Daryl F. Gates' Police Quest: Open Season
So, Another adventure from those Sierra people, right? Wrong! They're calling this fourth game in the mega-selling Police Quest series a_ reality-based roleplaying game. I would describe it as more of a new species of game, a Detective Simulator. In view of the saying that 99 per cent of police work is boredom and one per cent is terror, this could be a bit risky and have the player giving up in pursuit of a more interesting career, such as chicken-sexing. But what say we 'crawl inside the mind of a serial killer' and take a look around?
Open Season has a different author from the previous Police Quest games, and he is one Daryl F. Gates. Sound like a teenage whizzkid programmer? Er, not quite, as he's a retired Los Angeles Police Chief who spent 43 years in the force, taking command of 8,000 officers in the 486 square miles of la, working on the Charles Manson murders amongst other gruesome tasks.
And gruesome this one promises to be too, the cover containing a warning in letters the size of an ant's left tentacle (tentacle I said): 'This game contains adult subject matter. Parental guidance is suggested.' So kindly seek mummy or daddy's permission before reading any further into this review. Got it? Okay, well the first cadaver is found in an alley at three o'clock in the morning, the tortured and mutilated body of your buddy and partner in crimefighting, Bob Hickmann. It's your job to find out what happened and why.
What happens next is... what? You want those gruesome details first? Well, you'll find out more in the morgue, but his eyelids have been glued shut and the index finger of his right hand is missing. So even if he'd lived, he'd have been unable to use a mouse on the police computer ever again.
The scene of the crime is your first location, which you're unable to leave until you've obtained every last scrap of evidence, taken detailed notes, interviewed everyone present, searched the place thoroughly and done all the things that real policemen do. And a few things they don't. Go to trace an outline round the body with your chalk and you're told: 'That's something they only do on tv and in computer games.' This being a computer game you're allowed to do it, but you can now bore your friends silly by pointing out the mistake every time you see it happen on tv.
...in LA man
The background graphics are pretty impressive, or rather they're ugly impressive, having been digitised from film shot in Los Angeles and other locations.
Click near the bottom edge of the screen and the icon panel appears, which you can put on permanent display if you want. Clicking the left button activates an icon, while clicking the right button cycles through the icons to speed things up, each icon having its own distinctive cursor shape. If you press control and then click, you switch between the current icon and the walk icon.
The panel will be familiar to anyone who's ever played a Sierra game in the past few years: walk, talk, look, puke... no, how did that last one get in there? You could do with it, though, because as well as your buddy's corpse there's another grizzly find in the alleyway, and it's not a pretty sight, unlike Policewoman Chester, who's there to photograph the scene of the crime. Don't try and put the hand icon on her or you'll get accused of sexual harassment. I did it by accident, honest. You can believe me, I'm a cop. ('Cop this,' I said.)
The truth is I was getting desperate, as I'd spent nearly an hour in that bloody alley and wasn't being allowed to move on to the next stage until I'd done everything. And me with a review to write. Gulp.
Couldn't you just see it: 'Well the opening location's very detailed, and the rest of the game's probably quite good too. Er, is that the Sierra 24-hour Helpline. Help!'
But I didn't panic, and unearthed the last tiny speck of evidence, which Chester was waiting to photograph. It did give me plenty of time to get used to the system, which is much improved since the early days when pixelated cartoon cops would jerk about like a punk on a pogo stick while you tried to manoeuvre them close to a door handle. Now the digitised figures move fairly smoothly, with neat perspective as they walk to the back of the screen. We still do not exactly have perfection, though. I clicked the Walk icon on the chest of a potential witness standing in the bottom right corner of the screen, and my man promptly walked to the middle top of the screen. He couldn't have got further away if he'd tried, short of moving to a different game. He does duck quite neatly under the police ribbon cordoning off the body, but there's still a touch of the Ministry of Silly Walks as he lurches into the right place for talking to someone.
Back to basics
When you're allowed, you move back to police hq, and then you discover why the packaging contains a condensed version of the la Police Department Manual. Evidence has to be logged, and you seem to spend half your life going to and from the appropriate departments in lifts. I dare say this is true to life, but it's a bit tedious for the player seeking fun, thrills, blood and gore.
Talking of gore, there's plenty of it at the morgue where you find info about the death. There's a wonderfully horrible sound like a chainsaw while the surgeon hacks open the body. It's less painful than the jokes the guy on the morgue reception desk insists on telling you every time you pass through. Sound effects are rather limited, but there's a music soundtrack which varies from scene to scene and is actually quite bearable.
