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Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice

 

Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice

ESRB: Teen - T
Platform: PSP
Category: Action Games
 
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7.5
7.25
 
Author:

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Bigbig Studios

Features

Players: 4
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Memory Stick Duo: 624KB
PSP Headset Compatible
Wi-Fi Compatible (Ad Hoc)
Wi-Fi Compatible (Infrastructure)

Less than two years following the release of the original Pursuit Force on the PSP its sequel finally arrives. Developed by Bigbig Studios, it is clear from the get-go Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice was made with the Sony’s portable console in mind, even though it is set to arrive on the PS2 sometime later this year. Not having played the original game I was very curious to see what all the hoopla was about. Granted, many months ago I had seen some of the screenshots of the game and they looked somewhat promising, nevertheless I still questioned how the game would play out and whether it would be another disappointment in a long line of sequel based games. Fortunately Extreme Justice works on almost every level and on it's own it is certainly one of the more enjoyable games on the PSP released lately. That being said, I did have some issues with it and I am left with the feeling there is still room for improvement.

Graphics

As far as the visuals are concerned Extreme Justice is a good looking game. I was actually caught off guard a little with how the game looks on the PSP’s LCD screen. The opening cut-scene of the villain’s crashing a wedding looks great and sets the tempo right off the hop. In fact most, if not all, of the cut-scenes are quite impressive featuring unique and slick looking characters, detailed vehicles, and cool looking locales. I only wished we could have seen more cut-scenes as opposed to the simple graphical comic book like portraits of Pursuit Force characters featured in-between the games missions. That being said it will only take you a matter of minutes before you can tell a considerable amount of time and effort went into making the game look fantastic. It certainly pays off and it appears Extreme Justice does a formidable job of maximizing the PSP’s hardware. Even the transition from cut-scene to in-game play is very smooth and not much is lost in the way of visuals.

The special effects in Extreme Justice are also worth mentioning. Everything from vehicles exploding, smoke from explosions, dust from tires spinning, and weapon effects all pack a punch and look as good as anything we have seen on the PSP thus far. I was even impressed with how the damage starts to build on the vehicles as I didn’t expect that kind of detail in an arcadish handheld game. Technically speaking the frame rate was pretty solid. There are many action filled moments during the game with lots of action happening on the screen with gun fire, explosions and hordes of moving vehicles, yet the game suffers from no noticeable slow down.

On the downside, as you progress through the game some of the environments start to look like earlier levels which gives you the feeling that many of the locales have been recycled. The on-foot mission's environments come across as bland too. In terms of the AI characters, there seems to be a lot of similarities with many of the enemy AI characters. It is not a major concern but perhaps a little bit more variety would have been the order here. Overall, I believe the majority of gamers who give Extreme Justice a spin will be pleased with the visuals as they represent one of the better looking PSP games in the last year or so.

Sound

As far as the sound is concerned, Extreme Justice is pretty solid. Sure it won’t blow your socks off but really it does the job. If I have any issue in the audio department it is that nothing really stands out for me as it isn’t anything we haven’t heard before. The overall sound effects are decent with such things as gun fire and explosions sounding pretty much like they should. The orchestrated music score also works very well with the game too. The soundtrack is typical and on par with any other action based game already on the market. The voice acting is a little corny and over the top but considering the nature of the game this was clearly done on purpose and seems to suit the characters and overall theme. Any mature gamer will pick up on all the stereotypes and may very well be shaking their head at some of the dialogue, as I know I did quite a few times. Don’t expect a serious or dark action game though as it is more of a afternoon popcorn matinee action game and the sound really makes it feel as such.

Gameplay

Extreme Justice has you taking on the role of a Cop Commander of a special police unit known as the Pursuit Force. Your job is to take down Capital Cities major gangs which include The Syndicate (a band of armed bank robbers), Raiders (Pirates who only seem interested in stealing cargo), Vipers (a corrupt and rival police division to Pursuit Force unit), and two returning gangs from the original Pursuit Force, The Warlords and Convicts. These latter two gangs have escaped from jail and are now terrorizing the city. Extreme Justice features more than 50 criminal cases set among seven distinct environments. Your objective is to essentially complete the missions and eliminate the bosses. You will have access to 12 different vehicle types which include hovercrafts and boss vehicles that are each unique and specifically designed for boss encounter missions. The introductory cut-scene has you about to marry your bride to be. Of course you are dedicated to your job as you are still wearing your blue police suit. Just before vows are shared a bus load of convicts runs amuck and destroys the wedding. And so the game begins with a flurry of police chases and non-stop fast paced action. Overall, the story is decent as there is a lot going on but ultimately, the game doesn't require you to follow it as there is enough action to keep your interest up thus making it secondary to the gameplay itself.

