rarely morality based, and an auto-save function means they are often irreversible. It wasn't until I spoke with friends who had also completed it that I came to appreciate the weight of seemingly insignificant decisions, and how they could lead to endings unrecognizable to my own. That each of our experiences could be so different is, in my mind, Heavy Rain's defining achievement.

Casting is crucial in such a character driven game, and thankfully Quantic Dream got it spot on. The film noir visuals and atmospheric score make it feel more film than game, though the clumsy controls do bring it back down to earth and remind you that, despite its cinematic aspirations, it is a game.

Heavy Rain is bleak and imperfect, but more importantly it’s involving and unafraid to take risks. Whatever your opinion of Quantic Dreams' thriller, it is guaranteed to get you talking in ways that scant few other games ever will.


  1. It should be illegal to play Heavy Rain without the Move controller!

  2. I will have to take your word for it, as i just cant see myself ever buying a move controller. Using the standard pad was definitely fiddly though.


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