Not too long ago we reviewed This is the Police 2 on both the PlayStation 4 and Steam, a game which we thought was a great sequel with one of the most challenging tactical gameplay modes we’ve ever played. Weappy Studio followed what Ubisoft did with Assassin’s Creed III, they took the newly introduced gameplay mechanic and turned it into its own game – Ubisoft expanded on the naval battles and created Black Flag (and soon, Skull and Bones), Weappy Studio created a new spin-off focused on the XCOM-style tactical battles and called it Rebel Cops.
So, with prior knowledge and experience within the genre, and plenty of feedback received from fans of This is the Police 2, does Rebel Cops stand up to other similar games or does it come with a lot of the issues that plagued it’s predecessor on launch as well? I’d say a little from column A and a little from column B, let’s find out why…
As someone who has played through the previous ‘This is the Police’ titles, the story within Rebel Cops didn’t feel as involved or immersive as I’d hoped for. Previously we had cutscenes, narration, some dialogue options and an overall narrative that drew you in and had you hooked as you became fully immersed as the story went on. Rebel Cops is merely a single image and a block of text which describes the story and what your current objective/mission is. Considering the developers have concentrated on the gameplay more than anything else, I’m not disappointed with the presentation of the story, I just would have liked a little more immersion and depth.
So, what is the story? From my understanding, there’s a criminal mastermind who goes by the name of Viktor Zuev, a Russian who crossed someone from the KGB and was forced to leave the motherland. He ended up in Ripton, a small town which he apparently now runs as he has all manner of politicians, officials, cops, criminals, and judges under his control. However, nobody has actually seen the infamous ruler personally, all of his dealings and trading takes place through proxies and assistants, making his true whereabouts a secret.
With nobody knowing who they can trust or rely on within the town of Ripton, a bunch of rebel cops, who refused to bend over before the criminal overlord, have banded together as they take matters into their own hands. Despite no longer regarded as cops and having to resort to operating outside of the law, our band of merry men (and women) are the only ones actually putting up a fight to protect the town with law and order in their best interest.
If you’ve played This is the Police 2, Rebel Cops is basically the tactical segments of that game. If you’ve not played that game but you’ve played a tactical game such as Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics, XCOM, Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark or Phantom Doctrine, it’s very similar to those. If you’ve never played any TRPG before, you command a group of units as you move around via a turn-based system, trying to stealthily take down the enemies as you complete your goals or at least stay alive if it turns into a firefight!
As you’re a band of rebels, money and resources aren’t exactly available in abundance – you must re-distribute your available gear at the beginning of each round (which gets a bit annoying as there’s no way to save a load-out), ensuring each officer not only has a weapon but the ammunition to go along with it as well. Money is obtained through accepting and successfully completing various side-quests within each mission as well as picking up random items as you explore the map, this can then be spent post-mission on a handful of weapons, ammo, armour and accessories.
As you progress through the various missions, you’ll get the chance to also take part in a variety of side missions (not to be confused with the side-quests). These are separate one-off events which are nothing to do with the main narrative. These also come with their own side-quests in some cases and can easily take over an hour in order to complete. Completing these isn’t required to progress (unlike the main missions), but I found these were easier than the main story-line and were a great way to boost your colleague’s levels and a chance to get more money.
Every now and again you’ll also have the chance to help out the community by either taking on a job and not getting paid or giving them some of the things/resources you find. Not only will you gain XP from these events but you’ll also get some reputation with the townsfolk, allowing for cheaper items and more things to choose from. However, failing to complete these tasks or ignoring the requests will lead to a loss of reputation, resulting in higher-priced items, less to buy, and even your own teammates turning against you.
One of the main complaints people had with This is the Police 2 was its difficulty, an issue I didn’t really feel was that much of an issue for me as I seemed to progress just fine. However, Rebel Cops is an absolute bastard in terms of its difficulty – this really isn’t a game for newcomers to the genre or those looking for a nice simple game to play in their spare time. Oh no, this is a game for those who love to get frustrated if they press the wrong button or accidentally walked in front of someone. Let me explain…
Rebel Cops has three difficulties, Relaxed, Normal and Hard mode. Relaxed mode lets you save as many times as you want within the mission, Normal limits you to only four saves, and God knows what Hard mode gives you – I daren’t look! Not only that, the accuracy and AI of the criminals increase as you go up the difficulty ladder, and does the price of weapons and accessories in the mid-level shops. One thing stays the same across all three difficulties though, the realistic and frustrating bullet impact damage.