Move on up
To get from place to place you activate the map icon for instant transportation. Initially you can visit the scene of the crime, your hq, the morgue, the home of the grieving widow and the Police Academy where you can improve your shooting skills - having filled in the right form for your ammo supply first, of course. Nothing happens without the right form being filled in, and I can imagine rookie cops thumbing their way through the manual thinking: 'Jeez, dd I use the 13.5.1 buff form or the 13.5.0 green form?' Using the wrong one could have serious consequences, so do check that manual first.
The firing range is good fun, and you can practise before you go for your official Monthly Combat Qualification (which a memo on your desk told you about). I was doing quite well, but you step further and further back from the targets with each round and Phase Six was a nightmare. Shoot like that on the streets and I'd be one dead detective, I thought, but Bert on the desk still told me 'good shootin' as I left so I couldn't have been too bad.
On line for promotion?
I shot round to make a second visit to the home of Mrs Hickmann, who had run crying from the room the first time I called, when I raised the subject of her husband's possible drug or alcohol abuse. She was a bit more forthcoming this time. No she's not that forthcoming, the woman is in mourning for goodness sake.
A return to the scene of the crime allowed me to prise out another possible clue, which I took back to hq. for analysis. I asked about the ballistics report on the bullets taken from one of the bodies, but it hadn't come through yet. Bob Hickmann's holster was empty when his body was found, but there were no bullet holes in him. The autopsy showed cigarette burns on his face and injection marks on his arms, so he was possibly poisoned but the report on his body fluids hasn't been completed.
As you move from place to place you slowly piece together bits of information, and follow up a few clues that seem promising but appear to lead nowhere. That's why it's more of a simulation or rpg than a traditional adventure, and it'll be better suited to those who like, say, reading a Joseph Wambaugh or Ed McBain cop novel than to those who prefer Miami Vice and fast-action shoot-outs. It's slow-moving, though if I called it a pc Plod it would be just an excuse for a bad joke.
If Sierra are going to continue to churn out Police Quest games - and with 600,000 copies sold to date what do you think? - then Open Season's a good indication of the way they ought to be going. More detail, more realism, fewer hassles with the system. Now 'scuse me sir, ma'am, time I was back on the case.
Download Daryl F. Gates' Police Quest: Open Season
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Cops on the box. Cop books. Cop films. Amusing cop outfits for fancy dress parties. The cops are everywhere (except when you need one). They're even in the latest in a long line (well, four) of establishment adventures from Sierra -Police Quest IV. Not a particularly tricky adventure, you'll agree, but stacked with a couple of'honkers' and 'blarters' which would keep the most rodent-like of note pad addicts up for a few good hours. Allow Sergeant Alan Gregmore from Sunderland to brief you on the weird and wonderful ways of'the bill'.
The murder scene
The first section is fairly simple. Talk to everybody present at the crime scene and use the notebook on both men. Open the trunk with the keys and take the crime kit. Examine the body of the policeman and the cigarette. Use the notebook and then the chalk from the crime kit on both. Use the notebook on the grafitti and the contents of the skip. Then chat to Chester and leave her to do the rest of the work.
Talk with Hal Bottoms and give him the report. Grab the 3.14 form from your desk, fill it in and give it to Hal. Use your computer and type 612 Gunner. Select 'gangs' and glean some info on 'Rude Boys Get Bail'. Leave the station and avoid the reporter by clicking the hand icon on her. Go straight to the morgue and pick up the two envelopes on the desk behind the facetious clerk. Enter the other room, chat with Sam and use the notebook on him. Now go to the Hickman house and swap the personal effects marked bh with the woman for a kevlar vest. Ask her questions, but tactfully leave the 'drug' inquiry until last. When she skips out, take the opportunity to chat to the little girl. Open the closet and check the coat pockets until you find the pills. Click them on the girl and then leave the house.
Head to So Central and go up the alley to find a grafitti-soaked wall. Examine the wall and take notes on the wall and bullets. Use the crime kit's putty knife to extract the bullet slugs and collect them in the bag. Go through the door and show your badge to the man on the corner. Talk to him and note .down everything he says.
Knock on the cafe's door and then stroll down the street. Give some spare change to the drunk, talk to him and use the notebook. Enter the shop. Talk to the assistant, buy an apple from the counter and some glue from the right-hand shelf. Go down the alleyway, past the red fence and show your badge to a little girl. Talk to her and give her the apple. Carry on down the alley and show your shiny badge to Mrs Washington and give her the personal effects. Then head back to the office.
In the basement, give the glue to Chester. Nip up to the fourth floor and give the bullets to the evidence officer. Go down one floor into your office, answer the phone and then head straight for So LA. Go towards the back of the car and use the keys to open the trunk. Take the rifle and shoot the criminals.
