OPINION | GAME ON: Unpolished and humdrum ‘Police Simulator’ still kinda entertaining

"Police Simulator: Patrol Officers" is a simulator video game in which you play as a city patrol officer, answering routine calls and making arrests. (Photo courtesy of Astragon Entertainment)
"Police Simulator: Patrol Officers" is a simulator video game in which you play as a city patrol officer, answering routine calls and making arrests. (Photo courtesy of Astragon Entertainment)

Have you ever been driving down the road when you see someone toss a fast-food bag out a window or blow through a red light and think to yourself, "Man, I wish I could flip on some sirens and write a ticket right now"?

If so, "Police Simulator: Patrol Officers" might be a game for you.

Set in the fictional town of Brighton (in the fictional state of Franklin), the game lets you experience the daily grind of a police officer in America.

You start off as a rookie foot patrol officer, earning your stripes to unlock more abilities and districts.

This is not the game to live out your Judge Dredd "I am the law!" fantasies. It's a lot more of the humdrum daily activities, especially at the beginning, when you're walking around the city like a meter maid, handing out tickets for expired parking meters, broken windshields, jaywalking, cars parked too far into the street or with a tire on a curb, and handing out fines for littering.

The game-play picks up after a few hours. Some shifts under your police belt will unlock a patrol car and the ability to do more than play traffic warden. Now you can drive to the scene of car wrecks, call ambulances for injured people, interview the involved parties and write tickets, if necessary.

Arriving at the scene of a multi-car crash to determine who was responsible involves talking to each driver, checking his or her ID, conducting a breath-analyzing blood-alcohol test and checking their documents, and calling a tow truck for damaged vehicles. They might have an expired license, no insurance or invalid registration. Looking someone up on the police computer can give further insight, letting you see their violation history and whether they have any active warrants.

For those unfamiliar with the duties and laws officers must follow, the game does provide a helpful tutorial and a police handbook, and every interaction has its own rules. For example, you can frisk a subject, but unless you have some articulable suspicion — such as the suspect in an assault, robbery or vehicle theft, or showing suspicious behavior (being nervous or shaking) — you'll get dinged on conduct.

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The more complete the investigation, the more points earned. Once an encounter is over, an Encounter Report can be accessed on the police computer that provides a summary of the event, such as whether an ID was requested and if any tickets were issued. At the end of your shift, you return to a precinct and end the day at a desk, at which point you get a shift evaluation that gives experience points for lawful activities — and takes them away for any misconduct.

"Police Simulator: Patrol Officers" is probably the best police simulator on the market, but that doesn't mean this is a 10/10 game. Publisher Astragon Entertainment (with other niche titles such as "Bus Simulator," "Construction Simulator" and "Firefighting Simulator") is not an AAA studio. It lacks the polish and extensive size of a game like "Grand Theft Auto V." There are a lot of visual glitches and bugs that can be pretty serious and hamper enjoyment, ranging from getting stuck and having to reset your character's location, to not being able to end a shift at the end of a day and losing hard-earned experience (and consequently wasting your time).

Your officer does come equipped with a stun gun and service weapon, but don't expect shootouts with drug dealers or stopping terrorist plots to be on the menu. The handbook tells you that your gun is a last resort, and you should never shoot a person (although there are times where it has to be drawn, but only aimed), and warns that shooting a person or using a gun without justification can cost your officer his job.

Other serious misconduct, such as injuring someone unjustly, can get your officer suspended from duty.

It's less "Lethal Weapon" and more, well, there probably isn't a good comparison: If a TV show or movie portrayed the daily activities of a patrol officer, it'd probably get canceled for being too boring. As a general rule, simulators aim for a pretty chill, relaxing experience, trying to strike a balance between progression and the repetition of tedious tasks.

In that regard, "Police Simulator: Patrol Officers" is pretty successful. Many days can go by without ever needing to draw a gun or taser, and you can generally determine what you do on a shift.

Something that can really add to the fun in "Police Simulator" is its multiplayer feature, allowing a friend to ride shotgun on your patrols, with the two of you working crime scenes and taking care of reports together.

Straddling the line somewhere between realistic and exciting, "Police Simulator" is a middle-of-the-road game that isn't for everyone, but might be worth picking up in a sale, especially if you've enjoyed similar products.

‘Police Simulator: Patrol Officers’

  • Platform: PC, Xbox, PlayStation
  • Cost: $29.99
  • Rating: Teen for drug references, violence, alcohol use
  • Score: 5 out of 10

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