Through the years I tried to follow the game collecting scene. As new games came out, older games grew in nostalgia. New collectors joined the ranks of retro gamers, and with the rise of social media and YouTube there were so many outlets to learn about new old games. Browsing through countless “Hidden Gems” and “Best PS1 Games You Never Played” posts, a few titles came up time and again that made me think, “I gotta try that”. Despite new games releasing weekly, old games are always old, and always there. Games sitting in the collection are always a play away. So this past week I dusted off one of those recommended PS1 games and gave it a try.
Future Cop LAPD is a futuristic action game imagining what the streets of Los Angeles would look like in the year 2098 (100 years from the publishing of the game). It’s hard to think we’ll have officers riding around in giant blue and white mechs doling out “Justice” to criminals in just 75 years from now, but I suppose stranger things have happened. Thankfully video games do not need to abide by the laws of logic and we can live and play in a fantasy world created by Electronic Arts, of all people. Quick side note, this is the first game developed by EA Redwood Shores, a studio that would eventually morph into Visceral Games. That’s right: the same Visceral Games behind the Dead Space series and the decent James Bond games of the PS2 era. Huzzah!
The story mode is a single player assault on bad guys in SoCal with excessive force. I really don’t know any other way to describe it: you’ll be running and gunning thorough the streets, on top of buildings, and even in water. A series of weapons in you arsenal include a machine gun, rockets, mortars, lasers, land mines, and more. Throughout each stage you’ll find ammo and ammo upgrades for a variety of weapons, which can be altered in your loadout between stages. The X-1 Alpha you pilot can also convert from it’s bi-pedal assault form to a more standard police car, all Transformers style. Awkward platforming but responsive controls are present, and a large boss battle accentuates each stage. It’s so 90s and so over the top it’s hard not to love it.
Interestingly, and perhaps more notably, Future Cop includes an alternate game mode called Precinct Assault. I was shocked to find this mode to be a MOBA. I mean that literally: you can play multiplayer if you want, and there are PCs opponents too. In this game mode you’re trying to destroy your opponents precinct base by advancing forward, taking out small mobs of enemies, capturing guard towers and turrets, and hoping your opponent doesn’t do the same to you. It was a bit clunky on the PS1 and with the game’s controls in general, but this was a pleasant surprise. Looking online some are calling Future Cop LAPD the very first MOBA ever. Releasing in 1998, that’s about 5 years before Warcraft III’s spinoff MOBA Defense of the Ancients was even a thing. Double Huzzah!
Mini-review aside, I see what folks are saying when they mention this game as a hidden gem. It has a lot of qualities that set it apart from other action games on the Playstation. A more mature theme makes it edgy and fitting of the Playstation brand at the time. Apocalyptic futures are fun to play in games as evidenced by the multitude of games that still do precisely that in today’s gaming culture. Controls are a bit tanky, but you’re quite literally controlling a tank; and even then things feel manageable and fun. Rounding things out are a solid soundtrack and sound design. Combining all these things together and you’ve got a winner for a “Hidden Gem.”
Would I consider this game a hidden gem on the PS1? That likely comes down to how you’d define a “Hidden Gem”. I think the game reviewed well, but sources seem to point to it not selling all that well. Also, aside from a PC/Mac conversion shortly after the PS1 release, the game hasn’t seen any ports as far as I know. That’s ripe for what you might consider hidden gem territory. The real kicker for me, though, is that the game was still fun to play in 2023. As a first time Future Cop player, I can legitimately say I had fun playing this. It was a decent surprise, and something I could see players liking when it first released. In retrospect, though, the game shines more. It has aspects that are ahead of its time and it holds up in the retro gaming landscape of being a still playable game, and not a garbled mess of visuals and poor controls.
Yeah, Future Cop: LAPD is a hidden gem. It’s also a game I likely wouldn’t have played unless others had recommended it over the years. It’s also a prime example of a game that stretched its legs thanks to word of mouth in the aftermarket. I love that about the game collecting community: genuine recommendations for others to enjoy a video game. What’s not to love?