There should be a lot to like about LA Cops, the top-down shooter developed by Modern Dream. It aspires to be a Hotline Miami-type game with a promising theme of 70s cops in LA. With a partner system that has the player controlling two cops for tactical situations, I dreamt of my porn-stached officers of the law busting into office buildings, kicking ass and taking names — my very own 70s version of Lethal Weapon. But there's no Riggs and Murtaugh to be found in LA Cops. It's more Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot… and that's not good.
In LA Cops, you're going through missions with a roster of police officers, who as the game progresses are able to get more health or gun clip size through experience. You choose two cops to partner up for every mission, as you'll be working in tandem to take down the baddies. Working in tandem can work a couple of different ways. You can control one cop while positioning the other to set up traps, as your partner will provide cover fire within a cone of sight; you can keep calling your partner to your position; you can keep switching back and forth between the two of them; or you can just use one cop and treat the other as an extra life if you get gunned down. Unfortunately, the last method is the only one that makes sense. The AI for your partner is so pathetic and untrustworthy that relying on your partner to do anything is going to result in failing the mission and restarting.
There are multiple problematic areas when it comes to the AI in general. Your partner slowly reacts to enemies, at most firing off one shot before getting killed. It's difficult to place your AI partner unless you switch to that cop and place them yourself. And you never know if the AI is going to even cover the area you designated them to.
Other problems that factor into this are accuracy and how enemies react. Oftentimes, you'll have your crosshairs directly over an enemy, fire off multiple rounds, and not once hit the target. And then you're dead. There's a lock-on-target button, which definitely improves your killing ability, but it's so finicky that it often results in your death too. You have to move at a much slower pace when using it, but sometimes you're forced to aim on your own by the sheer amount of enemies bum rushing you. That leads us to how enemies react. Sometimes your gunshot will notify just one nearby enemy; other times, your shots will have four rooms of badguys sprinting towards your location. And the whole time your partner just stands there.
Then there's the story, which is also lacking. The cutscenes set up storylines you'd expect to see on a 1970s police TV show. Again, the potential for something awesome is there, but the writing and voice acting is really lacking, and the story never goes anywhere. It all results in a missed opportunity.
It's hard to not feel cheated by the game. Aiming and AI are both unreliable at best, and enemies react in a way that make a heard of five-year-olds on a sugar rush seem tame. The result is a failed attempt at a top-down run-and-gun shooter, and a failed attempt at any sort of strategic entry. And it's a shame, because the flat colors and visuals are really nice, lending itself perfectly to the 70s vibe. If there was a co-op mode, LA Cops would play so much better, as you wouldn't have to rely on the AI to do what it was intended to do. Dare I say, LA Cops would be fun with two players.
Reviewed on PC with a provided code
LA Cops is a promising theme with enjoyable aesthetics, but it's all hindered by a buddy cop system that doesn't work. The gameplay is annoying to the point where you often feel cheated.