Games that are bad: Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice

There are some games that are just bad. There are some games that are offensive. There are some games that should have been good, but disappoint because something went terribly, terribly wrong during the proceedings. Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice is all of those three things. You shouldn’t buy Extreme Justice and you shouldn’t play Extreme Justice, because it’s a waste of your time and it’s a waste of your money. What I find most frustrating is that there’s something about Pursuit Force that is sensibly fun and good. That something is steamrolled under the weight of a terrible story and flawed design and, as I conclude, I honestly hope that the core gameplay of Extreme Justice is stripped out, and that that core gameplay finds its way onto the PlayStation Network where I’m sure it will make for a fine game.

Design


 I desperately wanted this game to be fun, but the aspects of the game that make it unfair utterly destroy the experience.

It’s not fun

Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice isn’t fun, and it isn’t fun because it’s artificially difficult. That is, it’s not difficult naturally, but it’s difficult because it’s unfair, and because it cheats. One of the problems is bad checkpointing (see below) but in most cases it’s just bad design: time limits will be too harsh, or the player takes too much damage too easily, or there are too many factors that need to be accounted for. The following conditions affront the player in the penultimate mission: a short time limit; two different damage counters that need to be carefully monitored; waves of enemies; a tremendously long course to cover (fourteen miles, or perhaps it’s fourteen kilometers, in just over three minutes). It took me over five attempts on the easiest difficulty setting. I implore you to believe me when I say that it’s not enjoyable. I frequently found myself asking, “What am I playing this for?”

Brutal checkpointing

Extreme Justice suffers from unfortunate checkpointing. The game only checkpoints when the mode of gameplay in a level changes -- for example, there will be a checkpoint in between a shift from helicopter to car, and then a checkpoint from the car to on-foot, but there won’t be a checkpoint in the middle of that ten minute car section, so if one fails half-way through it’s necessary to sit the entire section over.

Replayability

In terms of replay value, Pursuit Force features many different challenges with different objectives that the player can attempt. Each challenge is a spin-off of a story mission. I’m not sure if anyone will enjoy the game enough to actually want to attempt those missions, but he few I participated in were certainly more interesting than the campaign mode.

The gimmicky names for level settings do not accurately reflect the difficulty of the game

Like many games, rather than succinctly and accurately listing difficulty levels such as ‘Easy, Normal, and Hard’, this game prefers to substitute its own monikers. Unfortunately, in this case the titles afforded to each level are quite misleading, especially considering how tough the game is overall. “Casual” is apparently for people who “Don’t play many games”, but anybody choosing this difficulty is liable to not make it past Act I. “Experienced” and “Hardcore”, means that you “Play games often” and “Play games whenever you can” respectively. Setting aside the fact that “Casual” for Pursuit Force is closer to what is on average ‘Hard’ for other video games, what the titles are associated with is completely ludicrous. How often people play video games has no correlation with how good at video games they may be.

Nice music

I heard perhaps only three or four tracks throughout my five hours of play time, but the music did suit the gameplay, and I most definitely noticed it, even if it is a little bit ‘action video game’ generic. It’s pseudo-theatrical, and there’s not much there, but it’s appreciable.

Graphics and animation


 I've seen these buildings many, many times, and you'll see them too (in the event you decide to play this video game).

The graphics are cookie-cutter

There’s nothing in Extreme Justice that one hasn’t seen before in early PlayStation 2 games. The environments whizz past hastily, but the player will notice that there are only five or six different building models, and only three or four different environments: the city, the rural parts of the city, a marsh, and a river.

The CG pre-rendered cutscenes look like a bad PlayStation 2 game

Extreme Justice was released in 2008, but the pre-rendered cutscenes look quite bad. To be fair, the animation isn’t horrible, but better character models can be found in PlayStation-era CG.

Scant animations

The animations are decent, but they are very limited. There are only one or two animations per action but the camera angles change frequently so this deficiency is well masked.

Gameplay


 There's a lot to enjoy at the base level, but it gets bogged down by the many other missteps.