As I indicated above Extreme Justice features multiple main acts with many stages in each one. The single player story should take you anywhere from 7-10 hours to complete on normal. I got stuck in a number of areas but through trial and error, and some patience, I eventually managed to get through the various stages. One great aspect of the game is the varied missions. Aside from police pursuits and shooting down baddies; you will also find yourself operating a turret in a helicopter, fleeing in a cargo truck, shooting from the back of police cruiser, manning a sniper rifle, and jumping from one vehicle to another just to name a few bits of what you will be doing. Extreme Justice is definitely not your typical shooter or action based racer as it has a bit of everything all rolled up into one big package. I really enjoyed the fact that you never knew what you were going to get from one mission to the next and the variety certainly kept my interest up. However this variance in missions also comes with a price as some of the missions are problematic and frustrating to say the least. For instance, operating the turret gun in the helicopter is quite twitchy making it hard to control and it can take some getting used too. Now, I have never operated a real-life helicopter turret so I can't speak from experience but it was extremely difficult to target your enemy as the turret gun seemed to swing all over the place. Operating the sniper rifle on the helicopter is also problematic. Both issues may be attributed to the PSP's analog nub as I believe that I would have had no problems playing the game on a regular console using a regular controller. Nevertheless I felt a little finer tuning could have occurred with the controls.

Probably the single most enjoyable aspect of the game is the jumping from one vehicle to another. Some of stages force you to do this in order just to survive the onslaught from the gangs. It quite simple as all you need to do is pull up close enough to the enemy vehicle, wait for an icon to appear on-screen and then you then press the circle button to leap from your car to the other car. When you land on the vehicle you unload your weapon at point blank range and subsequently take ownership of the vehicle your on. After a few vehicle jumps it becomes relatively easy to perform but it is quite essential for your survival. You won’t be strictly jumping from cars as Extreme Justice features jumping from motorcycles, hovercrafts, and boats as well. The process is very smooth and is arguably the most enjoyable aspect of the game.

The majority of your time in Extreme Justice is spent taking down gangs. The simplest way to take out the enemy AI is to get close enough to their cars and fire your sometimes twitchy weapon with the 'R' trigger until the car or enemy's health is depleted and the vehicle explodes. In terms of the enjoyment factor, killing enemies does get old after awhile and some of the on foot missions are not much of a challenge. It is apparent that the developers did not fine tune latter During the on-foot missions the enemy AI flails about and does not offer up much of a challenge. And as mentioned earlier, the controls are sketchy. This also includes the auto aiming which can be troublesome at the best of times. Fortunately, we don’t have to play through many on-foot missions. The lack of enjoyment in these areas can be chalked up to the sheer variety of the gameplay and not wholly on the part of the developer’s laziness or PSP hardware. The developers had a number of different mechanics to work with and as such some areas are stronger than others.

Another area which is certainly a positive for the game is the health and vehicle damage meters as well as the power boosts. As you capture vehicles and take out enemies, a gauge in the top left-hand corner fills up. Likewise it gets depleted a little if you run into civilians. If you are able to fill the gauge all the way you can enter a 'Matrix' like mode. In this mode, your characters weapons seemingly do more damage and you are able to target enemies in mid air taking them out quickly. You can also hold the triangle button and give your vehicle and health a boost when you levels are depleted. It's these small details which add to the gameplay and create an overall enjoyable experience in Extreme Justice.

The boss fights that are integral to the game appear in the middle and at the end of every act in story mode. Just prior to the big boss fights you jump onto large vehicles such as fire trucks, trains, and even airplanes. You generally have to use a combination of the analog stick and timed circle button presses. While moving along the vehicles you shoot at enemies and duck their fire with the square button until you finally reach the boss. I won't spoil any of the boss fights, but I will say that the fights can be entertaining and enjoyable. After the boss fights, you are awarded “stars” which can be used at the Pursuit Force laboratory to upgrade your character in five different ways, including increasing the damage you inflict, decreasing the damage you take, and increasing the distance in which you can jump to other vehicles. It takes some time to top up all these areas and it is unlikely you will do so on your first run through the game.

An area of concern that I have, and something that is my biggest pet peeve in single player story mode, are the button pressing sequences. Extreme Justice features far too many unoriginal 'press the button at the right time’ moments that appear on the screen. Fail to get the right combination and you die. If you do die the screen subsequently loads and you start over again. It is incredibly frustrating and demonstrates only one’s proficiency at either memorizing the combinations or how well you know the PSP's button placements. I think the game could have benefited from a lot less of these sequences, if not any at all; however this is just my personal preference.

There are three levels of difficulty so if 'Normal Mode' is not much of a challenge you can try any of the two higher levels available. As you progress through the game you can go back to the main menu and replay certain stages in bounty mode. Here you are scored based on how well you do and are awarded “stars” so you can purchase new cheats, skins and vehicles from the shop. There is also an Ad-Hoc multiplayer mode for up to a maximum of four players. I did not get the chance to play much of this given that I had the only review copy amongst us crazy staff here at gameboyz.com.


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