Police Stories is a neat combination of Hotline Miami and Door Kickers

I replayed Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number a couple of weeks ago, and found myself really craving other angles on that kind of top-down action game. Police Stories, which was successfully funded on Kickstarter, lets you play as a cop instead of a perp. That means opening fire in any given room is not always the best option, and unsurprisingly it also means that crowbarring off a guy's head is out of the question. Superficially, it looks like Door Kickers, but this offers something rather different in feel. 

You control your cop with the WASD keys, while telling your police buddy what to do with the mouse, whether that's offering covering fire, entering a room or blowing a locked door open. Enemies are randomly placed around each level, so when you spawn you won't know exactly who's standing where. In the alpha, like in Door Kickers, you can get your buddy to scope out each room with a mirror to see who's waiting for you. Upon entering, you encounter a variety of scenarios: a criminal holding a civilian hostage, multiple criminals pointing the trigger at you, or maybe a civilian just going about their business. Keeping your cool, and knowing when to pull the trigger, is the key to a successful run through a level. 

When you enter a room, you press E to order people to drop their weapons. If you open fire before a goon has pointed their gun at you, your overall score for level will drastically drop. If you're lucky, they'll throw their weapons down and surrender, at which point you or your buddy can arrest them, which earns you more points than gunning them down. If you're unlucky, the goon might kill the hostage they were guarding before you've had the chance to pull the trigger. Working out the best way to tackle each room on the fly is engaging and tense. 

I would kick myself for getting gunned down after being too cautious, and then overcompensate and roleplay it as a cop who doesn't play by the rules, shooting every person in sight no matter how much it hurt my overall score. The ideal playthrough sits somewhere between the two, of course: being efficient, while playing by the book.

Of the alpha's two levels, the first mission is a simple hostage rescue job, while the second is a more complex bomb disposal operation. Arresting a criminal isn't always straightforward in Police Stories—you'll generally only find one or two criminals a level who want to surrender instead of being shot to bits, and ordering people to drop their weapons can be a risk with three enemies behind the door in front of you. 

Nonetheless, giving arrested criminals a quick whip with your firearm (I assume that's a thing police officers can legally do) might force them to give up a four-digit bomb disposal code. If you don't manage to take a criminal alive, you can try cutting one of the three wires on the bomb, but with a 66% chance of getting it wrong and restarting the level, you're better off trying to interrogate one of them. 

While all the individual tasks for completing a level are simple enough, chaining them together can be surprisingly tough. I aced the first level, and finished it on my third or fourth attempt, which is a bit better than I'd do in Hotline Miami, for example, but the second took me a lot longer. Like, leaving the office at 7PM and buying-a-takeaway-burger-instead-of-cooking-dinner longer. Somehow, the combination of hostages, rooms containing hidden gunmen and bomb disposal is tough to overcome, but it feels amazing once you crack it. There are other things to consider in racking up a high score, too, like making sure your partner doesn't get gunned down, or making sure you don't get wounded, or even picking up the contraband items dotted around each level. 

That tension of pulling your gun on a criminal and seeing whether he'll go for the trigger first is really cool. Pleasingly, you can sample Police Stories' alpha right now, either on itch.io or through the game's Kickstarter page. It looks pretty low-fi, but it's an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours that shows there's a lot of potential in this combination of ideas. This alpha's been kicking around since the summer, so I look forward to seeing how far Police Stories has come along since then when it's released later in the year. 

Samuel Roberts
Former PC Gamer EIC Samuel has been writing about games since he was 18. He's a generalist, because life is surely about playing as many games as possible before you're put in the cold ground.