It’s a good idea

The core idea upon which the game is constructed is good. Essentially, players drive through a city playing the role of a cop that can jump from car to car (or motorcycle, or truck). The player eliminates terrorists along the way. I think the idea is unassailable, and there’s nothing else that plays the same on the market. It’s unfortunate that BigBig seems to lack scope and the ability to design, but as a whole, the base foundations of Pursuit Force are excellent. It’s important to keep this in mind. When the missions are well designed, well executed, and when the game is fun, there’s nothing quite like it -- it feels totally unique and very engaging. Pursuit Force is at its best when it’s frenetic, frantic, rushed, and when that urgency wracks the player. It is unfortunate that those moments are few and far between, but there is a very true and honest kernel of video game somewhere beneath the minutia of garbage.

 And there's a lot of driving behind other vehicles and firing a weapon, but I never found it repetitive. I only found it troubled by other things.

It doesn’t feel repetitive

The game is very repetitive -- there are essentially five different types of missions that are reappropriated perpetually -- but because the core idea of BigBig’s gameplay is sound, it never really feels that way. This is, ultimately, a point in Extreme Justice’s favor.

The weapons are indistinguishable

It turns out that there are a fair number of firearms in the game, but aside from the ones that manage a one-hit kill, most players will probably not care enough to tell the difference. Some fire more quickly than others, but all are on auto-fire, so at some point they all blend together.

The on-foot missions function acceptably

There are many games on the PlayStation Portable which have console-based shooting mechanics, but which suffer from the PlayStation Portable’s lack of a second analog nub. Pursuit Force solves this problem by not letting the player move while shooting. It’s actually not all that bad; it’s certainly functional. It could definitely be better, but it’s overshadowed by the fact that the player never really needs to fire a weapon, because if one runs up to any enemy a delightfully simple quick-time event is engaged which, if completed successfully, disengages any enemy permanently. One can essentially chain-run from enemy to enemy without ever being required to fire a weapon.

Buddy AI characters shoot you

I was shot at on two different occasions by my buddy AI characters because they failed to recognize that it was me, not a hostile, piloting a gang vehicle.

Story


The story is terrible

Maybe one shouldn’t expect much from a PlayStation Portable game, but having such a bad story is inexcusable. Essentially, there’s a cop, his wife gets murdered, gangs overrun the city, a Federal agency called VIPER take over the operation, but then it turns out that VIPER are the bad guys. The story is presented like a Saturday morning children’s cartoon, but not a very good cartoon, and a cartoon that has crude and vulgar undertones. The problem is that it’s all been done before. There’s not one shred of innovation. The characters are boring, one dimensional, and I would be very surprised if it took the writers more than thirty minutes to design the whole thing.

The dialogue is terrible

As bad as the story is, the dialogue is worse. The writing is just not good. It really is the stereotypical types of language that twelve- and thirteen-year-olds think of as ‘Hollywood script writing’. It’s near racist, and fully offensive, both to one’s sensibilities and intelligence. I will admit that I expected to be able to find a game script online and I didn’t start noting down individual quotes until the late stages of the game, so I apologize for not being able to present to you some of the worst pieces of dialogue ever witnessed on the PlayStation Portable. Nevertheless, here are some of the less bad (which is saying something) pieces of dialogue from the game:
 
  • An African-American character named Mad Balls, while swinging two giant wrecking balls over his head, screams at the player in all caps to, “FEEL THE POWER OF MY BALLS!”
  • One of the main character’s sidekicks says, “Let him know who’s boss, Commander!”
  • Other members of the Pursuit Force lay into a wimpy scientist, named Dr. Pertwee (who is helping the Pursuit Force make grounds against the enemy) with phrases such as the following: “Speak English, four eyes” (when the scientist uses grade-six level English), and “Shut up, Geek!”
  • A British woman says to the Commander, “You’re blooming mad!”
  • One of the many repeated catchphrases of hostiles is “Decimate them!” I once had the pleasure of hearing this when there was only the player character on screen. Furthermore, apparently people still don’t understand the meaning of the word decimate, which is literally to destroy every tenth person (why else would the word ‘deca’, Greek for the number ten, be the root of the word?).

