If you haven’t played it yet, LA Cops is an ID@Xbox 1970s-themed finesse shooter, from English design team Modern Dream. Set in Los Angeles just around the time of your favorite kitschy cop shows, LA Cops puts you in charge of two detectives with itchy trigger fingers and a drive for justice. You’ll power through levels, taking out bad guys, watching your angles, and working together with your A.I. partner – all while taking in the wonderfully color-saturated 1970s look and feel of it all.
The game is the brainchild of Ollie Clarke, director of Modern Dream, and Xbox Wire was lucky enough to catch over a beer in a pub somewhere far, far away from the streets of Los Angeles. Here’s what he had to say about his new game.
Xbox Wire: Where did a mild-mannered Englishman such as yourself get the idea for LA Cops? How did you start building the game?
Ollie Clarke: Modern Dream had just finished working on Typing of the Dead for SEGA, and we were thinking, “We need to do something new!” We’re a very small team, obviously… but we managed to get investment to make a new game, and we pitched LA Cops as a top-down shooter for people who enjoy run-and-gun games. Top-down shooters, as you know, were really popular on platforms like the Amiga, and we really felt like it was time for them to make a comeback. We just thought, “Let’s give it a go.” We wanted to put the two-cop, strategic angle on it from the beginning, and just see if we could get it to work, and that’s really how we got started with the game.
Xbox Wire: Forgive me for saying this, but you seem a little young to have experienced 1970s cop shows yourself. How did you decide on LA Cops’ eye-catching aesthetic?
Ollie Clarke: That’s a really good question! I grew up in the UK, and in the ‘80s, what I used to watch were American TV shows from the ‘70s and ‘80s. We’re talking “Starsky & Hutch,” “Cagney & Lacey,” and all those kinds of shows. We knew it wasn’t real, and making the game, we knew that’s not what real Los Angeles was like… but we wanted to create something that was like the fantasy that those shows were trying to get across. And that’s what LA Cops is, it’s a fantasy.
Xbox Wire: Tell us a little bit about LA Cops’ characters, the different detectives you can play.
Ollie Clarke: You’ve got six cops to choose from: Kowalski is the jock, kind of a big, dumb idiot. His partner, who was high-maintenance, has just left him, because he was tired of living an impoverished cop’s lifestyle. Then there’s Murphy, who’s our “Cagney & Lacey.” All she’s ever wanted to be is a cop, and she’s doing the job. Then there’s her opposite, Williams, who somehow accidentally fell into being a cop, and all he really wants to do is eat donuts and get through the day. Borland, who’s seen too much of the rough side of life, has grown a bit cynical as a result. And you’ve got Katsuo, who’s a very by-the-book, straight-laced cop. And the most interesting one, to me, is Teddy Green: He’s a borderline-corrupt cop, who takes the law into his own hands, and his storyline is very much exploring what it means to be a cop, what the ethics that go into it are about.
Now, all the characters have their own attributes like health, speed, ammo capacity, and damage. They start with variations in those abilities, and then you can upgrade them as you get experience points playing the game.
Xbox Wire: And how do players earn experience? What does a game of LA Cops play like?
Ollie Clarke: Well, one of the things I love about LA Cops is that you never play the same game twice, even if you play the same level many times. Take the first level, where bad guys have holed up in the local donut shop. The way the A.I. is set up and the way you can attack the level from multiple directions, you’ll never get the same experience twice. You can go in sneaky and arrest the bad guys, which earns more points… or you can pull a Kowalski and go in guns-blazing. You can even be more strategic and place one cop on one door and another cop on the other door, then bust in, and take everybody down at the same time. Arresting all the bad guys in a level is a lot harder than just mowing them down, but either way earns you experience – you just get more for doing things the “right” way.
Xbox Wire: Given the fact that there are two cops on the player’s side, have you given any thought to adding a co-op mode?
Ollie Clarke: We’re a really small indie team, so our first priority was to make the single-player experience top notch. Right now, you control both cops at once, switching between the two at will. But now that the game’s out, local co-op – so you can sit on your couch, have some donuts and coffee and play with a friend – is a priority for us.
Xbox Wire: Awesome. So, what’s next for LA Cops? TV series? Downloadable content?
Ollie Clarke: Obviously a TV series! No, kidding. Obviously, our first priority is getting the co-op mode in the game and working great. Getting it functioning is the easy part, but making sure there’s a really fun, robust game experience in co-op is the challenge. So, that’s our first focus now, but obviously, we want to do more content for the game as we go along, too. As long as the players really enjoy it and take to it, we want to keep giving them more great stuff!