Review: Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice (Sony PSP)

Purusit Force: Extreme Justice
Genre: Action/Arcade
Publisher: Sony
Developer: BigBig Studios
Release Date: January 29, 2008

Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice is really a game of highs and lows. There are a ton of great
things to love about this game, and in almost all cases, those great things are equally met by things to hate. For instance, it’s nice to have a story full of twists and turns, but on the other hand no character evolution; and while some of the mechanics are rock solid and tons of fun, others are broken.

Whether or not you’ll enjoy Pursuit Force really depends on what you’re looking for in a game. As a sequel, I’d personally say that it is a much more complete and ultimately better game than its predecessor. Big Big Studios really knew what made their game great and showcased those parts to the fullest. If you own a PSP and are looking for a great portable game, you could do far worse than Pursuit Force.

I mentioned that the story had a lot of twists and turns. That was an understatement. You’ll play as the Commander of an elite police squad. (If you haven’t guessed, they’re called the Pursuit Force) As the game sets out, you’re knee deep in the ceremony of marrying the beautiful and talented Jessica, who series vets will recognize as the helicopter pilot for the first game. The beautiful moment is ruined, however, when a group of convicts, returning from the first game and freshly broken out of prison, decide to crash the party and let city know they’re back. Another returning group is the Warlords, a Russian mercenary group led by General. From pretty early on, it’s obvious that the sudden reemergence of these gangs you helped to defeat in the first game is no accident. They are here for blood. Two other gangs quickly join the fray and it comes down to you vs. everyone else. On top of all that, you have a new rival police group known as Viper Squad to contend with, as well as breaking in your rookie members. Eventually, you’ll battle on hovercrafts, make your way on across a speeding train, snipe enemies out of a helicopter, and even save the city from a nuclear explosion.

PusuitForce23As far as actions plots go, this one is well thought out mish mash of them all. Just like any good action movie, things heat up quickly and never cool down. Of course, this leaves little to no room for character advancement. In the ten plus hours it will take you to complete the game’s missions, you’ll never really know who the Commander is. He says maybe all of ten words the entire game. While others have gotten away with this, Pursuit Force suffers because your character just isn’t interesting. The supporting cast has a lot more to say, but sadly all suffer from one stereotype or another. There’s the hot shot rookie, the tough black guy, the always angry police chief, the psychotic villain, and the malevolent rival. They never leave these roles. The dynamic never really changes. This is just disappointing, considering how big and cool the world is. The game just fails at making you care about what happens to the people inside it.

The audio too, has a clear disparity in terms of quality across the board. The score, for instance, is fantastic and perfectly fits the game. Whatever emotion the game is going for, the music hits home. Of particular note, the chase scenes are great, adrenaline pumping moments in no small part thanks to the music. Maybe you won’t find yourself whistling along of humming the tunes in the shower, but anyone can appreciate the music when taken as part of the game. But as great as it is, it can’t make up for the horrible and ear bleeding voice acting in the game. You know how I mentioned the characters all fit a stereotype to the tee? Well the voices are a perfect example of that. The chief is loud, obnoxious, and somehow has an accent even if none of the other characters do. The Cajuns speak what can only in the smallest sense be called English. Worst of all, the helicopter pilot/love interest sounds like she’s purposefully lowering her voice to sound more manly so that she can prove a woman can do anything a man can do. And when these character’s spout out the same one liners time and time again, you’ll probably just do what I did and shut the sound off; maybe listen to some nails screeching on chalkboard to ease the pain.

The part of the game with the fewest holes is clearly the graphics. The first game was outstanding looking when it first hit shelves in 2006. At the time, it was easily one of the best looking games on the PSP. Its two years later, and a lot of great looking games have been released on Sony’s little handheld. Fortunately, the graphics are still sharp. Character models are highly detailed, and the Commander in particular is excellently animated. Jumping from car to car is a sight to behold, at times can even rival some of the higher up animations in games like Prince of Persia. However, there are times when you’ll step out of the vehicle and go out on foot. This pretty much looks like ass, but these scenes rarely last long enough for it to matter. When you’re out on the road, there is a good amount of pedestrian traffic which helps give the whole game a real sense of speed as you zoom past them. The frame rate is remarkably solid for a game with so much action going on. The only real problems come much later in the game when you’ve upgraded your vehicle and start going really fast. Then, occasionally, you’ll find yourself taking a corner so fast that the environment doesn’t have time to load. On probably a dozen different occasions, the road just disappeared. This is easily the biggest problem here, but since it happens infrequently over the course of the game, it can be forgiven. So, while it can’t compare to some of the graphic powerhouses that the PSP will receive in the coming months such as Crisis Core and God of War, Pursuit Force still manages to stand out.

Here’s the basic rundown of controls. The analog nub is used to steer your car, move your character on foot, and man a turret. Most of the time, this works fine. (Apart from having to actually use the nub, which is honestly pretty bad.) The cars and trucks control pretty damn well. The boats are a little loose but still useable. The hovercrafts are another story. The slightest nudge on the stick sends the hovercraft into a near tailspin and I found myself fighting for dear life just to keep from crashing into the banks. It was in my best interest to capture a jet ski or a boat as soon as possible, lest I fail the mission. Also, the free roaming on foot missions are just god awful. The nub now controls both movement AND the camera. This means that it’s impossible to keep the camera in place. You’ll be hard pressed to really see where you’re going. There have been some bad camera jobs in the past, and this is honestly much better than the on foot camera in the first game, but this is still one of the worst camera jobs I’ve ever seen. The R button is used to shoot no matter what mode of transportation you’re using. In vehicles, this will also lock you on, which is highly useful, being that it would be impossible to drive, watch out for oncoming traffic, and manage to aim your gun at moving targets as well. The L button allows changing targets, so you can pick off that pesky enemies that jump to your own vehicle. In other modes, the L button is used to zoom, which is incredibly useful in all cases, especially on foot. Using the L button, you’ll be able to steady that damned camera and get a few good shots off, although you won’t be able to move properly. X is the gas. Square is the break. Triangle or Up on the directional pad will use some of your precious pursuit meter to replenish the health of both you and your vehicle. Circle will allow to you to perform the awesome ability of jumping from car to car. All in all it’s a pretty good control scheme, and it rarely causes problems, although taking your thumb off of the gas to activate the pursuit meter can be a bit of a problem when things get too hectic.

