First posted on 05 April 2009. Last updated on 17 July 2010.
In Blue Force, you take on the role of a police rookie who faces his first days of fighting crimes, patrolling the city, and making the streets of Jackson Beach a safer place. Created by Jim Walls, a retired police officer in real life and the original designer of the Police Quest series (only to be ousted later, sadly, from Sierra On-Line and replaced by Daryl F. Gates), Blue Force is a short, linear, and predictable game that delivers only rare moments of action.
You are Jake Ryan, a young man who has chosen to carry on the family tradition to be a police officer. The game begins just after you have graduated from the academy as a rookie motorcycle cop. Your typical day starts with the morning briefing at the police headquarter, before you begin your work shift patrolling the streets. After a couple of days of routine patrols, following a crosscheck on some suspects, you discover an unexpected lead to your parents' murder from 10 years ago. Their murderer has never been found and the case is still unsolved. You ask for help from an old time friend, who has once taken care of you after your parents' death. With this new evidence, you seek to bring the murderer to justice, all the while uncovering an illegal conspiracy that is behind this hideous crime.
The production values in Blue Force are quite a mixed bag. The quality of the graphics is at best mediocre, with some lows but also few highs. Some painted backgrounds are well drawn, even if lacking in details. Others are quite poor, such as the jail scene at the end of the game. The characters are digitally scans of live actors. While the quality of these characters is equally lacking, their movements are very fluid, owing to the video capture technique that is used to animate them. The characters can walk, draw their guns, and even arrest their suspects in very realistic ways. The game includes a number of movie cut scenes for transitioning and for showing flashbacks about your character. Even though these pre-rendered cut scenes serve their purpose, the videos are quite poorly rendered and all are too pixelated. The overall look is simply below the standard, even for its time of release in 1993. The sound in Blue Force is also mediocre. It seems that it has been added rather carelessly, without serving any real purpose in the game. This is especially true for the background music that is rarely in sync with the ambiance during the dramatic scenes. The game has a few glitches, though none will prevent you from playing the game.
The gameplay in Blue Force suffers from many downsides, but it also has a few elements that prevent the game from sinking into oblivion. A major redeeming value is the realistic portrayal of police procedures in the game, such as the necessity to follow proper procedure to perform an arrest. If you stop to arrest a dangerous suspect and want to make it on your own, just like in real life, you probably end up dead! Instead, you want to call for backups via the police radio, by using the right codes. For example, you may have to call for a 10-25 or a 10-35, depending on the situation. Other interaction with a suspect is not as realistic. For example, a big bad guy may be mouthing off at you and wanting to kill you in a horrible way; yet, a minute later, after a quick verbal exchange, that person just gives up and turns docile like a puppy. After each arrest, you have to search the scene for evidence and conduct the suspect in jail. You must then process the evidence and compile a report. If you fail to do so, you will be dismissed from your job in disgrace. You can also ticket cars for bad parking and fine drivers for driving drunk or recklessly.
The interface in Blue Force is simple and intuitive. As the game progresses, your inventory will be filled with items that you rarely need. Aside from the evidence which you have collected at the crime scene or which you have consigned from the police headquarter, the other items are not really essential to your quest.
When you exit the police headquarter to begin your patrol, you will be shown a map of the city where you can choose to go to any of the 5 different locations. Yet, as soon as you start heading to a location, you will be immediately requested at a crime scene so that there is no real freedom to move about in the city at all. You can only visit a location when the game demands of it in order to proceed.
Where the game really sinks low is in its storyline. Think of this game like a very bad police B-movie from the 1980s. Ryan is a fresh graduate from the police academy, but he is able to solve a cold case, in which there has been no lead for a decade, nearly by himself over just a couple of days. The story in Blue Force is completely predictable, to the extent that you quickly lose interest. The characters are flat and without depth. The "good guys" are always good, and the "bad guys" are bad to the bone. Even the main character is undeveloped, and there is no opportunity to get to know him better. The game is quite short and can be finished in just 4-5 hours.
Adding to the frustration of being forced to follow strictly down a narrow path, you have given very few choices to interact with the game world. There are no dialog choices. You simply engage another character, and Ryan will speak on his own. The puzzles are near nonexistent, except for a few situations that require you to search for some objects nearby. There are no hints given to help you to understand that some particular objects may be useful. These objects are often hidden in unremarkable places, leaving you roaming around aimlessly to find them. You cannot interrogate some suspects at will or go about on your own to search for more evidence. The game is so locked down that it seems you are just a passive observer of a poorly written police story.
The game is released in both Floppy Disk version and CD-ROM version. THE CD-ROM version includes a stereo soundtrack and an audio interview with Walls (which can be played in any audio CD unit) not found in the Floppy Disk version. Later release of the Floppy Disk version also includes 2 patch disks. The game is otherwise identical.
In the end, Blue Force is simply a not very entertaining game. The inability to conduct the investigation on your accord is particularly frustrating. The predictable storyline and short-lived gameplay also add to the unwanted impression that this game has been hastily made only to compete against Police Quest. You may want to play Blue Force to experience what is like to be a police officer, but only for a short while, before its turns into boredom.