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Virtua Cop 2 (Saturn) artwork

Virtua Cop 2 (Saturn) review


"Grace under fire."



Despite being a graphically impressive set piece for its day, sometimes I think, in retrospect, Virtua Cop 2 and its predecessor doesn't get as much respect as the other 90s Sega arcade titles. Perhaps the main reason is the fact that it's an on-rails light gun game, which many perceive as a very simple-minded genre, especially nowadays with first-person shooters, allowing for much more freedom, being one of the top money-makers in the medium. Possibly another reason it's looked upon as a relic is the progression of the genre since its release, with the help of such games as Time Crisis and its cover mechanic, the much more popular Sega IP, The House of the Dead, featuring gorier deaths and detachable body parts, and the gimmicky Silent Scope and its sniper rifle peripheral. I guess if one were to reach, Virtua Cop 2 doesn't do anything overtly amazing in terms of play mechanics, delivering pretty much an experience not unlike many light gun releases that came before.



Maybe some of these points are spot-on, and when all's said and done, the game does stick to the standard template, shooting countless baddies popping out from questionably small hiding spots, pretty firmly. But that doesn't stop this light-gun title from still being an entertaining product, and what Virtua Cop 2 lacks in innovation, the game certainly makes up for with fierce, pressuring gun play. Though each of the three selectable stages start out on a rightfully slow burn, they quickly spiral into a cluster of thugs and terrorists springing from corners, vents, counters, elevators, and what not in a desperate attempt to hit your police officer. At first, this all seems to be a garbled mess of enemies appearing at once to get hurt by your weapon without repercussions on your part, but then you realize that's just part of the deception.

The mayhem is actually well-planned out, punishing players that assume they can get away with blindly firing into a particular location. The Virtua Cop games have this thing called a Lock-On Sight, which encircles enemies that pose immediate hazards, and the devs here really used it to their advantage to make sure players are being attentive. Usually, you get situations where three or four shooters pop up almost simultaneously, and clearly you hit the one with the Lock-On first, right? Well, some goons have a tendency to jump out while yelling "HEY!", and if you give in to your instinct to react, you then see them quickly disappear, and the horrifying realization that it was a trap, an opportunity for another person to shoot you.

One other counter the game likes to perform is have enemies appear one after another, after you shoot them, in speedy succession. Guess what happens sometimes? Yup, a civilian. A favorite antic that occurs consistently, too, is the intentional inability of the camera to keep up with the Lock-On, normally catching something just off-screen, and only giving you a literal second to respond once the threat is seen. Now imagine all three of these strategies working in unison in any given area, and you begin to realize the often blistering tempo Virtua Cop 2 moves at, though more so in the Medium and Expert stages. This light-gun romp might have stuck to the basic play mechanics a little too closely, but AM2 was determined to deliver one that was worth your time and skill.



The engaging gun play is also sometimes wrapped around pretty exciting scenarios, as well as doing an awesome job pushing the Saturn's capabilities. One scene places you in, on, and around a moving train where your officer walks through passenger cars, fends off a helicopter, and, in one alternative route, race beside the train in a police vehicle. And while the whole game is loaded with destructible environments and objects, an almost unheard of occurrence in 3D games for its time of release, the Medium stage is particularly filled with fun ones; ceiling monitors, computers, payphones, bottles, and watermelons can easily be blown to pieces with a single bullet.

But then there's the money shot, the one moment which everyone that's ever played or watched Virtua Cop 2 immediately associates with the game: stage one's car chase segment. I mean, you have everything you can think could occur in a video game police pursuit, from chasing after a big van, civilians running for cover, and a helicopter, to hostages screaming for help, motorcyclists, car wrecks, and explosions. It sounds terribly cliche, but it's genuine, simple fun when you can shatter windshields, break off rear bumpers, flatten tires, and even have some cars comically flip off screen as it all happens.

The chase was great in the arcades, and, squashing fears that it wouldn't translate well with the Saturn's hardware, is quite the accomplishment on the console. There are rarely any visible issues with this segment on the system, with pop-up being surprisingly minimal and far off, and the framerate only makes a slight drop when a bunch of vehicles and characters appear on screen. There's also some visual trickery with really distant buildings and explosions actually being 2D images, but AM2 banked on the player being too engulfed in the action to realize. Even if you notice, they're actually not much of a distraction, fitting quite well with the surroundings. As far as I'm concerned, this is easily one of the Saturn's crowning achievements in a 3D title.



It's just a shame there aren't a whole lot of legitimate bonus content in the port, like an extra stage or two for added value. You have basic stuff like a ranking mode for score lovers, a mirror option to flip the screen, and even a silly extra that gives enemies big heads, though, you need to play the game a little over 50 times to activate that last one... Sega's biggest problem with how they handled their ports, which carried well into the Dreamcast era, is that they were sufficient with delivering straightforward conversions with little additional content. So, in the end, while a solid port job, is still a port job of an arcade title that concludes in 30 minutes. Still, if you're into this genre, you're getting a worthwhile experience that's aged pretty well thanks to gripping gun play. Not bad for a supposed basic game.

Rating: 7/10

pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (May 04, 2014)

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