PursuitForce22The main hook of the game is jumping from car to car. When you get close enough, all you’ll have to do is hit the circle button and off you go. Once on board, you can shoot out the enemies inside and capture the vehicle as well as any weapons they were carrying. Of course, they’ll take the chance to take a few shots at you, so you’ll have to balance shooting them with ducking for cover, or else you’ll die rather quickly. You will have to worry about hanging on. While it doesn’t require a button press, if the vehicle is swerving too much, the Commander will fall off and hang on by a hand or so. At this point, you’ll have to tap the L and R buttons back and forth to get back on. You’ll get a boost in the form of pursuit force any time you kill an enemy, or ram an enemy vehicle. Use it to replenish health, or let it fill up to give you a major damage boost, and also let you jump from cars in slow motion. In slow-mo, you’ll be able to shoot the people in the car. Often times you can clear most if not all during this time, so it’s a very useful tool.

There are several different mission objectives and control type. When in cars, you’ll have to race, capture or kill enemy vehicles, survive an enemy onslaught, tail an enemy, or even strap a villain on the hood and give him a heck of a ride till he talks. (These bits are just way too fun) Pretty much everything is good when you’re behind the wheel, which is good, considering you’ll spend most of your time there. On foot, you’ll have two different types of game play. One is the free roaming sections where you’ll run around killing enemies and occasionally planting mines. Those suck. The only cool thing about them is running up to enemies and arresting them, but the animations are few and they quickly get old. Otherwise, the only other time you’ll be on foot is sections where you have to make your way over a large vehicle such as a plane, giant boat, and even a train. These are not free roaming, so movement is much easier and better designed. You’ll be able to hop from spot to spot pretty well. Beyond that, there are on rails turret levels and occasional sniping missions. These aren’t particularly good or bad, but add to the variety to keep anything from getting old.

That’s one thing improved upon the original. There’s a ton of variety. The 32 missions in the game are a well paced mix of all the play types listed above. One minute you’ll be driving at top speed, only to be riding shotgun in a helicopter then next, until you finish up by sniping out bad guys from the top of a building. It’s pretty intense and the sheer adrenaline value should keep you playing for quite some time. Once the story is done, you’ll be able to replay all the levels to unlock a bunch of hidden extras. While none of these are particularly good, it’s great to have a way to replay your favorite levels on multiple difficulties. There are also challenges to compete, such as make it through a course without hitting any scenery, or kill a boss in a limited amount of time. These are tough and rewarding, although oddly enough beating them won’t help you unlock any of the games many secrets. All in all, the main story should take you upwards of ten hours, and the extra modes, which are worth playing, can help lengthen the experience quite a bit. You’re bound to get at least twenty hours out of this game, which is pretty good for a straight up action title.

Pursitforce21There’s nothing here that hasn’t been done before. This is a sequel after all. In lieu of originality, Pursuit Force has two things going for it. First, its portable, which means you can take the action on the road. The game was designed bottom up to be on the PSP and it shows. There is a well crafted checkpoint system, and the missions are generally the perfect lengths for short car rides or burst gaming. It’s also a fantastic sequel. It builds on the foundation that the first game created, trying to fix the bugs and add some spice to the recipe. It’s true that if shooting is your game, then something like Siphon Filter would be the better buy, but there’s no denying that Pursuit Force is a ton of fun and better suited for the portable realm. A little ad-hoc multiplayer doesn’t hurt either.

One of the major issues with the first game was its difficulty. I love a good challenge like the next guy, but it was ridiculous. Levels often required complete mastery of the controls and perfect execution, which given the design and controls wasn’t easy to do. Enemies got more and more aggressive as the game went on. There was a pretty sizeable backlash over the difficulty, so this time around the developers put in some options. You can chose, at any time, to switch from three different difficulty settings; casual, experienced, and expert. These are supposed to play out like easy, medium, and hard, but instead end up being medium, hard, and downright evil. I thought this was great. Even on casual mode there is a good challenge to be had playing this game. You won’t be able to go in guns blazing and expect to live. You’ll have to watch what’s going on and gage your health and time closely. This also adds to the games replay value in that you’ll want to see just how hard it gets and how well you can do. If you played the first game, you can be safe on experienced, but if you missed out, check your ego and play on casual. Your time spent playing will be less frustrating.

This game is easy to recommend to any PSP owner. It’s got a ton of action going on throughout and goes balls to the wall 90% of the time. It’s a great sequel to a decent game. It’s got its issues, which keep it from being truly great, but if you love a good challenge and some fast paced fun, than you can’t go wrong with Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice.

The Scores
Story: Mediocre
Graphics: Very Good
Sound: Decent
Control and Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Very Good
Balance: Great
Originality: Bad
Addictiveness: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Very Good
Miscellaneous: Great




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