In this police simulator, the only thing harder than being a bad cop is being a good one

When I begin playing Police Simulator: Patrol Duty, I'm given two characters to choose from—police cadets Rachel Stiles and Phil Jones. And since there are two of them, it seems to me like an opportunity to play a little good cop, bad cop. With Rachel I'll try to rise through the ranks by being an honest cop who plays by the rules, and with Phil I'll be a corrupt cop who operates outside the law.

Unlike real life, this sim has very little tolerance for bad cops

That's the idea, anyway. I wind up failing with both of them, because in Police Simulator: Patrol Duty, it's almost as hard to break the rules as it is to play by them.

The first time I play as Phil, the bad cop, I go to the armory to get geared up for duty—I'm given items like a radar gun, police vest, handcuffs, taser, flashlight, and keys to a police prowler. I've already tried punching my coworkers in the police station and jumping onto my captain's desk, but neither work: there's no punch button and Phil's vertical leap is pathetic. So instead, I take out the pepper spray I've been given and immediately spray it into the face of the guy in the armory who gave it to me. Hey, that's just the kind of bad cop Phil is. I'm immediately arrested, before the blinding cloud of gas can even reach his eyes. 

Unlike real life, this sim has very little tolerance for bad cops. You character has a conduct score, and it doesn't take much bad behavior to drop it low enough to get you arrested (which basically rewinds you to the start of your shift). And I don't have much luck being a bad cop outside of the precinct, either. 

I frisk an innocent civilian, but I'm not allowed to keep the cash I find in their pocket. I try running someone over with my police car, but I can't—my car stops immediately as if it's hit a wall. I taser a cop standing outside a bank, thinking I'll then rob the teller at gunpoint, but the 'You were arrested' screen pops up immediately and I'm back to square zero again.

Phil is a bad cadet but at this rate he'll never get to be a bad lieutenant. But this is Police Simulator: Patrol Duty, not GTA 5. Maybe it's time to put the good cop on the street.

And Rachel does pretty well, at least for a couple of days. Each time I start a new shift, I pick from a few different assignments, usually a choice between driving around a neighborhood giving out tickets to illegally parked cars, driving around a neighborhood looking for crime suspects based on their descriptions (who typically surrender immediately), or taking part in a speed trap to catch drunk drivers.

That last one is the worst: I'm not even allowed to use the radar gun. Some other cop flags the speeders and I just wait until they pull over, then check their ID, administer a breathalyzer, and write them a ticket if they're sober or arrest them if they're drunk.

But while out on these humdrum assignments, more exciting opportunities are announced on the radio that I can respond to. On Rachel's first day, a gas station is robbed and I wind up interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence like shell casings and fingerprints. It's fun, though it feels a little weird to be a police cadet working traffic stops and then suddenly be doing crime scene analysis.

It's also a little disappointing that I never get to solve the crime. I have to drive the evidence back to the police station and turn it into the lab. I have no idea if the perps ever get caught.

But things are going well! After my first day, Rachel is promoted to Probationary Officer, and after a couple more shifts of traffic duty and the occasional awkward car chase (the driving controls aren't great), I become a real, legit police officer. That's when everything goes down the toilet.

While looking for some drug dealer suspects, I respond to an emergency call: another officer has been shot while on duty. I drive to the location, find the bleeding officer, and call an ambulance for him. I collect evidence and call a tow truck for the officer's cruiser. It never shows up. After waiting around for a while, I call another tow truck. Again, no one arrives. I can't take the evidence to the lab until the game tells me to, and it won't tell me to until the prowler gets towed.

Finally, I find the two tow trucks I've called sitting in the street a block away. They've somehow become stuck to one another, with the one in front hovering about a foot about the pavement. Neither will budge.

I call a third tow truck but it just spawns and sits there behind the first two. I issue a parking ticket to the first tow truck, but since it's a police vehicle I'm reprimanded over the radio and my conduct level takes a hit.

I call a fourth truck and direct it to tow the first tow truck, but it just drives up and waits in line. I try ramming them with my own car, but nothing will move.

Eventually, time expires on the mission and I fail, and my captain suddenly notices I've called in a parade of tow trucks without cause and I lose conduct for each infraction. I'm left with only a sliver of positive conduct as if I'm some kind of common Phil.

Dammit, Rachel is a good cop!

With all that time wasted failing that mission, there's only a little time left on my shift to track down the drug suspects. I spot one—the description says it's a bald white male wearing a white tank top and blue jeans. As I pull over, however, my shift ends. The drug dealer vanishes right in front of me as if he's been raptured to drug dealer heaven. They couldn't let me work a few minutes of overtime?

So, two missions failed on the same shift and my good conduct is hanging by a thread. After that fiasco, I figure I'd just better stick to arresting drunk drivers on my next shift, so I head to the speed trap.

I just want to work and raise my conduct score, and nothing exciting ever happens at traffic stops. Until now, that is. After the other cops pull over a car, I ask for the driver's ID, and then ask her to pop the trunk. Until now, the only thing I've ever found in a trunk has been a baseball bat and a bag of groceries and I usually don't even bother. But this lady in the bright blue SUV isn't just on her way home from work, unless her job is starring in Michael Mann's 1995 film Heat. In the trunk I find a friggin' assault rifle and a briefcase full of cash!

Dang, lady, why did you agree to let me search the trunk? The driver jumps out and flees and I chase her. She won't stop when I point my taser or even my real pistol at her. I don't want to risk real gunfire, so I finally taser her and call her an ambulance. 

But the medics are acting like they've joined the tow truck union. The ambulance arrives but just parks in the street. The medics won't get out and drag Bonnie Parker here off to hospital-jail. Traffic is jammed up behind the ambulance and I can't even have the SUV towed so I can continue checking trunks for cash and mouths for booze. I'm going to fail this easy mission too. 

Rachel is a good cop, but she's had enough. I finally snap and pull out my pistol.

As annoyed as I am, I can't bring myself to shoot Mrs. Moneybags. Instead I take out my frustrations by shooting up the ambulance, or at least I try. Each bullet I fire drops my conduct score lower, and it's already low after last night's tow truckageddon. After the third bullet I'm automatically arrested.

Sorry, Rachel. I tried. But some towns are so corrupt, or so glitchy, there's just no place for a good cop.

Christopher Livingston
Staff Writer

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.