The same dialogue will be repeated time and time again, as is the case with “Decimate them!” I heard one Russian say “You Westerners make easy prey” three times in one mission. Listening to the Eastern European characters, one would think that the Cold War was still in progress. 
 

The voice acting is terrible

Stereotypical voice acting is necessitated to accompany stereotypical dialogue. Throughout the game, players will be greeted by Rednecks, tough and rough military commanders, Cajuns, Hispanics, and a Chief who refers to any British person as a “Limey”.

Things which prove technical astuteness

I found the following to be amusing: at the conclusion of each mission there will be lengthy, poorly written pieces of exposition delivered in something called the ‘Briefing Room’ (it should really be the ‘Debriefing Room’, but nevertheless). How can we make the Briefing Room more legitimate looking, BigBig’s designers asked? By adding the following: scrolling binary code (which makes everything look more technical), voice equalizer levels (which don’t synchronize with the voice acting, but that’s fine) and voice wave patterns (which don’t synchronize with the voice acting but, again, that’s fine).


What Pursuit Force could have been

 There should have been 100% more jumping through the air in slow motion while firing a gun and 100% less stupid story and stupid characters and stupid dialogue.
The thing I find most disappointing about Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice is that at its core the game has some great ideas and a ton of potential. I’m disappointed because it’s dragged down by pathetic, petty things that it doesn’t require. Not all games need a story. Pursuit Force most definitely does not need a story. All players need to know is that they play as a crime fighting team that likes extreme stunts. This game’s terrible story bogs it down when in actuality all it needs is one hundred and fifty different missions, with each mission having a few unique twists that make it stand out.

The Pursuit Force franchise should really be on the PlayStation Network (Pursuit Force is published by Sony, so unfortunately such a product I am imagining would never grace the XBOX Live Arcade). It should be a simple $15 PSN game that has some great gameplay underneath. What Pursuit Force isn’t, and will never be, is a serious game with a serious story and serious characters and a serious narrative. The best part of Pursuit Force is screaming down the freeway in fast cars and leaping from vehicle to vehicle, and firing a gun at hostiles while in midair and in slow motion. This game should essentially be Burnout Paradise but with third-person mid-air shooting. It isn’t. 95% of it is bogged down by things that really shouldn’t be there, and that’s what’s most depressing. I sincerely hope this franchise is disseminated in its most basic form on the PlayStation Network, because that’s where it belongs, and that’s where it would thrive. 


Past articles

Here is a list of the other games I have covered, for posterity’s sake.

11 Comments
12 Comments
Edited by ZanzibarBreeze

There are some games that are just bad. There are some games that are offensive. There are some games that should have been good, but disappoint because something went terribly, terribly wrong during the proceedings. Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice is all of those three things. You shouldn’t buy Extreme Justice and you shouldn’t play Extreme Justice, because it’s a waste of your time and it’s a waste of your money. What I find most frustrating is that there’s something about Pursuit Force that is sensibly fun and good. That something is steamrolled under the weight of a terrible story and flawed design and, as I conclude, I honestly hope that the core gameplay of Extreme Justice is stripped out, and that that core gameplay finds its way onto the PlayStation Network where I’m sure it will make for a fine game.

Design


 I desperately wanted this game to be fun, but the aspects of the game that make it unfair utterly destroy the experience.

It’s not fun

Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice isn’t fun, and it isn’t fun because it’s artificially difficult. That is, it’s not difficult naturally, but it’s difficult because it’s unfair, and because it cheats. One of the problems is bad checkpointing (see below) but in most cases it’s just bad design: time limits will be too harsh, or the player takes too much damage too easily, or there are too many factors that need to be accounted for. The following conditions affront the player in the penultimate mission: a short time limit; two different damage counters that need to be carefully monitored; waves of enemies; a tremendously long course to cover (fourteen miles, or perhaps it’s fourteen kilometers, in just over three minutes). It took me over five attempts on the easiest difficulty setting. I implore you to believe me when I say that it’s not enjoyable. I frequently found myself asking, “What am I playing this for?”

