Ever wanted to be a policeman? Not me really, but that’s what we have games for! I saw Pursuit Force pop up multiple times in MetalJesusRocks’ PSP videos, and when I found it for relatively cheap I couldn’t resist. I ended up buying it with multiple others, but this was the game that I wanted to try out first. And so I did: for a few weeks straight, I ended up playing this every day while travelling to work. I didn’t end up beating it however. Is that a good or bad sign? Let’s find out!
Released in 2005 exclusively for the PSP, Pursuit Force was one of the earliest titles to be released on the system.. at least in Europe. I don’t know how to say this but yet again, I can compliment the European division of Sony for releasing it over here earlier than in America, which ended up getting it half a year later. The PSP did good for us Europeans, thank you Sony <3. Bigbig Studios–the developer studio of the game–was a child company of Evolution studios and consisted of former Codemasters employees. Independently they only created four games, including two Pursuit Force games, a minigame compilation for the Vita called Little Deviants and finally MotorStorm: Artic Edge, an IP of the parent company. Both companies were acquired by Sony in 2007, and are both now defunct. Most of their employees went back to Codemasters in the end.
The streets of a random city called Capital State is overblown by crime and terror. No one is safe anymore, as six criminal gangs are allowed do to whatever they want. Police are unable to do anything about it, and that’s where you come in. A new era of crime fighting has begun, as the newly formed Pursuit Force won’t tolerate any crimes by the gangs anymore. Their method? Sending out one small boi to take out all six gangs with advanced gear and weapons. Race through highways, drive boats through canals and bring out your best aim to stop evil once and for all. It’s a simple plot but does exactly what it needs to do.
All your missions are given by the commander, an old dude who thinks he’s all awesome and you’re kinda okay in his eyes. Throughout the game, multiple characters will play a side role in this almost ”action movie”-like setting, with extremely cheesy dialogue that’s so bad it’s good. Despite being engaged in heavy combat, they have no problem with calling you all kind of names, laughing at your pathetic attempts.. and then they’re dead a few seconds later. It’s a funny way of bringing in dialogue however, and it gives the characters some personality. They didn’t need it, but it doesn’t do any harm.
There are six gangs to put an end to, each with six different missions. Before you start, a cutscene with details about the gang plays. Select a mission and you get a short briefing on what’s happening, who’s involved and what your goals are. At first you are only able to select a few missions from a few gangs, due to your civil rank being too low. And here’s actually where my first complaint comes in–don’t worry, it’s not the last either. I really like the idea of unlocking new quests through gaining a high rank, but it’s handled incorrectly here. To unlock a new rank, you have to beat every mission that is currently available. This means that if you’re stuck on a mission well.. good luck, you can’t continue until you finish it. Adding ranks is pointless in that case, as it doesn’t do what its meant to do. And that is also the reason why I have not beaten this game, as I got stuck multiple times and just gave up in the end. More on that later as well. There is a nice variety in missions fortunately. Missions such as the cliche time bomb, and you have to keep driving or else the bomb will explode. There’s also one boss battle in the helicopter where you have to shoot a maniac with a turret who keeps jumping between civilian vehicles.
You’re directly thrown into the action when the mission start, usually already driving a vehicle and chasing the objective, be it a car or boat or even a turret section in a helicopter. Driving is mostly basic with no fancy mechanics to it: just stay on the road and avoid civilian vehicles and the side of the road or canal. Hitting a civilian will result in you being slowed down more than you’d think, and it also damages your own vehicle which has a health meter. Hitting the sides of a road or canal is especially not recommended since it makes you spin completely uncontrollable at times. If this is set to be realistic or just bad design eh.. I’ll go for both. The health meter of your vehicle and of yourself is one you’ll definitely have to keep an eye on, as the vehicle explodes when it hits zero. One way to avoid it from exploding is using the justice power-up, a gauge that fills over time when you do anything good.. and depletes when you hit a civilian, another reason to avoid doing so. The power-up instantly recovers all your lost life, as well as restoring your car to it’ former state for whatever reason I’m very grateful for.
But the most recommended method to get your vehicle back to full life is.. just ditch it. The game encourages you to jump between multiple vehicles, be it from civilians or enemies. The civilians–particularly police cars-may even help you out by shooting the enemy vehicles so you can just focus on driving, or shoot at the same time to ensure their defeat faster. Which is the other half of Pursuit Force: shooting. While in a vehicle, you can shoot at enemies’ vehicles while driving like they shoot yours to make it explode. You don’t have to worry about ammo, just reloading. You don’t really get to choose your weapons unfortunately; you always get one given to you and when you kill enemies you grab theirs, whether you like it or not. This always happens when you jump over to their vehicle to hijack it and kill all the enemies inside of the vehicle.
