Valve just updated its list of the top new releases on Steam for November. There are the usual suspects like Crysis 2 and 3, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and Sonic Frontiers. There’s also my favorite single player game of the year, Pentiment, and a neat little pixely extraction shooter that caught our eye a few months ago called Zero Sievert. But one of the top 20 best-selling Steam games last month was, of all things, a fucking police sim.
Released last month, Police Simulator: Patrol Officers takes place in the fictional U.S. city of Brighton. The game asks you to “take up the badge” as a cop, which actually means harassing citizens with traffic violation citations, arresting them for possession of drugs, “chasing graffiti sprayers,” and other cop things. It’s currently holding a “very positive” review status, with several active and former law enforcement officers chiming in to the comments, and others who didn’t get enough of a kick out of bullying people in childhood weighing in, as well.
One reviewer sums up a typical experience in Police Simulator. It’s written out like a poem (and you should read it as such):
I started my first shift.
I saw a lady jay walking, so I stopped her.
She seemed nervous, so I asked for her ID.
I decided then to search her.
I shot her with my stun gun.
I found a switch blade and human teeth, so I arrested her.
I called for back up, and they threw her in the patty wagon.
Cleaning the streets, one person at a time.
I mean where to even begin with this? Honestly, this makes that Call of Duty level from the last game look tame. And what is with the human teeth? Do the devs assume people carry such things around, and do that regular ol’ street cops spend most of their time thwarting murders with a penchant for taking teeth? “First person I searched I found human teeth. 10/10” reads another review.
Other reviews suggest this is a pretty straightforward, somewhat buggy and feature-lacking civil duty sim. Such a boring job, it seems, isn’t up to everyone’s hopes. Another Steam review reads:
Pro’s[sic]: Be a cop.
Con’s[sic]: Can’t be a bad cop.
First thing I did was pull out my pistol and shoot a lady that was jaywalking and I got booted off the job. I couldn’t even do the remaining 16 bullets in my mag before reloading and yelling at her not to move.
Fun game, but a bit unrealistic.
7/10 – worth it for ramming your policecar [sic] into randoms and fleeing the scene.
“Shoot first talk later” reads another review. “This game was pretty fun at first” laments a negative review, “but unlike LSPDFR mod in Grand Theft Auto V, you HAVE to play by a real Cop’s duties. You have no real freedom to goof around.”
I’ve played a ton of GTA, a game where you regularly do horrible things to people, but this one strikes me as a little odd. I probably shouldn’t throw stones, and there are other examples of questionably tone deaf uses of police imagery in games. But it’s hard not to read comments from people bemoaning that a game meant to simulate daily police work which is mostly, boring civil offenses like traffic violations is not exciting enough because it doesn’t give you enough opportunities to shoot people.