Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: June 27, 2001
Amidst the fervor of reality TV that’s swept the entire North American continent, a favorite subject has long been that of the thin blue line of police officers that protect society from absolute chaos. With Cops as the pioneer of these mini docudramas, there have been countless imitators, but none have managed to capture the imagination in quite the same way. Perhaps recognizing that people wanted more of the same theme, but not the same execution, Fox’s executives set to brainstorming another way to present police action. Given the continent’s rapt fascination with OJ Simpson’s white Bronco as it tore down the highway, it seems perfectly understandable that a show like World’s Scariest Police Chases would come into being. Using in-car and top-down filming techniques, this show brings us a healthy dose of high-octane chaos from an up close and personal perspective. Now the next evolution of the franchise has taken it onto the PlayStation, where it is published under the same name as the TV show.
There are many ways the developers could have taken this kind of game, but the path they chose was very similar to that taken by Driver. This time out, however, you’re clearly on the right side of the law, and you will be controlling a police sanctioned vehicle, complete with siren and lights for the kid in all of us. Aside from the classic cruiser, there is a wide selection of other vehicles in the police garage. Initially you have a choice of two undercover sedans and a modified SUV in which to give chase to the criminals of your town, but you can unlock more exotic modes of transportation up to and including a police issue tank.
For some quick and dirty practice, players can launch themselves into Free Patrol and simply explore their environment while learning the game’s mechanics. As an officer of the law, you are entrusted to put a quick stop to any high-speed pursuits by chasing down the offenders and removing them from the road. There are several ways to achieve this end, and the brute force method is sure to be a hit with the kids. Criminal vehicles have a certain number of health points, and if you reduce them to zero through carefully timed ramming they will roll to a harmless and highly apprehended stop.
For a real twist, you can even have your partner lean out of the passenger window with his weapon and target the fleeing vehicle. The benefit to this tactic is that it doesn’t damage your car; the downside is that ammo is limited, making it hard to collar every perp in this manner. Thus, it falls to the player to occasionally rely on the tried and true method of breaking the criminal’s will: running them to the ground with a dogged pursuit. While engaged in a chase, the criminals will respond best to blaring sirens and close quarters. You can gauge how close they are to throwing in the towel by glancing at a bar that stretches from left to right over the course of a pursuit. From a long range, the criminals feel little fear and the bar moves very slowly, but as you close the distance, the pursuit meter fills quite rapidly. Once topped out, the enemy car glides to a stop and counts as an apprehension.