As you take aim, before you shoot, you can opt to shoot people in the head, chest, arms or legs. This is also true with the AI, picking whichever body part will give them the highest chance of success. A shot to the legs will cause the victim to drop as they’re unable to move, their hands will disable them from shooting, a head-shot is a kill and the chest will disable both their arms and legs. However, a hit in the arms, legs or chest also results in the victim beginning to bleed to death. So, unless you have a MediKit (or have someone near you with one), even if you’ve only been crippled, it’s only a matter of turns until you’re dead due to blood loss.
I’m not ashamed to say that I have been playing the game on ‘Relaxed’ (if you can call it that) as it allowed me to save at the beginning of each turn, just in case I cocked it up and screwed myself over – the other modes don’t really give you that security with their limitations. Also, the game only has a single save file, so if you start on Normal and change your mind and want to try it on relaxed or (God forbid) Hard, it’ll delete your progression on Normal with no way to restore it unless you took a backup. Similarly, all of your mid-mission saves are loadable whilst in the mission but they are all deleted once you complete it, so you can’t go back if you missed anything. However, the game does have a calendar load system (like in This is the Police 2), so you can technically load earlier points in time, but only on the current difficulty and it won’t restore mid-mission saves which were deleted upon completion.
What I found quite interesting was the approach to the side-quests within the missions themselves. As you can see from the image above, there are a variety of secondary objectives which you can choose to either accept or ignore. If you accept one, you’re expected to complete it – otherwise, you’ll lose reputation with the townsfolk. Clicking on each one will give you more insight into what the actual objective is and also a number of open slots (usually two or three). You can then drag your chosen troops into the slots so they deploy closer to the objective.
There is a limitation (of course there is). You can only take six troops into battle with you, regardless of how many side-quests you take on. So, in the example above, if you’ve accepted three of them, you have six troops you can split between all three of the secondary objectives AND the main mission deployment site. The good thing is, you don’t have to actually deploy anyone in certain mission zones in order to complete them – someone who was deployed in the Main Mission area can still free the daughter if they make their way to the venue, but they won’t be as close as they could have been initially.
As you can also see, the troops all have different numbers next to their names – this is their level and they increase this during combat and by making it back alive. Each action – such as shooting someone or arresting them – grants XP and each level increase unlocks new skills and abilities. Just like in This is the Police 2, Rebel Cops offers you a variety of multiple-choice upgrades such as increasing the accuracy, speed, or strength, as well as new perks such as shooting back if the enemy misses you, dodging more often, and the ability to arrest people from a distance.
So, sometimes it’s great to take in a bunch of experienced troops, but due to the nature of your men and women dying really easily, I started taking in cannon fodder instead – so my best cops wouldn’t die!
I think the combat in Rebel Cops is fun, although very, very harsh and unforgiving (even on Relaxed mode), and the visual style is very nice on the eye (as it was previously), but there are some aspects which irritated me. First of all, the game is quite dark when you’ve not opened a door – which makes sense. However, this means that you can’t sometimes see the door which you can open in order to gain access to the building – unless you randomly stand right next to it and see the hand icon. This is further made annoying by the fact the game is at a locked perspective, you can’t rotate the camera in order to see all four sides of a building.
On a similar note, the zoom is quite useless. The initial zoom is fine for general use, and you can push R3 to zoom out and get more of an overview of your surroundings, but you can’t zoom in. I would have loved the ability to zoom in at least about 50% of the distance the standard viewpoint is set too – this would have let me see the doors and smaller details much easier.
I found that the game ‘has’ to be played in stealth as best as you can. If we take a look at Phantom Doctrine, the best TRPG I’ve played in regards to its stealth mechanics, you can disguise yourself arm yourself with a bunch of silent weapons, and infiltrate the bases easily in order to complete your mission. In Rebel Cops, this is almost impossible. You all start with noisy as hell revolvers which alert all the nearby guards, once someone hears or sees something, they radio all the other guards in the area to come after you, there are no disguises, enemies are usually huddled in groups so you can’t get past them quietly or take them out efficiently, and thanks to the almost one-hit-kill mechanics, alerting any guards usually results in the death of your whole squad.