Shooting is pretty basic as well, where you can just focus target an enemy and press another button to shoot. Understandably so since you’re driving at high speeds. This also is the case when outside of vehicles however, where I would’ve liked a little more control as now it comes down to occasionally ducking behind an object and then pressing the fire button. Turret sections in helicopters are the only weapons that allow you to aim yourself. I am not against the shooting gameplay, but I have to mention it regardless for the people who do mind it. In vehicles you’re also pretty much an easy target as the enemy AI has godly aim; even driving recklessly won’t save you. While hijacking you can at least take cover by moving around the vehicle, and since the shooting is usually in patterns this shouldn’t be too difficult. Outside of vehicles you can also arrest enemies instead of killing which will actually grant you more bonus points for the end grade.
Which segues me nicely into the next topic, and the actual reason why I can’t recommend this game despite having fine gameplay and a fun premise. This game is brutally, unfairly difficult to the point there’s little you can do about it. Missions are usually split up into segments, like a helicopter section and afterwards you jump on a car. But while they are split up into segments–the end grade even signifies this–, there are no checkpoints. So even if you fail very close to the end–which is very likely–, you have to start all over again. I am baffled that there is no checkpoint system at all while it’s very easy to implement. Heck, they could have even punished us for using checkpoints by lowering our grade, and rewarding us for doing it in one go. And what do you get for achieving the highest grade? Cheats, great! ..is what I would say if I could actually use them on unfinished missions instead of already finished missions since using cheats makes you unable to get a grade anyway. That’s not how cheats work, and it actually offends me. I unlocked a really good cheat that gave me double damage and I was enthusiastic to use it but yeah..
And all of these complaints wouldn’t even matter if the missions themselves didn’t have time limits that are way, waaay too strict. I’m literally talking about failing missions here by being a few seconds too late at best. And what can you do about it? Your vehicle is close to exploding so you have to jump to another one, but bigger vehicles are slower and enemy vehicles require you to kill the enemies first, which both take valuable time. You don’t really have a choice, though if you play it well you can try to save up your justice power-up for the perfect moment. But don’t accidentally shoot a vehicle which drives between you and the enemy or you can say bye-bye to the power-up for a while. Which is perfectly understandable of course but that’s where the checkpoints come in again. Boss stages especially are a sin, because they drive at the same speed as your vehicle does. Jump to another vehicle and good luck catching up again! Which was one of the missions where I gave up and didn’t want to continue anymore, especially since that one was relatively glitchy to begin with. But the game as a whole isn’t glitchy so that’s a point just for that one mission specifically.
There are two other modes besides the campaign fortunately which are less forgiving, but don’t really give you a reason to play them. One is a race and the other is time trial. The problem with races is that one of the core elements of Pursuit Force is taken out: shooting and hijacking other vehicles. Which means that it becomes just a race through the streets with basic driving mechanics and avoiding civilian vehicles. Not to sound mean to this game or anything but if I wanted to race, I would pick a game that actually focuses on racing mechanics. Time trial is not much better but at least lets you choose between multiple vehicles in advance.. which is something I guess. You could say this game has replayability–specifically because both modes also have their own grades–, but you know.. I wouldn’t play this game when looking for said modes. The game takes about 10 hours to beat, completion time unknown because I couldn’t bother. If you want the highest grade in every mission you’re probably busy for a lot more than 10 hours anyway.
The game does look pretty good however. The field of view is pretty broad, making it easy to see when there’s a vehicle in front of you. The graphics are also nice, especially for an early PSP title. The time remaining, health of you and your enemies and the map are all shown clearly on screen without interrupting the flow of gameplay, and the menu is easy to navigate. The OST sounds like it’s ripped straight out of an action movie, following the theme of the game. It does that job well, at the cost of not having a memorable soundtrack but hey, you win some you lose some.
Pursuit Force is a game that I really wanted to like but couldn’t. It’s literally a police action movie with a diverse set of missions, vehicles and enemies with cheesy humour. But it takes the police theme a little bit too serious; making one single mistake results in the end of a long mission without checkpoints. Missions can be brutally punishing, and since you have to beat every mission before you can do the next batch, you might be stuck for a while. I never thought I’d say this either, but cheats are implemented wrong. How do you even do that. The gameplay overall is fine, but if you keep having to redo tiresome missions for something that occasionally you couldn’t even do anything about, the fun quickly wears off. It pains me to say, but here is my final verdict for Pursuit Force:
I want to elaborate that the scores I give to a game (in this case avoid it) do not translate to actual grades. As much as this game frustrated me, it does not deserve anything lower than a 4. With my score, I just translate my personal recommendations that I want to give other people. I truly wanted to like this game but I couldn’t as it is now. If you follow me on social media or are part of my Discord, you might have seen that I bought.. quite a lot of PSP games, including the sequel to this game. I’ll definitely give that one a shot later down the road, and truly hope that I enjoy the game a lot more.