Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice
It crossed my mind while playing Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice that I may be doing more harm than good. Sure, I was foiling the plans of organised crime bosses and dealing high speed death to any criminal that crossed my path, but at what cost? As I sped through the city streets leaping from vehicle to vehicle I couldn't help wonder how much damage my abandoned cars were doing as they careered driverless into the nearest building at full pelt. Not only that, my high speed chases were leaving behind a trail of burning wrecks strewn across the carriageway that must be playing havoc with the rush hour traffic. Thankfully socially aware, conscientious policing isn't exactly encouraged in Pursuit Force; instead it's all about fun. In fact within seconds of those troubling thoughts entering my head I was leaping from my car once again, pulling out my guns as I flew through the air and delivering deadly headshots to the bank robbers leaning from the windows of the truck I was about to land on.
Extreme Justice is the sequel to the original Pursuit Force and, as with its forbearer, isn't a particularly original or high-brow game, in fact you could think of it as a kind of law enforcement themed Crazy Taxi with added guns. A fair chunk of the gameplay could be simply described as racing through the streets as fast as you can blasting enemies while avoiding civilian vehicles. It's not even set in an open-ended environment; instead every possible junction is blocked off by large impassable floating arrows. Hardly anything to get excited about in this day and age, so why exactly is it that I find myself enjoying it so much?
A lot of the credit for Pursuit Force's ability to be smile-inducing must go down to its one really unique feature, the ability to jump from vehicle to vehicle mid-chase. It's a simple idea, get close enough to another vehicle and you're able to leap onto it and take control killing the bad guy in the progress. But it proves to be constantly entertaining, providing a far more interesting way of taking out the bad guys than simply shooting at them from behind. It probably shouldn't make as much difference to things as it does, after all before and after each jump you're still just basically driving as fast as you can to catch up the next bad guy. But somehow, pulling off those death defying jumps with graceful ease at the press of a button just makes the whole thing so much more entertaining. It gets even better when you realise you can engage a kind of bullet time during the jump (assuming you've filled your Justice meter enough) allowing you to perform funky mid-air kills.
To keep things simple enemies are auto targeted so assuming you're close enough and facing in roughly the right direction they'll light up with a big circular target meaning you can just fire away without having the added worry of trying to aim while you concentrate on high speed driving. The vehicles themselves all handle well enough, as with the rest of the game we're talking very much the no-nonsense arcade end of the scale but that ease of control again all adds to the fun. It's not just cars you'll be asked to drive either, there's motorbikes, trucks and hovercraft thrown in for good measure at different points.
So far it may seem like we've got the perfect arcade combat racer on our hands and indeed if developers BigBig Studios had stopped here that may very well have been the case. Unfortunately there's a side to Extreme Justice that lets the overall game down, it all starts to go wrong when you're allowed to open the car door and take to the streets on foot. Enemies rush at you with all the subtlety of a brick yet seem able to inflict massively unfair levels of damage before you can take them out. These on foot sections appear to come from a completely different game and the whole painful experience immediately loses the fast elegantly polished feel of the driving sections.
There are fifty-odd missions making up the main single player story offering a wide range of twists on the basic driving and shooting idea as well as the less enjoyable on-foot missions. Along the way you'll come up against a number of epic boss battles. These highlights allow the game to get quite spectacularly over the top in the best tradition of arcade titles and include mid-air battles on the wing of a plane and shootouts on top of manically driven fire trucks.
Away from the main story you'll find one-off missions in the challenge mode and four multiplayer options to keep you busy. These multiplayer modes allow for both versus and co-op fun and there's something to be said for dealing justice as a team with one driving and one shooting. You can even play a traditional on foot deathmatch in the Rampage mode but as we've mentioned before the on foot sections are the worst part of the game so you'll probably not want to bother.
Graphically things look lovely and sharp with a bright visual style perfectly in keeping with the over the top arcade nature of the game. Loading times are pleasingly brief as well which keeps things flowing nicely and adds to the feeling of a game lovingly polished till it gleams. The voice acting is a bit ropy and the story is as daft as you'd expect but then who watches brainless action films for the quality of the dramatic performances and the Kafka-esque plotting?
As no-nonsense arcade thrills go Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice is something of a flawed diamond. Behind the wheel its huge fun and the jumping from car to car idea works so well you wonder why it's not been done before. The on foot sections however are awkward and frustrating enough to wipe the smile off your face every time they appear. At the end of it all though, the good outweighs the bad and while you get the feeling that come the third game in the series BigBig Studios may well have a classic on their hands, this second entry is still more than enough fun to warrant a look.