Brutal checkpointing

Extreme Justice suffers from unfortunate checkpointing. The game only checkpoints when the mode of gameplay in a level changes -- for example, there will be a checkpoint in between a shift from helicopter to car, and then a checkpoint from the car to on-foot, but there won’t be a checkpoint in the middle of that ten minute car section, so if one fails half-way through it’s necessary to sit the entire section over.

Replayability

In terms of replay value, Pursuit Force features many different challenges with different objectives that the player can attempt. Each challenge is a spin-off of a story mission. I’m not sure if anyone will enjoy the game enough to actually want to attempt those missions, but he few I participated in were certainly more interesting than the campaign mode.

The gimmicky names for level settings do not accurately reflect the difficulty of the game

Like many games, rather than succinctly and accurately listing difficulty levels such as ‘Easy, Normal, and Hard’, this game prefers to substitute its own monikers. Unfortunately, in this case the titles afforded to each level are quite misleading, especially considering how tough the game is overall. “Casual” is apparently for people who “Don’t play many games”, but anybody choosing this difficulty is liable to not make it past Act I. “Experienced” and “Hardcore”, means that you “Play games often” and “Play games whenever you can” respectively. Setting aside the fact that “Casual” for Pursuit Force is closer to what is on average ‘Hard’ for other video games, what the titles are associated with is completely ludicrous. How often people play video games has no correlation with how good at video games they may be.

Nice music

I heard perhaps only three or four tracks throughout my five hours of play time, but the music did suit the gameplay, and I most definitely noticed it, even if it is a little bit ‘action video game’ generic. It’s pseudo-theatrical, and there’s not much there, but it’s appreciable.

Graphics and animation


 I've seen these buildings many, many times, and you'll see them too (in the event you decide to play this video game).

The graphics are cookie-cutter

There’s nothing in Extreme Justice that one hasn’t seen before in early PlayStation 2 games. The environments whizz past hastily, but the player will notice that there are only five or six different building models, and only three or four different environments: the city, the rural parts of the city, a marsh, and a river.

The CG pre-rendered cutscenes look like a bad PlayStation 2 game

Extreme Justice was released in 2008, but the pre-rendered cutscenes look quite bad. To be fair, the animation isn’t horrible, but better character models can be found in PlayStation-era CG.

Scant animations

The animations are decent, but they are very limited. There are only one or two animations per action but the camera angles change frequently so this deficiency is well masked.

Gameplay


 There's a lot to enjoy at the base level, but it gets bogged down by the many other missteps.

It’s a good idea

The core idea upon which the game is constructed is good. Essentially, players drive through a city playing the role of a cop that can jump from car to car (or motorcycle, or truck). The player eliminates terrorists along the way. I think the idea is unassailable, and there’s nothing else that plays the same on the market. It’s unfortunate that BigBig seems to lack scope and the ability to design, but as a whole, the base foundations of Pursuit Force are excellent. It’s important to keep this in mind. When the missions are well designed, well executed, and when the game is fun, there’s nothing quite like it -- it feels totally unique and very engaging. Pursuit Force is at its best when it’s frenetic, frantic, rushed, and when that urgency wracks the player. It is unfortunate that those moments are few and far between, but there is a very true and honest kernel of video game somewhere beneath the minutia of garbage.

 And there's a lot of driving behind other vehicles and firing a weapon, but I never found it repetitive. I only found it troubled by other things.

It doesn’t feel repetitive

The game is very repetitive -- there are essentially five different types of missions that are reappropriated perpetually -- but because the core idea of BigBig’s gameplay is sound, it never really feels that way. This is, ultimately, a point in Extreme Justice’s favor.

The weapons are indistinguishable

It turns out that there are a fair number of firearms in the game, but aside from the ones that manage a one-hit kill, most players will probably not care enough to tell the difference. Some fire more quickly than others, but all are on auto-fire, so at some point they all blend together.

The on-foot missions function acceptably

There are many games on the PlayStation Portable which have console-based shooting mechanics, but which suffer from the PlayStation Portable’s lack of a second analog nub. Pursuit Force solves this problem by not letting the player move while shooting. It’s actually not all that bad; it’s certainly functional. It could definitely be better, but it’s overshadowed by the fact that the player never really needs to fire a weapon, because if one runs up to any enemy a delightfully simple quick-time event is engaged which, if completed successfully, disengages any enemy permanently. One can essentially chain-run from enemy to enemy without ever being required to fire a weapon.

