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Undercover Cops (Arcade) artwork

Undercover Cops (Arcade) review

"Now, I don't know what the game's title, Undercover Cops, has to do with anything, since this Irem beat 'em up have zero situations that involve going under a different identity. Would've made for a humorous bonus stage, though. Thankfully, we don't play games in this particular genre for logic, and to my delight, the developers made sure to toss gamers into absurd circumstances, as has been noted with Mr. Fire Crotch."

Being the quintessential buff, manly-man, you decide to take a stroll through the city streets, because sidewalks are for wimps. You're also donning an American football get-up, due to your past association with the sport professionally, and by that logic, should wear the uniform at all times. Suddenly... motorcycles! Dozens of them!! Of course, you were bound to run into traffic, what with your choice of travel. You destroy them left and right, timing your attacks to coincide with their variations in speed. Why? Because today the streets belong to Matt Gables, ex-football star! Before long, you find yourself in a factory, beating its inhabitants to a bloody pulp until you reach the other end of the building. Now what? A red carpet welcome, obviously. And the person to greet you is a magician, clearly. But he won't pull a rabbit out of a hat, instead going on the offense with spinning attacks, sprung boxing gloves, and, best of all, a fire-breathing dragon head attached to his crotch. Defeat this loony and you'll witness that very same crotch on fire, quickly engulfing his entire body, and reducing the one-trick pony to a skeletal figure.

No, this isn't some abstract block party, welcome to a city with a horrifying crime rate, where streets and buildings lay in ruins, and freaks terrorize without much resistance. That is, until an idea came about at a sleazy meeting with the mayor and his consultants: send three "city sweepers", Zan the ex-karate master, Matt the ex-football player, and Rosa the "ex-female vigilante" (whatever the hell that means) into the very depths of madness and hope they come out victorious. All three have dreadful pasts, since the development team wanted us to know for some reason, and are also ridiculously strong enough to be up for the task. Now, I don't know what the game's title, Undercover Cops, has to do with anything, since this Irem beat 'em up have zero situations that involve going under a different identity. Would've made for a humorous bonus stage, though. Thankfully, we don't play games in this particular genre for logic, and to our delight, the developers made sure to toss gamers into absurd circumstances, as has been noted with Mr. Fire Crotch.

Undercover Cops doesn't waste time, either, as demonstrated by the first stage's sea side location. Walk a few feet to the right and beat down a few thugs that came straight out of a Mad Max movie, then spy on crows hovering over the unknown. Closer observations reveal skeletal remains underneath, and a quick assessment of the area shows skeletons hanging from steel beams in the foreground. All to the beat of a snazzy tune, I might add. The game doesn't shy away from its grim premise, staying true to the gritty nature seen in other Irem titles of the era; the characters are rugged and look like they haven't showered in days, not to mention the abundance of wear and tear on display with objects and buildings. Of course, just when Undercover Cops gives the impression of a purely modern, but bleak setting, a hulking bastard with a mechanical arm pops out from nowhere... then it turns out he's actually an android after a few poundings, who you can completely annihilate by pushing under a crusher at the right moment.

It's these things, these little touches, that define Undercover Cops and allow it to stand out from the dozen or so other beat 'em ups with similar crime wave plots. You'll get a kick out of Zan using his legs in most instances, reserving his hands for important things like bitch slapping fools that walk up to him. Or gaze as Rosa rips out a lengthy steel beam from the ground, easily holding it with one arm and attacking unfortunate criminals with fierce strength. Take on a gang of scantly-clad women on a deteriorating bridge, who only hop around on one leg, then fight their leader, a, um, big woman that rattles the pavement with brute force, reduced to a raging cry baby as the battle winds down. Not ending there, the third stage sends you to an underground lair, where you face mole people! They bounce and use spin attacks to keep you at bay, but time your counters right and be treated to deaths where moles combust into smoothly-animated pieces of spatter. They don't give up easily, too, resorting to group dance attacks and planting mines in sand!

This is all delivered with basic beat 'em up mechanics, however: one attack button, one jump, a special move occurs when both are pressed, enemies are automatically held when you get really close, and so on. Doesn't mean Undercover Cops just hands you victories, as walking up to a thug and endlessly tapping the attack button will backfire. You'll still need to wait for the right opportunity in most cases and also incorporate the time-tested method of crowd control when an area fills with baddies. In terms of gameplay, if you're searching for something unique, you won't find it here. The game kinda attempts it with a scoring system that encourages players to fight each enemy with different attacks rather than the same maneuver repeatedly, as this nets a bigger score, which in turn could gain some extra lives. Nothing game-changing. But, if you just want an entertaining experience, Undercover Cops delivers.

The game has an Achilles' heel, unfortunately, the final stage. It's here where Undercover Cops stops being a fun ride and starts acting like your typical quarter cruncher. The level is incredibly lengthy for a beat 'em up, and worse, wears out its welcome quickly by making you go through gauntlets against the same standard enemies you've been handling for the past four stages. You're likely to give up halfway due to boredom, especially when you board the longest helicopter ever, spanning the size of a football stadium. We should be thankful this stunt is pulled at the end, chalking it up either to laziness or an idea that sounded much better on paper. It doesn't tarnish the rest of Undercover Cops... because we all know a game featuring perverse magicians, mole people, a cry baby, and the hopes and dreams of a city riding on the success of a football player-turned-crime fighter demands our utmost respect.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (February 26, 2012)

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