Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice
Over-the-top and entertaining action romp.
Make it big! Make it brash! Make it Hollywood! You'd be forgiven for thinking that this was the mantra behind developer Bigbig Studios' latest PSP outing, Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice, but you'd probably be right. Imagine your favourite car chase scenes from Ronin, The Matrix or The Italian Job.
Now imagine them rolled up into one and you'll have a good idea of this game's raison d'etre. In videogame terms, this is Crazy Taxi side-slamming Burnout and then rear-ending Full Auto, only souped-up on steroids with a hangover and a sense of humour to boot. Whilst the devco's parent company, Evolution Studios, has been garnering all the attention with its acclaimed next-gen racing title Motorstom, perhaps the real evolution in driving terms is here.
In a game such as this, the plot is usually secondary: an innocent bystander, only serving to wrap up all the technical wizardry and set-piece action; solely providing a means to an end and enabling the developers to flex their muscles and show off their engines. It's a credit then that this is not the case here. Much thought has been given to the scenarios and missions, with an interesting storyline and a varied bunch of characters to boot. All to be expected though when dedicated script writers are employed. Whilst it might not win any Oscars it will keep you entertained, even if it is a little far-fetched. Heck, make that a lot far-fetched.
You are a member of Pursuit Force, a no-nonsense, crack law-enforcement team where zero-tolerance, high-speed take-downs are very much the order of the day. Our story begins on your wedding day. Would you believe it but on the very day you are due take Sarah (another Pursuit Force operative) to be your lawfully wedded wife, a bunch of convicts escape from jail intent on gate-crashing (literally) the event. You couldn't make this stuff up, only the scriptwriters penning the plot obviously have. So with the wedding postponed it's off to your vehicles to start your engines and the first mission begins.
With one button to accelerate and another to brake, this is not the most taxing of racers. But then to think of it in such terms is to miss the point entirely - this is anything but your standard racing game. It is in fact more reminiscent of the old-school Chase HQ than almost anything else out today. This is high energy, high octane action - the constant radio chatter from your captain and other team members providing instruction and insight and driving you forward, urging you to keep the pace. As reflected by the forgiving handling mechanics, driving is simple, smooth and accomplished. This despite there being many different vehicles on offer (from cars, to bikes, to hovercraft) with each providing a slightly different feel.
Catching up with the convicts (whom conveniently belong to a gang called The Convicts) requires high-speed pursuit, avoiding oncoming vehicles and obstructions. Once within range you can take them out by ramming them continually, shooting with your currently equipped weapon or via the Matrix-style crème-de-la-creme car-jump move. This will place you hanging on to the bonnet or the boot of your enemies' car letting you take them out from close range. This is not all plain-sailing though as whilst car-jumping is quicker than shooting from distance it exposes you to your enemies gunfire. This can be compensated for though by performing an evade manoeuvre to dip down low on the car, hanging out of reach over the side or behind the boot. Handy but impractical as you cannot return fire whilst in this position.
As 'wow!' as car-jumping is, it only gets better once your Justice bar is full. The more enemies you take-down, the quicker this fills. Car-jumping once full will slow-down the jump allowing you to take out your enemies whilst you are leaping through the air and onto their moving vehicle. As I said - wow! The Justice bar has other uses too. Should you or your vehicles health get too low, you can use some Justice to recharge it. Or you can unleash a volley of rockets when manning the helicopter's mounted gun.
You see, as well as the chase scenes (which are themselves varied in design) there are other types of level too. These involve providing covering sniper fire; controlling mounted machine guns and taking out conveys and oncoming rocket attacks; and also controlling your Pursuit Force operative in a third-person over-the-shoulder perspective style shooter. It should be noted though that this on-foot section is the game's weakest element. When there are already many other games out there that provide this type of gameplay faultlessly, the decision to include it half-heartedly in a title that already excels elsewhere is a mystery, bringing down the overall level of the package ever so slightly.
And then there are the bosses. Usually this involves weakening a vehicle in some way so that you can jump on to it to take out the head honcho. When boiled-down these encounters are little more than timing exercises (shoot off a few bullets as quick as possible, perform an evade makeover to dodge the enemies attacks, shoot a few more bullets, ad infinitum) they are made memorable by the thrill of their locations - duelling atop a moving fire-truck or on a departing airplane for instance.
If you hadn't gathered, Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice is great fun. A favourite mission involves capturing one of these bosses and then strapping him to the bonnet of your car, driving him around until you - ahem - persuade him to talk. Pick it up and play and you'll likely find it will raises your pulse in a similar way. Without such extreme measures of persuasion of course.