After your talk with the lieutenant, talk to Hal and take another form from your desk. Fill it in and go downstairs to talk to Chester. Go to Yo Money's house and use the notebook on the body outline on the lawn. Walk towards the house and search the bushes to find the red shoe. Knock on the front door, show your badge to the bodyguard and give him some lip. Show the shoe to Yo Money's girl and talk about his enemies. Take extensive notes.
Go to the morgue, chat to Sam about Garcia's body, then return to the centre. Complete another form and then activate your computer. Select 'Hate Crimes' and type in 'Walker': the name that Yo Money gave you. Now return to So Central and visit Mrs Washington's house. Talk to LaSondra about the woman she saw. Next, go along to Dennis Walker's house, knock the door and display that natty badge of yours. Talk to him and then save the game before you touch the radio. When his girlfriend tries to stab you, take the gun from your inventory and click on her. Use the talk icon and use it twice on her. She'll freeze and drop the knife. Choose the handcuffs and use them. Once arrested, take the girlfriend to the Parker Centre. Talk to Mrs. Garcia. Click on your desk, take your memo, and read it. Go to Hickman's house and talk to his wife. When you leave the house you'll automatically end up at the Short Cut bar. Take some pretzels from the bowl and talk to Chester and Sam.
Another day on the beat. At the city hall, walk to the front and answer all the questions. When Walker tries to attack you, unsheath your gun and click on him. When he's kneeling down, take your handcuffs and disable him. Return to the centre, take the eponymous 3.14 form from your desk, fill it in and give it to Hal.
Next, a stop-off at the shooting range. Take a green form from the counter, give it to the officer, and pick up the necessary kit (ammo and ear-muffs). Exit right and walk forward into the firing range. Wear the head gear and shoot the targets. When you get bored, give your muffs back.
Go to the morgue, chat to Sam, and then head to the impound lot. Show your badge at the window to get Wednesday's code. Give the yardman the code and ask him about the patrol car. Examine the car and take the newspaper clipping from the backseat. Give it a good read. Now head to Griffith Park, give the dog the pretzels and then walk over to the bannered tree. Examine the disturbed dirt and put the bone in your special plastic bag. Give Sam a grilling about the bodies in the car and slip him the bone.
Go to 'Hollywood and Vine' and question the man in front of Ragin' Records and the Bitty Kitty Club. Enter the club and show your badge to Electra. Show her the red shoe and ask her about Barbie. Light her cigarette with the lighter from the bar, leave the club and pick up the mirror on the ground next to your car. Go into Ragin' Records, question the owner and then go back to the Bitty Kitty. Show your badge to Barbie, give her a good grilling then show her the shoe. Head back to the morgue to find a news team interviewing Sherry.
First stop - the morgue. Ask Sam about the bone, John, and Jane Doe. Go to the centre, into the basement and talk to Chester. Go to your office, do the usual 3.14 form routine, then chat to the lieutenant. Afterwards, visit the impound lot, click the badge on the window, and then give the code of the day to the yardman. Examine the license plate and write it down (E2BSY669).
Back in your office, log onto the computer, select dmv and type in the registration number. Visit the Social Services office, show your badge to Nora, question her, go to Luella Parker's office, examine the desk, pick up the case files and audio tape, and then leave. Question Nora again and then examine the case files and note names. Go back to Ragin' Records and give the tape to the owner. Examine the counter and take the drumstick. Exit and nip into the Kitty Club to question Barbie and Luella.
Next, visit the 3rd Eye Theatre. Show your fine and dandy badge to the ticket man, talk to him and then open the doors to the left of the lobby. Enter and question Mitchell Thurman about Luella. Drink some tea and then go into the cinema to the right of the concession stand. After the dream sequence, leave and go to So Central. Enter the burned-out building and take the piece of rope from the boxes. Go to Griffith Park and click on the rope.
You start Friday in the alley. Take the crowbar out of your crime kit and prise open the double doors on the left. Use the flashlight and search around until you find a wooden door. Use the putty knife on the door and open it. Click the glue on the drumstick and then stick both onto the mirror. Use the apparatus as a periscope to see when the coast is clear. Enter the kitchen and open the fridge. To get past the dog in the hallway, give it the bottle of sedatives from Hickman's code, and then open the closet at the end of the hallway. Examine the rug to find a secret trap door. Climb down the ladder and exit at the rear of the storage room. Notice the woman in the theatre lobby and the three soft drinks in the display case. Take the right-hand can and examine it to find a key. Return to the theatre and open the door on the right. Use the torch and get attacked by the psycho. Distract the dog by throwing the ball out of the window. Take the can of hairspray from the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, return to the fridge and take the cigarette lighter from the corpse's mouth. Save your game. Before entering the room at the end of the hallway, click the lighter on the hairspray to make a torch. Go in and use the torch on the murderer. Fin.