Buddy AI characters shoot you

I was shot at on two different occasions by my buddy AI characters because they failed to recognize that it was me, not a hostile, piloting a gang vehicle.

Story


The story is terrible

Maybe one shouldn’t expect much from a PlayStation Portable game, but having such a bad story is inexcusable. Essentially, there’s a cop, his wife gets murdered, gangs overrun the city, a Federal agency called VIPER take over the operation, but then it turns out that VIPER are the bad guys. The story is presented like a Saturday morning children’s cartoon, but not a very good cartoon, and a cartoon that has crude and vulgar undertones. The problem is that it’s all been done before. There’s not one shred of innovation. The characters are boring, one dimensional, and I would be very surprised if it took the writers more than thirty minutes to design the whole thing.

The dialogue is terrible

As bad as the story is, the dialogue is worse. The writing is just not good. It really is the stereotypical types of language that twelve- and thirteen-year-olds think of as ‘Hollywood script writing’. It’s near racist, and fully offensive, both to one’s sensibilities and intelligence. I will admit that I expected to be able to find a game script online and I didn’t start noting down individual quotes until the late stages of the game, so I apologize for not being able to present to you some of the worst pieces of dialogue ever witnessed on the PlayStation Portable. Nevertheless, here are some of the less bad (which is saying something) pieces of dialogue from the game:
 
  • An African-American character named Mad Balls, while swinging two giant wrecking balls over his head, screams at the player in all caps to, “FEEL THE POWER OF MY BALLS!”
  • One of the main character’s sidekicks says, “Let him know who’s boss, Commander!”
  • Other members of the Pursuit Force lay into a wimpy scientist, named Dr. Pertwee (who is helping the Pursuit Force make grounds against the enemy) with phrases such as the following: “Speak English, four eyes” (when the scientist uses grade-six level English), and “Shut up, Geek!”
  • A British woman says to the Commander, “You’re blooming mad!”
  • One of the many repeated catchphrases of hostiles is “Decimate them!” I once had the pleasure of hearing this when there was only the player character on screen. Furthermore, apparently people still don’t understand the meaning of the word decimate, which is literally to destroy every tenth person (why else would the word ‘deca’, Greek for the number ten, be the root of the word?).

The same dialogue will be repeated time and time again, as is the case with “Decimate them!” I heard one Russian say “You Westerners make easy prey” three times in one mission. Listening to the Eastern European characters, one would think that the Cold War was still in progress. 
 

The voice acting is terrible

Stereotypical voice acting is necessitated to accompany stereotypical dialogue. Throughout the game, players will be greeted by Rednecks, tough and rough military commanders, Cajuns, Hispanics, and a Chief who refers to any British person as a “Limey”.

Things which prove technical astuteness

I found the following to be amusing: at the conclusion of each mission there will be lengthy, poorly written pieces of exposition delivered in something called the ‘Briefing Room’ (it should really be the ‘Debriefing Room’, but nevertheless). How can we make the Briefing Room more legitimate looking, BigBig’s designers asked? By adding the following: scrolling binary code (which makes everything look more technical), voice equalizer levels (which don’t synchronize with the voice acting, but that’s fine) and voice wave patterns (which don’t synchronize with the voice acting but, again, that’s fine).


What Pursuit Force could have been

 There should have been 100% more jumping through the air in slow motion while firing a gun and 100% less stupid story and stupid characters and stupid dialogue.
The thing I find most disappointing about Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice is that at its core the game has some great ideas and a ton of potential. I’m disappointed because it’s dragged down by pathetic, petty things that it doesn’t require. Not all games need a story. Pursuit Force most definitely does not need a story. All players need to know is that they play as a crime fighting team that likes extreme stunts. This game’s terrible story bogs it down when in actuality all it needs is one hundred and fifty different missions, with each mission having a few unique twists that make it stand out.

