Personally I think Rebel Cops picked a bad window to release. Borderlands 3, Gears 5, Astral Chain, Link’s Awakening Remake and Death Stranding are all releasing within shouting distance of this indie release. Having said that, being a spinoff from the critically acclaimed “This Is The Police” does give it some mileage. But will someone pick the slow nuanced pace of a turn-based game over the breakneck movement of a shooter? Let’s find out.
Story & Narrative
I am a big 90s action movie fan. I love the idea of the anti-hero going up against the system, taking his chances against all odds, and not afraid to cross the line in the name of justice. I don’t want to see my hero delve into his own mind thinking about what he has done. I want my hero to kick ass, and spew one-liners like it was his full-time job. So when Rebel Cops revealed its premises of a bunch of disgruntled cops taking the law in their own hands to rid their town of a mafia boss, I was on board. All the tropes are here too. We are in a small decrepit town which has been slowly but steadily taken over by a Russian Mafia Don. Our team consists of cops who wouldn’t sell out, and have instead banded together to deliver some righteous justice of themselves. And finally, we start off as a rag-tag group of vigilantes with no money and equipment, with each mission swaying public support from one end to another. Unlike its inspiration, “Rebel Cops” does not try to tell a complicated tale of corruption, ethics, and morals. This is a popcorn worthy pulp action movie if there ever was one.
Graphics & Sound
The story is well complemented by the atmosphere that the devs are able to create in Rebel Cops. The art style helps a lot and the setting of a mostly abandoned town helps them create large explorable maps without having to fill them up with people. The music too creates the sense of a western cowboy flick with a dash of guitar riffs. It’s not over the top, and that’s exactly what sells it. The lack of it makes what you see and hear stand out. By the looks and feel of it, the game is indeed “This Is The Police 2”.
Gameplay & Mechanics
But what was endgame content in “This Is The Police” is the main gameplay loop in “Rebel Cops”. Anyone who has played Xcom before will recognize the mechanics immediately. Every mission is played out on a map divided into a grid. Every mission you need to deploy a group of cops, which get 2 turns each every round, in which to complete the mission. The cops gain experience and skill as they arrest, kill or complete objective in a mission, but you also run the risk of losing a cop forever if he dies in combat during one. Some missions are time-bound, others are not. Some objectives in the mission are optional, while others are mandatory, and your efficiency in achieving them will determine your rewards which would, in turn, affect your resources in the next mission.
Pretty standard stuff right, except for “Rebel Cops” allows for non-lethal options too. As an ex-cop, you can ask your opponents to surrender, stun them or arrest them without even firing a bullet. Indeed that’s probably the way to go in most mission because as soon anyone opens fire, things go downhill pretty soon, and ending up with casualties is almost always a given. The non-lethal option makes the game more strategic in my opinion because not only does it suit the narrative of straight cops, it also encourages stealth and more tactical maneuvering over just brute-forcing the enemy forces. Of course, playing quietly and within the rules also has an added perk of getting positive PR from the townsfolk, which would result in even more donations for your camp.
However, all bets are off when the alarms go off, and they will go off. Even on the easiest mode Rebel Cops can be a little unforgiving. Your accuracy at the beginning of the game is laughable while your opponents rarely miss if you are spotted out of cover. Plus, there is no way to know how much further your opponents can spot you from, this is accentuated by the perpetual fog of war, which means criminals can keep moving in an out of your vision which feels unfair at times since this is a tactical game. Having said that the game is no way stacked against you. Instead, Rebel Cops provides you a variety of perks to keep yourself on top of the game and save points, which you can use before executing a dangerous move.
Rebel Cops at its core is all about positioning. You can scope out buildings with windows without ever having to enter it, a cop with a rifle at long range can be much more dangerous than 3 with pistols at closer range, and moving from cover to cover is crucial to winning. It will take a couple of tries to find out the optimal route in a mission, and then a couple more to actually execute it flawlessly.
Rebel Cops is a decent game. If it had come out in the middle of the year, it would have had a lot of attention. On the flip side, it’s not examined as closely as it would have been if that would have been the case. For fans of the Xcom genre though, this game will definitely scratch the itch. Others may find the game a tad slow, but if you give it time Rebel Cops can feel really rewarding when long winding strategies pay off.