Review: Better known as that leaping from car to car simulation
Almost everyone who owns a PSP knows that while the system has plenty of great
games that make the system worth owning, few of them are original
franchises and usually offshoots of the stuff you can find on consoles. And that's fine, but it's nice to have some wholly new stuff. There's a reason why Untold Legends was such a sleeper hit last year when PSP launched. Pursuit Force is another brand new game, lacking the franchise baggage that's creeped up quite often in PSP land. Designed as both a throwback to old-school arcade games like Chase HQ and as a quick, pick up and play fix for the portable format, PF certainly will remind many of the old days when games were designed to steal every quarter in your pocket, only to cover up the 30 minute depth.
The main story mode is where the action begins, as you're a rookie cop in crime-ridden Capital City, and assigned to a special unit known as the Pursuit Force to bring down these most infamous of criminals by any means necessary. And apparently you're the only guy in the force because everything seems to fall to your talents. Spanning 30 missions, you get to take down the mob, a gang of crooked stuntwomen, and a crazed military general unit, for starters. It's all done in a tongue in cheek fashion, never really taking itself too seriously which is great because we already have 1 zillion uber-serious games nowadays. There's no multiplayer, but there's a time trial racing event if there's a preference for racing rather than trying to take down wacky criminal gangs.
Most of the missions take place in cars, with the primary objective of catching up to a target and eliminating them, or wiping out enemies all across the course. What's cool is how you can overtake enemy vehicles ? simply by flying out of your car and landing on theirs, shooing the driver and taking control. It's extremely cool...well until you've done it 2.6 million times, but I digress. The driving missions also require care when dealing with civilians ? you're punished if you crash into them or even kill them, and it hurts your rating and the Justice meter which is like building up a limit break in an RPG or something. By taking out enemies and accomplishing tasks the Justice meter fills and once it does, you can either be superhuman for a while or just heal up your car and yourself in case you're at risk of either being damaged enough to fail the mission.
The vehicle based missions are definitely the best, as they control the most fluidly and are pretty exciting affairs. But there's times when a boat needs to be used. Which isn't fun, since the boat controls like driving a car with 3 wheels ? that is, pretty bad. The boat missions typically work the same way though because it's harder to fly from boat to boat, you just kill the driver and hope for the best. Finally Pursuit Force does have on-foot missions, making the game more of a Max Payne style action game with intuitive gunplay and solid controls. These aren't quite as prevalent as the boat missions and definitely not as frequent as the car-based levels.
While the first few 'rookie' missions are pretty simple, straightforward affairs, once you graduate to the next rank, the game turns on the challenge. Sometimes. A few missions are incredibly frustrating for all kinds of reasons ? unclear or confusing objectives (it happens frequently), a too-short time limit, brutal enemy tactics, annoying civilians, or all of the above combined in one hellish nightmare. But yet, after a really tough mission, there's one that's way too easy. Balance, kids, balance. Thankfully the missions only last a few minutes, so if you fail it isn't death to come back and replay them once you figure out a decent strategy. It's definitely old-school in that way ? really difficult at first, even frustrating, but once you figure out the trick it's a breeze unless something quirky happens.
30 missions might not seem like a lot, but by the time you're finished it's possible you might think it's too many. Because of the nature of the game, it gets amazingly repetitive immediately ? these arcade-style games work great in arcades but as Pursuit Force proves again, in a console environment they just don't have the depth to survive long-term. I alluded to it earlier but as cool as flying from your car to an enemy's, doing it over and over takes away that cool factor and becomes clich?. Tack on repeating the difficult levels over and over and over again and chances are only the really dedicated will manage to get to the end of the game without becoming catatonic. On the other hand it's guaranteed that you'll be a master of the old car-to-car leap if there's ever a sequel.
Pursuit Force was designed with PSP in mind, and it shows in the graphics, which don't look like PS2 graphics shrunk down, but rather an engine that demonstrates the power of the platform. The comic-book style presentation is the beginning of a game that passes itself off as cheesy cartoon stuff ? the enemy gangs are all stereotypical in design, and your own character looks like one of those all-business cops from a cheesy 1980's action movie. Even in the more intense stages with plenty of (well designed) cars floating around, the frame-rate never wavers and the details in every stage are impressive. Definitely one of PSP's better looking titles. Though you'll quickly forget the generic music that fades into the background, the voice acting on the other hand is cheese gold. Starting from your over-excited commander, it turns into some downright hilarious caricatures of mobsters and such. I love games that know they're games and don't take things so damn serious. We need more of them.