PQ4: Action Scenes

Action scenes in adventures are a longstanding Sierra tradition, and one mercifully not widely imitated. The original Police Quest had two basic sorts: driving and shooting. The driving part was a top-down affair similar to the original Grand Theft Auto, except of course that you were expected not to drive recklessly, which pretty much removes the fun. It yielded enough complaints that they left it out of Police Quest 2, but this was a drastic enough change to the character of the game that fans complained again, resulting in it being added back in a modified form in the third game. PQ4 leaves it out, letting you instead navigate Los Angeles through the interface that was already becoming the norm for mystery games in urban settings: a map, with clickable dots at the important locations.

The shooting remains, although most actual shooting is done at stationary targets on a firing range. You’re expected to pass a marksmanship test on the game’s third day, and in fact you can visit the range to practice on preceding days, and get points for each iteration. It’s basically the world’s easiest first-person shooter. You’re rated on speed and accuracy, but when you come right down to it, it’s speed and accuracy of clicking on an image with a mouse.

Good marksmanship doesn’t really help you with the gunplay in the field, which is mostly about pointing your gun at people and then yelling at them, at which point they drop their weapon and surrender. I’ve seen only one fight so far that actually has to be won with bullets rather than handcuffs, and I figure this rarity is one of the game’s more plausible claims to realism. But even these parts are essentially action scenes, in that you have to act quickly or be killed.

Finally, there are a couple of out-and-out literal videogames, playable coin-op machines located in the bar where the cops hang out after hours. There are two, a simple Asteroids clone and a simple driving game. (So they didn’t completely eliminate driving after all!) I haven’t checked the walkthroughs on this, but Sierra has a certain history of awarding points for doing well in embedded games of this sort. They may not be doing it here, though — they weren’t completely consistent about it, and it doesn’t exactly fit in with the sort of thing you generally get extra points for in this game: diligence, following up every lead no matter how remote, following procedure, and filling out paperwork at every opportunity. But if there are any points associated with the embedded videogames, I doubt I’ll be getting them. The driving game in particular seems very hard, and I just don’t care about my score in PQ4 as much as I did in the earlier games.

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