On a similar point, Rebel Cops is the Sniper Elite V2 of TRPGs. Basically, you can command a sniper to either shoot someone for you or scout a room and display the enemies which are inside (providing it has windows). However, if you get him to shoot an enemy, the bullet is very noise (although I thought snipers were almost silent at the impact point) so all the guards in the area become alert and radio all their buddies, and they all instantly know where your entire team are. That’s right, even if you’re all hidden and were never seen, they instantly know where you are thanks to a sniper take-down… How?!
It may seem like I’m being negative about the game but I think that’s just me being frustrated with the difficulty. I’ve had to replay the same mission at least six times now and I’m not getting any further. The earlier levels and when the game isn’t as unforgiving, are really good. I like the gameplay variety with either lock-picking or breaking open doors, having to locate and read notes to get codes to various safes and locks, sneaking up to people and bonking them on the head before arresting them, and the logical thinking required in order to efficiently take down the criminals without getting caught. It’s just let down by the inability to undo, the limited saves, the countless one-shot kills and the aggressive multitude of enemies should you step on a twig.
Now, those who flew through This is the Police 2, I expect they will also get through Rebel Cops with little issues. I’ve not played a Tactical RPG for a few months so I’m a bit rusty, so those who play them a lot will clearly be much more efficient and ‘tactical’ than I could ever be. However, with that in mind, I’d find it hard to recommend this game to anyone new to the genre or those who want to dabble in a new Tactical RPG – there are plenty of others out there that are much more forgiving, such as Phantom Doctrine. If you wanted a game with some of this gameplay but also a deep story and an enjoyable resource management aspect, This is the Police 2 is for you.
So, I suppose the question is, do I feel the developers should make it easier? I believe they will most likely do what they did with This is the Police 2; they will launch the game as it is, take on the feedback they get from the gamers, and then adjust and balance the game based on that. I personally had fun with the game but I hit a wall and I’m finding it hard to progress any further. My only option is to either reload an earlier save or restart and try again with different tactics and weapons. However, one thing I would like to request – let us skip the tutorial. I don’t need to play it each time I flick between a difficulty or start again.
Visually, Rebel Cops is just like This is the Police 2, it has a simple and bold aesthetic that looks really cool both within the mini cutscene images and the actual game itself. I would prefer it if we could zoom in more whilst playing the game, so we can see the doors and environmental cover a bit better, but that’s just a personal request.
I’m not sure if they have, but I imagine some of the one-liners the cops come out with during the game may have come from This is the Police 2, as they sound very familiar. However, one thing they do this time, which I don’t recall last time, is they play out of the controller speaker. I know it’s not a big thing and it doesn’t change the gameplay in any way, but it’s always fun when a developer decides to use either the controller speaker or lightbar in order to present you with something the other platforms can’t provide.
Rebel Cops is a very brutal and challenging TRPG that may feel intimidating to those new to the genre. Creating a stand-alone game based upon the Tactical aspect of This is the Police 2 was a great idea, the backbone and structure were there to build upon in order to create a new game in very little time. However, for me personally, the difficulty spiked too early into the game, resulting in more frustration than fun at times. Avid players of the developers previous two games will most likely get the most out of this title, as will those who love the Tactical RPG genre, but those who rarely play this type of game may not enjoy it’s unforgiving and realistic combat.
Despite my lack of skill to overcome the wall I’ve hit whilst playing Rebel Cops, I still found myself retrying the various missions numerous times in order to try and overcome them. The game is fun and it requires a lot of strategic thinking and time (about an hour per-mission) in order to be successful. However, if you get frustrated easily or you don’t like the fact that, even on easy, the game can kill off your characters with a single headshot, maybe this game isn’t for you…
- - Great idea to take this from This is the Police 2 and make it it's own game
- - Visuals are very bold and striking, just like previous games
- - The DS4 has voices coming out of the speaker
- - Cheap price for a decent length game (if you don't hit a wall like me)
- - Steep difficulty curve, even on easy
- - No close zoom and dark areas makes it hard to spot doors and passages
- - Realistic one-hit-kills may put people off who get frustrated easy