By ZanzibarBreeze 11 Comments
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.
It’s not funPursuit 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 checkpointingExtreme 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.
ReplayabilityIn 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 gameLike 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 musicI 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
The graphics are cookie-cutterThere’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 gameExtreme 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 animationsThe 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.
It’s a good ideaThe 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.
It doesn’t feel repetitiveThe 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 indistinguishableIt 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 acceptablyThere 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 youI 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.
The story is terribleMaybe 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 terribleAs 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 terribleStereotypical 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 astutenessI 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 beenThe 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 articlesHere is a list of the other games I have covered, for posterity’s sake.
- Half-Life 2: Episode Two - Linearity, the G-Man, and Episode Three (08-20-2010)
- Half-Life 2: Episode One - Better than the original, or a lateral shift? (08-17-2010)
- Half-Life 2 - This game is still pretty good (08-13-2010)
- Metal Gear Solid 4 - Why it's nowhere near as good as you think (07-20-2010)