Growing up I was never a kid who swore allegiance to any platform. I had my PlayStation, I played SNES and Mega Drive games at relative’s houses and my dad owned a PC. For the computer we pretty much picked up anything my brother or dad thought looked cool and from there it was how I played Half Life, DOOM, Sacrifice, StarCraft, Age of Empires II and a lot of other heavy hitters of their time. However with every PC my dad upgraded to, we got a stack of games that were included in the package. One such game was Future Cop L.A.P.D., a third-person mecha combat game released in 1998 focusing on the near-future exploits of a Los Angeles police officer slash X-1 Alpha mech pilot in charge of cleaning the streets of criminals.
For the game’s singleplayer, Future Cop simply had locations that you would explosively traipse through, massacring bad guys and rescuing civilians until you reached the crime-boss of the level whom was simply an end of level boss to beat. The game’s overall style was all very self-acknowledging machismo peppered with spouts of silliness in the cinematics that emanated a warm charm from this hulking mass of metal and weaponry that I think is something never really done in modern games. The villains were always over-the-top action movie style crime-lords that taunt you and scream in anger as you carelessly blast their empire into ash.
You could also tell the developers had a lot of fun and love poured into everything about how the game played itself off. In the end credits there is even a ragtime piano piece playing over a montage of the X-1 Alpha doing some really dumb stuff that really put a smile on my face every time I quit the game as a kid. It’s a shame after release the game didn’t sell overly well and the team who made it splintered off to other developers and projects, though knowing how EA did their business back in that era and leading into the 2000s, they probably would have been shut down had they still existed.
For a mech game, Future Cop delivers well-paced action and open environments full of enemies to blast away. The level of customization in your X1 mech is decent with starting weapons like the minigun, mortar and missile launcher being replaced by rail guns and shockwave devices, though each weapon has their benefits and drawbacks to let you craft a loadout suited to your playstyle. While the sight of burning criminals falling to their deaths from buildings and the satisfying sounds and can be enjoyable, the jerky and sometimes unresponsive controls can stagger an otherwise hectically entertaining game. This is only made worse when X-1 is in vehicle mode which you can switch to on the fly. Since back then the lack of pressure-sensitive controls like an analog stick means you speed up but can never slow down to finely aim at your targets, though the game does give you a sort of aim-assist in the form of a laser to indicate who you’re shooting at to help nail enemies in your field of view. For me this wasn’t really an issue when I was younger. I was too distracted from the spectacle of violence Future Cop built really well but as an adult it is one of the more apparent problems the gameplay suffers from. Another gripe I have is the game’s lack of a checkpoint system when it isn’t exactly the most forgiving kind of shooter in the first place. Once you’re dead, you reset back at the beginning of the level which can really kill any kind of momentum or enthusiasm since levels can take ten to fifteen minutes to finish if not longer.
Another fascinating part of Future Cop was its competitive multiplayer called Precinct Assault. It pitted two players (or one player versus an AI jet named “Sky Captain”) in a one-one-one arena battle where they had to invade their opponent’s base to win. Players would capture turret cannons throughout the map to gain resource points and use said-points to build tanks to fight their way towards the enemy base or helicopters that would patrol around the friendly base defending it from both the enemy player and tanks. For the most part the basic tanks were cannon fodder to allow the superior dreadnought tanks (Which costed more resources) to move in and breach enemy defences. The level of strategy and need for farming enemy turrets and units to achieve victory was actually a lot of the inspiration for what we now called MOBAs like Dota 2 and League of Legends.
I still think Future Cop is a solid game after all these years. The clunky controls, lack of checkpoints and dated visuals can hold it back in some degree, but it holds up surprisingly well. It reminds me of a time when games were just what landed on my metaphorical gaming doorstep rather than a list of titles I look forward to now. It was a time of experimenting with games that I had no idea about until I put the disc in, and I still chase that rush of finding a new game I love to this day. If not for that need to try new games constantly I wouldn’t of discovered my love for turn-based games back when the XCOM reboot released in 2012. If not for experimentation I would get burned out on video games, and thankfully that hasn’t happened yet. If you’re curious about trying it or revisiting the game you can pick it up on PlayStation Network for €4.99 for PS3 and PSP.