Review by Gruel
"Vic Mackey reporting to save the day, as usual, just not on the PS2"
Let me preface this review by saying that I am a huge fan of the hit FX late night cop drama, The Shield. I have seen nearly every episode and own most of the DVD season sets thus far. When this video game was first announced back in 2003, I was ecstatic. However, as 2003 and 2004 progressed, and after numerous delays, the video game rendition of The Shield was placed on hiatus. I was bummed the game was never going to see the light of day. Then earlier this year I was shocked to see the game available for sale as I walked into a local retailer. As it turns out, its publisher Aspyr bought the rights to the game and picked up where the previous developers left off.
The game is set in between seasons three and four. Right before Glenn Hope joins the cast as the new Captain of the Farmington station, and right after Lem and Shane quit the Strike Team. Unfortunately, Lem is completely absent from the game minus the opening television recap, but Shane is here on his last days of duty for Farmington before his transfer to Vice. Captain Asceveda, Dutch, Claudette, Julian, and Danni are all here in minimal supporting roles.
The Shield is a straight up action game. Gameplay is very accessible and I had the hang of the controls within about 15 minutes. You only play as the lead character in the series, Vic Mackey (though Strike Team members Shane & Ronnie do assist you on certain missions), which is disappointing as it would have been cool to play mini-missions as the other Strike Team members or interrogate criminals with Dutch & Claudette. There are a few fun chase sequences in the game, and Vic can be stealthy by leaning against walls and walking at a slow crouch, but for the most part you'll be running and gunning throughout the game.
The gunplay gets the job done, although it isn't exceptional by any means as Vic goes into an over the shoulder viewpoint when drawing out his gun, ala Resident Evil 4. Vic can also go into hand to hand combat mode in order to beat up scum so they can give up vital information, although the fighting functions a bit clunky and hit detection can get ridiculous at moments.
Vic has a heat meter that will rise when he walks the fine line of being a police officer when he unlawfully attacks surrendering criminals or uses too much force. It can be lowered by planting weapons and drugs on criminals or by stashing evidence away at the Farmington station. However, just like Vic and the rest of the Strike Team, you can store some of that recovered money and use it for the Strike Team's retirement fund. This sounds like an interesting setup, but there doesn't seem to be any real incentive by building up the retirement fund, and the heat meter doesn't work all that well. There were a couple situations where I had to restart some levels because my heat meter kept going up after I was defending myself by returning very minimal gunfire.
Despite all its faults, The Shield still plays like a barely decent action game. When playing this I felt like this could have been a very good game for the genre ..about a good five or six years ago anyways. It just seemed like the developers could have done so much more to make it more exciting like by adding the ability to swap team members mid mission or add in co-operative play for two players.
Visually, The Shield has mixed results. Some of the main characters for the game like Vic and Shane have some amazing attention to detail for their faces and are animated incredibly well. Other cast members, not so much. A lot of the bars, mansions, factories, and apartment complexes the game takes place in do not stand out all that well with very basic textures that give off a very flat atmosphere for the game. The only exception to that is that the Farmington station (also known as The Barn in the show) is detailed very nicely, as it seemed the developers got nearly everything inside that building from the old church glass windows to the lock up cage in the game. On a lesser note, I do like how the developers tried to mix in some of the show's trademark amateur/handicam shots in the cutscenes.
Nearly all the characters from the show are here to voice their roles in the game, and they do a terrific job to boot. The only hold out is CCH Pounder (who portrays Claudette), and in her place we get a horrible sound-a-like. The musical score didn't impress me a whole lot, other than The Shield theme that plays in the menu of course. Some thunderous beats randomly kick in during levels and in some instances they help add to the gameplay and more often they just don't add anything.
I really wanted to like The Shield. I toughed it out because the cutscenes were produced pretty good and I wanted to get everything I could out of the story arc for the show (especially knowing that there is just one more season left for the TV series). The gameplay isn't particularly good by any means; it is just on the low end of average. I completed the game in just under seven hours and was hoping for some sweet unlockable content, but other than a bunch of cutscenes (some not from the game) there is zilch. Unless you're a Shield enthusiast like me, you'll be safe passing on this one.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 07/30/07
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