The Pursuit Force franchise should really be on the PlayStation Network (Pursuit Force is published by Sony, so unfortunately such a product I am imagining would never grace the XBOX Live Arcade). It should be a simple $15 PSN game that has some great gameplay underneath. What Pursuit Force isn’t, and will never be, is a serious game with a serious story and serious characters and a serious narrative. The best part of Pursuit Force is screaming down the freeway in fast cars and leaping from vehicle to vehicle, and firing a gun at hostiles while in midair and in slow motion. This game should essentially be Burnout Paradise but with third-person mid-air shooting. It isn’t. 95% of it is bogged down by things that really shouldn’t be there, and that’s what’s most depressing. I sincerely hope this franchise is disseminated in its most basic form on the PlayStation Network, because that’s where it belongs, and that’s where it would thrive. 


Past articles

Here is a list of the other games I have covered, for posterity’s sake.

Posted by HandsomeDead

Admittedly, I love that title. The game sounds horrible though.

Posted by ZanzibarBreeze
@HandsomeDead said:
" Admittedly, I love that title. The game sounds horrible though. "
Well, what you need to keep in mind is that the justice is extreme. It's not just justice: it's extreme justice.
Posted by SpiralStairs

You're never going to enjoy a game if you complain about every little thing.
 
I've heard pretty good things about Pursuit Force, so I'm not even sure if I believe this post.
 
 
BLEAEOIGJWG

Posted by lawlerballer

extreme fun more like

Posted by Video_Game_King

Holy shit, that's in-depth, especially considering that it doesn't seem like you'd have much to say on the game at all.

Posted by ZanzibarBreeze
@Video_Game_King said:
" Holy shit, that's in-depth, especially considering that it doesn't seem like you'd have much to say on the game at all. "
Ultimately I think that if a good editor had gotten into that development studio and cut all the fat -- the story, for instance -- Pursuit Force would be a really good game. I feel like that when it's good, it's good and it's really fun, and that's the point I kind of wanted to get across.
 
Like many other PlayStation Portable games -- Metal Gear AC!D, for instance, and Killzone Liberation -- I hope that something is salvaged from the PlayStation Portable versions and reformed to work as a PSN/XBLA game. I love the gameplay of Pursuit Force, MGA, and Killzone Liberation, but I know those games would be much better products if they were created for a solid distribution platform.
Posted by TheFreeMan

I always wanted to try this game out because it sounded like the kind of over-the-top Metal Slug experience that I would enjoy, but then everything I read about it was negative. Which is unfortunate, because it just sounded so stupidly fun.
 
Ah well.

Posted by Akrid

I played the first one, it was kinda cool for an hour or two. There was a solid concept in there somewhere, hence why I bought it, but the execution leaves something to be desired. It sounds like the sequel didn't improve much from it's predecessor.  

Posted by UltramanJ

 I'm interested in trying the original. Not sure if they switched developers for the sequel, as I recall hearing good things about the first game.
Posted by Jasta

I'm impressed you could stomach this game long enough to write up a review as intricate as this. Well done nonetheless.

@UltramanJ said:

"  I'm interested in trying the original. Not sure if they switched developers for the sequel, as I recall hearing good things about the first game. "

BigBig Studios developed both this and the original. 
Posted by ZanzibarBreeze
@Jasta said:

" @UltramanJ said:

"  I'm interested in trying the original. Not sure if they switched developers for the sequel, as I recall hearing good things about the first game. "

BigBig Studios developed both this and the original.  "
Yes, BigBig developed both. A while after Pursuit Force was released I got a PlayStation Portable, and that game. I can't remember much about it now -- that was four years ago (which is scary) -- but I don't remember being as offended by the story. The first Pursuit Force is basically known for being an impossible game. It's really difficult. You get about a quarter way through and the missions are almost impossible to finish. I don't think it even had difficulty levels. There was one mission that was a rip-off of Speed -- you had to keep a bus that was full of passengers above 50mph -- that you could literally kill yourself over. I think it was something like the tenth mission of the game, something really absurd.
 
In other words, the difficulty curve wasn't a curve, it was just a vertical line after the first mission.
 
To be honest, looking at Alex's video review, the first game looks much better than the second. Maybe I should pick it up again.