Reviewed: April 2, 2006
Released: March 7, 2006
Itís hard to imagine a cop movie or cop TV show without at least one car chase. Some of the more popular movies (The Island, Matrix Reloaded) seem to even centralize on those chases, so when a game comes along about cops with a title like Pursuit Force you know you are in for one heck of a ride.
From the opening introduction Pursuit Force seldom tests your sense of logic or fulfils any sense of story. You play a cop in a new police division known as Pursuit Force (think Knight Rider minus the cool Trans Am) that specializes in high-speed pursuits on land, air, and sea. In a world where high-speed police chases are being downplayed and even discouraged, this game is undoubtedly the final frontier for real police and civilians to drive fast and shoot at the bad guys.
So with your cool convertible police car, police boat, and police chopper, plus several shootouts on foot, its you versus five stereotypical gangs dividing the 30 exciting missions that make up Pursuit Force.
There are only two things I have to complain about regarding this otherwise fantastic game, so I will get them out of the way first so I can regale you with my tales of ďThe Worlds Most Dangerous PSP ChasesĒ.
The first thing I didnít enjoy was the way the missions are divided and locked. When you first start your career you have access to two gangs and two missions in each gang. To unlock other gangs and subsequent missions within those gangs you must increase your police rang by earning good grades in the available missions. Ultimately, what this means is that you have your fingers in several pies all at once, so you are bouncing back and forth between the Capelli Family and Warlords then they throw the Vixens and Convicts at you. Itís not like there is an engrossing story going on, but it would have been more logical to let you finish one gang before moving on to the next.
The second complaint is more of a technical issue with the PSP. I currently own all but five games for the PSP and this is the ONLY one that will not allow me to put the PSP into sleep mode, at least reliably. Typically, I will pause a game or make sure I am in a menu before putting my PSP to ďsleepĒ, but Pursuit Force does not allow this. Instead, what happens is that you try to put the PSP to sleep and nothing happens until you actually get into the gameplay and then it shuts offÖsometimes.
But letís rejoin our officer, already in hot pursuit. The game is divided up into the traditional game modes including Career, Race, and Time Trial. There is also an Orientation that shows you the basics of gameplay as well as High Scores list and a bonus Gallery that has dozens of killer CG images you can zoom and pan around after you unlock them during the normal game.
As previously mentioned, there are five gangs, each with six longer and progressively more challenging missions. Each of the gangs has a distinct theme like the Capelli Family and their obvious Mafioso roots, or the high-tech sexy Vixens (think the three girls in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back).
But regardless of who you end up chasing down the gameplay unfolds with a very basic formula. At first this was exciting and then it started to get repetitive, but just about then the designers started mixing things up and it got exciting again.
The first mission is pretty much a straightforward car chase. You chase down target cars, shooting at the cars or the people in them. When you are close to an enemy (or even a civilian) car an icon appears and you can press the circle button to make a daring leap to the target vehicles.
Once on this vehicle you can shoot the occupants, commandeer the car, and move on to the next. Of course itís not all that easy. Sometimes you land on the trunk, sometimes the hood, and there might be one or two occupants, and you donít really want to shoot the driver if dangerous curves are ahead. They will attack you and you can dodge, but you can also fall off the side of the car, which requires you to rapidly tap the D-pad in the corresponding direction to get back on.
There is a very functional auto-target system that not only locks on to your target but also shows their remaining health with a segmented circular meter. As you kill enemies and take over new vehicles your Justice Bar will slowly fill. Once filled it will flash in blue and red and you can either tap the triangle to dump that bar back into your health or the next time you leap to another car it will happen in super-slow-motion giving you enough time to kill two occupants before you even land on the vehicle.
The driving controls are surprisingly good making excellent use of the A-pad for smooth analog steering. This is good because your car can and will take damage and if it takes too much the game is over. You will also want to avoid ramming civilian traffic or injuring innocent bystanders or your ending grade will suffer.
As I hinted at earlier, the game appears to be a one-trick pony. The first mission is a car chase then you do a boat chase. Then you do a car chase that takes you to a dock where you fight your way on foot to a boat for a boat chase. So yes, the game is all about chases, but the designers are pretty creative when it comes to mixing up the formula.
And just when you think you might have seen it all they throw in some cool tweaks to the formula. One boat chase has you pursuing a sniper who is targeting you as indicated by a green sniper scope that is constantly trying to lock onto you. Itís your job to chase and catch the boat and shoot the sniper all the while weaving around so he never lines up that scope and shoots you first.
There are motorcycles, jeeps, trucks, sports cars, limos, and even some levels where you are manning a chaingun mounted to the side of a helicopter. Of course there are also levels where helicopters are trying to bomb you as well. As you get further into the missions they start chaining multiple sequences together for some really long chases. Thankfully, the longer missions checkpoint so if you die or fail a timed mission segment you wonít have to replay the entire thing.
If there is anything lacking in the gameplay it would probably be in the on-foot portions, more because they are out of place in what is otherwise a vehicular game. The target lock keeps these shootouts manageable, even when you are grossly outnumbered, and there is even a cool ďarrestĒ action you can perform if you get close enough and hit the attack button. Unfortunately, this triggers a lengthy knockdown and handcuff animation where you will still be taking damage from any nearby gunmen.
Pursuit Force just oozes with quality visuals. Even the red and blue flashing BigBig logo kicks ass. The opening movie only hints at the fantastic gameplay just waiting for you, and the menus and setup screens are polished and futuristic, with easy to read text and fast load screens.
Each time you start a mission with a new gang youíll get an introductory movie that you will want to watch over and over and show off to your friends. This is Hollywood quality direction and visual style using all the latest camera and editing tricks.
Once in the actual game the action is fast and furious with fluid framerates and a dizzying sensation of speed. Bullets are flying and cars and boats are exploding all over the place. The only time the action slows down is when your Justice Bar permits a slow-motion leap between cars. This is quite simply one of the finest looking games on the PSP.
The in-game interface is clean and kept out of the way for the most part. The captioned dialogue appears in comic book style bubbles and fonts and while it looks cool it can overlay in the wrong place at the wrong time and cause you to miss a shot or see a carjack icon.
Great music, overwhelming sound effects, and professional voice acting with plenty of flavor, attitude, accents, and more all combine to make Pursuit Force one of the best sounding games on the PSP. Just listening to the gruff Sarge yelling at you over the radio when you die is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
The music is energetic and the gunfire is crisp and realistic with thunderous explosions and the crunching metal of rolling cars. This game sounds so good in fact that when Iím playing at home I jack the sound into my home theater system for 1000 watts of thunderous action.
The 30 career missions will take you a solid week of casual gaming or you can burn through them in about 8-10 hours. Of course with the grading scale you will certainly want to replay many of them and perfect those scores to unlock all of the fantastic bonus material.
There are dozens of gorgeous CG images including character art, videos, and wallpaper images that you can even use as your PSP background image. There are also two courses you can unlock for the Race and Time Trial modes.
I supposed I could also complain about a lack of any multiplayer. With the obvious cops and robbers theme, the game begs to be played wirelessly, but I guess thatís what sequels are for.
Pursuit Force is just the game the PSP has needed; a fast-paced car/boat/helicopter chase with plenty of gameplay and intense vehicle-to-vehicle jumping. There are plenty of missions to keep you challenged, a scoring system to keep you coming back, and loads of bonus material to quest for.
Whether you love racing games, shooting games or the movies that inspire them, Pursuit Force is the closest thing to a big budget Hollywood production that you can get on your PSP. I canít recommend it enough.