A brief history of Police Quest

Posted by James Helstrom.
First posted on 05 November 1999. Last updated on 15 January 2014.
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Police Quest: Daryl F. Gates' Open Season
Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel
Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel
Police Quest 2: The Vengeance
Police Quest 2: The Vengeance
Police Quest 3: The Kindred

In 1987 a game company known as Sierra On-Line released a game called Police Quest. While not revolutionary in design (the first game of the series used the propriety AGI (Adventure Game Interpreter) interface which was considered to be the standard for adventure games at the time), the game was revolutionary in concept. Police Quest was the first game to accurately depict the occupation of a police officer. Not emphasizing on shootouts in its gameplay (firing your gun when the use of it was uncalled for could end the game), the Police Quest series forced the gamers to rely on their instinct and common sense to succeed in the game, rather than thinking up the best ways to wipe out the baddies.

Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel (1987)

Created in 1987 with the assistance of retired police officer Jim Walls, this first game in the Police Quest series succeeded in setting the standard for realistic, modern storylines. In Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel, you take control of the protagonist Sonny Bonds, a veteran police officer in the city of Lytton, California. Drug trafficking is becoming an increasingly common event in Lytton. The center of the drug community is a man known only as "The Death Angel". The graphics and gameplay in this game are similar to the other games of the time from Sierra On-Line (such as games from the Space Quest and King's Quest series). The sound is also similar and plays using the internal speaker. Yet, the one thing that sets this game apart from the others is the driving interface. Sonny has the ability to patrol Lytton in his squad car. He can roam freely through the city and chase down speeders and drunk drivers. In addition, the puzzles are different than the average "find item A, use on location B" puzzles. Sonny is forced to follow strict police procedures at all times. Forget to search a suspect? You are dead. Forget to leave your gun in the locker outside of the jail? You are dead. Forget to load your gun? Well, you get the picture.

Police Quest 2: The Vengeance (1988)

Following on the heels of the successful debut title for the series, Police Quest 2: The Vengeance was published a year later with improved graphics and soundtrack but also with the horrid copy protection. While waiting in prison for a re-trial, Jesse Bains (the "Death Angel" from the first game) kidnaps a guard, escapes from jail, and goes on a rampant to seek revenge on the people who have put him behind bars. The graphics in this game are vastly improved (though Sonny has blonde hair?!) and are on par to other Sierra On-Line titles such as Space Quest III: Pirates of Pestulon and King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella. The game still operates via a parser interface. The major difference between this game and the original game, however, is the revised driving system. Gone is the manual driving system. You now travel to the location you want to go to by getting into your car and typing the name of the location, after which you are automatically driven there.

Police Quest 3: The Kindred (1991)

A long 3 years had passed after the last game before Police Quest 3: The Kindred wass released. With superior graphics than the both previous games, this sequel is a definite step-up. Sonny's wife has been viciously stabbed in a parking lot mall, and Sonny has to deal with a loose cannon police officer. All the while, a cartel is closing in on Lytton selling drugs and committing bizarre murders. The most obvious change in this game is the then revolutionary but now familiar icon system which since has become the standard interface for many adventure games. Again, new to this game is a brand new driving interface. No longer are you confined to only driving back and forth between locations, you can once more freely cruise the city of Lytton. Another new feature is motion captured actors on which character animations are based. This game is also the final game in the Police Quest series that designer Jim Walls has helped to create.

Police Quest: Daryl F. Gates' Open Season (1993)

With designer Jim Walls gone, Sierra On-Line needed a new person to take the helm of the Police Quest series. Their search led to retired LAPD police chief Daryl Gates who agreed to be involved in the development of the game series. The graphics in Police Quest: Daryl F. Gates' Open Season are totally different than any of the previous games of the series. Sierra On-Line uses digitized actors for this game, giving the characters realistic appearances. The icon-based interface remains mostly unchanged. The story in this sequel bares no similarity to the previous titles. The protagonist is no longer Sonny Bonds and the setting is no longer Lytton. Set in Los Angeles, the player is now in control of John Carey, a young LAPD homicide detective whose best friend has been murdered while on assignment. This sequel contains many more locations than all previous games and has many more characters with whom the player can interact.

Much controversy had surrounded the series since the day when Gates ousted Walls as the consultant for the series. Although the reasons behind this decision remained buried today, such a decision would have not been an easy one, according to John Williams, brother of Ken Williams, "The decision to use Gates wasn't an easy one. This was well over a year ago now, and the film clips of LA burning on CNN were still pretty fresh in everyone's memory. A lot of Sierra people come from the Los Angeles area so there were some pretty strong negative opinions against Gates early on. But the more Ken learned about the Chief, the more he got to like him, and really believed that he was the right man for the job."

The Future

As of the date this article is written, Police Quest: Daryl F. Gates' Open Season is the last adventure game in the Police Quest series. There have since been 3 other games wearing the Police Quest name. The first game, Police Quest: SWAT, is an attempted hybrid of first person shooter and simulation. The second game, Police Quest: SWAT 2, is a real-time strategy title. The third game, SWAT 3: Close Quarters Battle, has not yet been released but is a squad based first person shooter. There have been petitions to revive the Police Quest adventure series. A former lead designer of the series, Susan Frischer, has been quoted as being open to the possibility of creating another Police Quest adventure title. Personally, I hope that the Police Quest series can end with an adventure game, though with the direction Sierra On-Line is now going, the odds of this dream happening are decreasing by the day.

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