In a world full of simulators for all manner of occupations and household chores, there seem to be no bounds to where the genre will go next. There are simulators for conducting trains, driving semi-trucks, fixing cars, constructing buildings, and power washing, among many others – the list goes on and on. Stepping onto the scene is Police Simulator: Patrol Officers, a buggy mess of a game that I adored during my time on patrol.
Now, you might be making a face and wondering how that last sentence adds up at all. It really is a testament to the core gameplay loop of Police Simulator, because I encountered bugs or glitches frequently, and even a few crashes on PS5. These glitches were mostly graphical in nature and none were game breaking – a few even made me laugh out loud. It’s important to note as well that while this is certainly a simulator, there is also a sizable amount of what I’m going to call “simulator jank” that will either amuse or annoy you. Genre veterans will know exactly what I’m referring to, but in other words, if you’re searching for a completely immersive police simulation then you’ll want to look elsewhere.
Before taking up the badge in the fictional city of Brighton, you must first select from a batch of pre-made officers to begin a career with. The choice is merely a cosmetic one, and it’s a bit of a letdown that there is not at least a basic character creator. Your first shift is a simple foot patrol around the game’s first neighborhood as gameplay systems are introduced. While there is a “simulation mode” on offer, Police Simulator defaults to “casual mode”, which is much more forgiving for beginners. Casual mode holds the player’s hand quite a bit by doing things like highlighting citizens who commit crimes, pointing out when someone appears drunk, or showing a progression meter when processing the scene of an accident. Turning off casual mode essentially takes the training wheels off, requiring the player to rely more on their instincts and what they’ve learned along the way. It also ups the ante for realism, with the game disciplining you for running red lights, for instance. Individual settings can also be turned on or off for a more granular control over the experience, if you prefer.
I spent my first shift walking the neighborhood, issuing parking tickets, citing litterers, and chasing down jaywalkers by jaywalking myself. The game expects you to pay attention to your surroundings, and not doing so is how I made my first mistake. Unwittingly, I towed two Uber-style vehicles that were parked in a taxi parking zone because I didn’t notice the special decals on the windshield. Whoops! To evaluate your actions, Police Simulator keeps score in the form of “shift points” and “conduct points”. Shift points are earned by properly handling crimes and interactions with citizens. On the contrary, you begin each shift with 100 conduct points and these are lost by not following proper protocols. For example, performing a search on someone who committed a robbery is acceptable and awards shift points, but doing the same to someone just walking down the street will deduct conduct points for an improper procedure. Running out of conduct points will bring your shift to a premature end.
Progression is paced very well in Police Simulator, with things never becoming a grind or feeling like I was speeding (ha!) through what the game was offering. Shift points double as experience points and you will use them to rank up and earn “duty stars”. Ranking up unlocks new neighborhoods, equipment, vehicles, and crimes. There is a variety of equipment to help you deal with the various situations you will find yourself in. A stun gun to deal with fleeing suspects, a camera to document vehicle damage, traffic cones to block off road lanes, and more. Unlocking a vehicle really opens things up, and thankfully this happens early on, as the vehicle patrols are infinitely better than foot patrols. After all, why be a cop if you can’t have the flashy lights and sirens? Don’t go in expecting to be able to fire your gun at-will, run people over, or any semblance of a Grand Theft Auto-style sandbox, however. This is not that game.
Once things open up, you’ll discover that the city of Brighton is full of criminals, and not just petty criminals either. Most folks here have committed a reasonably major crime which, again, some will find amusing while simulator purists might find it annoying. It’s pretty common to work a traffic accident where one driver has been convicted of identity theft and the other has been convicted of aggravated assault, for example. There is a good variety of crime to deal with, from traffic accidents to drug deals to robberies. They sure do love breaking the law in Brighton!
Speaking of accidents, they are an early test of whether or not the game is for you. If working your first accident makes you feel nothing, or frustrates you, then it might be time to turn in the badge. For me, the first accident is what set the hook. You see, Police Simulator feeds my deep-seated organization-obsessed tendencies. I’m a list maker, a box checker, and I appreciate polishing off a good task list. This game is made for people like me because dealing with each crime or incident has its own order of operations. Sticking with traffic accidents as an example, standard procedures will look something like this: call an ambulance for any injured folks, throw down road flares to secure the scene, interview those involved and any witnesses, check their IDs, test the drivers for drugs or alcohol, photograph vehicle damage, arrest a drunk driver, give everyone a report, and tow the vehicles away. It might sound like a lot, but one of the reasons it all works is because of the easy-to-use series of radial menus that make dealing with criminals and crime scenes a breeze on controller. It’s an addictive and relaxing gameplay loop.
Thankfully, the game affords flexibility in how you digest it. Shifts can be adjusted for between 15 to 90 minutes-long, or if you really want to role-play, you can select an eight-hour real-time “free patrol” after accumulating 16 duty stars. Beyond shift length, you can also select what type of shift you want to work and what time of day to do it – morning, day, or night. My personal favorite is a vehicle patrol on the graveyard shift, as the patrol car lights really pop at night. Unfortunately, there is no weather system in Police Simulator, which is a real missed opportunity.
The gameplay is both helped and hindered by the AI, which can be incredibly dynamic, like when a citizen rear-ends you at a stoplight, but also incredibly stupid when they won’t get back in their car after a traffic stop. Again, there is plenty of janky-ness baked into the cake. For example, vehicles will change lanes or make turns in a robotic manner, the voice acting is mostly offbeat, and literally everyone is 6’4” tall. I found a lot of Police Simulator’s quirkiness to be endearing, but also understand if those sorts of things break your immersion.
On the multiplayer front, things are pretty rough thanks to what appears to be peer-to-peer matchmaking. This means that you connect directly to a host player, or vice versa, to play cooperatively online, rather than using dedicated standalone servers. Driving a vehicle when not the host of a session is a lag-filled slog, and the visual glitches appear more frequently as well. With that said, I did enjoy playing online when I had a good partner. I was fortunate to play a 60-minute shift once with a nice Australian bloke who took things (mostly) serious, which made it a far more bearable experience. I can’t at all recommend getting Police Simulator for the multiplayer functionality alone, however.
To be clear, Police Simulator: Patrol Officers is a bit of a technical mess at the moment, and it comes with a certain janky-ness that – in a way – is a hallmark of the simulator genre. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this quirky game and its overly criminal citizenry. In fact, I am working towards unlocking the platinum trophy on PlayStation and that is perhaps the strongest vote of confidence I can give it. It needs a patch or two to reach its full potential, but if you can look beyond the buggy veneer, there is an addictive and relaxing gameplay loop that is sure to scratch an itch for fans of the genre.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Hello! My name is Jason Dailey, and I’m a noob here at Gaming Nexus. When not working my day job, I moonlight as a husband and father to two dogs. Of course, I am also an avid gamer and general nerd. My favorite genres of games are strategy, management, city-builders, sports games, RPGs, and shooters, but I don't limit myself to those. My favorite game of all-time is Red Dead Redemption 2 and I have somehow played it for nearly 1,000 hours.
My first video game system was the NES and I never looked back. I currently play on PS5 and PS Vita, although I recently dabbled in Xbox Game Pass on PC for a short while. I co-host a weekly PlayStation news podcast with a lifelong friend/family member called The Dual Sense Podcast, so I stay pretty well versed in that ecosystem. Before that, I co-hosted a basketball podcast.
Follow me on Twitter @TheDualSensePod, or check out my YouTube channel.