Police Quest: Daryl F. Gates' Open Season

Posted by Betty Moffett.
First posted on 10 April 1998. Last updated on 29 July 2012.
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Police Quest: Daryl F. Gates' Open Season
It is open season on murder in the city of Los Angeles!
Police Quest: Daryl F. Gates' Open Season
The crime scene is where the investigation begins.
Police Quest: Daryl F. Gates' Open Season
Who is lying on the ground?
Police Quest: Daryl F. Gates' Open Season
A visit to the city morgue may prove fruitful.
Police Quest: Daryl F. Gates' Open Season
Practice makes perfect!

Police Quest: Daryl F. Gates' Open Season, also known as Police Quest 4: Open Season, is the most realistic crime solving game I have ever played. The game centers on a serial killer who terrorizes the citizens of Los Angeles. Who shall be the next victim? It is "open season" on everyone, hence the title of this game.

You play the role of John Carey, a detective of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Your best friend Bob Hickman, an undercover detective, has been killed. The coroner concludes that he has been given a slow acting poison and has endured horrific torture until his death. Your superior, Lieutenant Block, has given you an order to find the killer. The evidence at this time points toward a gang killing. As you proceed with your investigation, more evidence begins to surface. You are ambushed at South Central, but quick thinking has kept you alive. Soon, the word comes in that Officer Garcia has also been murdered and that the MO is the same as Bob's. You begin to gather evidence about the case just as when more killings occur. Again they are killed in the same manner as the others, with a body part severed off. The citizens of Los Angeles are now afraid to leave their homes. The word is spreading that a serial killer is on the loose. Pressure is put on you to find the killer and close this case. There are a lot of clues that lead down blind alleys, but your trusty notebook, the coroner, and the findings by SID shall prove to be invaluable. You interview everyone that is involved in this manhunt. In the end, it is the drudgery of police work that solves this case.

Daryl F. Gates, retired Chief of LAPD, is the co-writer and co-creator of this game. The Manson Family Murders and the Hillside Strangler are among the many infamous cases he has investigated during his career with the LAPD. Co-writer Tammy Dargan is experienced producing police and detective programs on television (America's Most Wanted). Together they have brought accuracy and realism to this latest sequel in the Police Quest series. Filmed on location in Los Angeles and its urban areas, photographers have used state of the art digital cameras to capture scenes that surely catch the eyes of the gamers. Gates even makes a cameo appearance in this title.

The game is originally released only in Floppy Disk version. A CD-ROM version is later released in 1996. The Multimedia CD version contains new arcade sequences, selected high resolution backgrounds, new and enhanced music, improved animations, a professional cast speaking over 10,000 lines of dialog, and a "Making of Police Quest: Open Season" video. Otherwise, no significant attempt is made to modernize or improve the game in order to maintain a sense of nostalgia. Patches for the Floppy Disk version are included in the CD-ROM version. Playing the game in true DOS mode with a boot disk is best. This game marks the first attempt by Sierra On-Line to use photorealistic rendering rather than traditional animations for both characters and backgrounds depicted in the game. It has since become part of Sierra On-Line's gaming history. Even though the technology is somewhat off by today's standard, one must remember that this game and other similar titles at the time have helped to define and create the gaming industry as it appears today.

Police Quest: Daryl F. Gates' Open Season begins with helicopter flying over the city of Los Angeles at night. A dispatcher's voice then comes through the police radio, "Hear 100, Code 3. Officer down, officer down. 77 South Central." It's 3 am Monday morning. Your fellow officers are already at the scene when you arrive. You are devastated when you hear that the dead officer is your best friend and ex-partner Bob Hickman. The game is controlled using a toolbar that is located at the bottom of the screen. You can move the "?" cursor over each symbol to find out their use. Be careful where you place the "hand" cursor during the game. You gather evidence and talk to everyone at the murder scene. You soon find the body of a young boy in the nearby trash bin. You must finish all of your police work before you can leave the scene or else you cannot go on to the next day. The investigation is similarly conducted throughout the rest of the game. However, you can always retrace your steps and your questions can be answered again. Even if you miss something, it is still there when you return to the scene.

The story starts at the Parker Center or LAPD Headquarter. Your boss, after consoling you, tells you to get busy and find both Bob's and the boy's murderer. You talk to your partner Hal and give him the needed reports. You wait for the Parker Center elevator a lot in this game. Fortunately, the map on the toolbar can quickly transport you to all the places you need to investigate. You need to write down all the information on your notebook. The coroner tells you that Bob has been poisoned and tortured. A finger has also been cut off. You must then go to see Bob's wife Katherine, give her his personal belongings, and ask her some questions. Try to think like a detective or else you may wander around aimlessly forever, get written up, or get killed! When Officer Garcia is killed with apparently the same Modus Operandi or MO, you must check out that murder as well. Soon, your leads are beginning to pile up. In the meantime, you need to make time to brush up your shooting skills at the Los Angeles Police Academy target range. When another male and female are found dead in a car naked, tortured with a body part missing from each, you realize the city now has a serial killer on a rampage. A search of Garcia's car reveals more evidence that leads you to Hollywood and Vine. There you must talk to prostitutes, homosexuals, and drug peddlers. The game is rather unsympathetic when you face a potentially deadly situation. You can easily get killed in the game. These times are few but you have to do some fast thinking to stay alive. Follow the correct procedures, do all the groundwork, and you shall solve the crime!

Police Quest: Daryl F. Gates' Open Season is not a long game. The uncensored authentic jargon often makes me smile with surprise, though the actions of the actors may at times appear a bit crinkled and jerky. The story begins slowly and gives the gamer time to get one's bearing. When the pace picks up later, I begin scribbling notes but keep losing them! I even set up my outdated typewriter next to my computer—instant detective notebook! The voiceovers of many game characters from all walks of life in this murder mystery are just terrific. The casts are all superb and have done a bang-up job with the dialog. The reality depicted really makes this game a classic. On the other hand, my mouse nearly bites the dust with the endless clicking required to get items from the inventory. There is no tape recorder or way to go back to review the immense amount of evidence emerged since. A more detailed manual on how to play the game is also missing.

Much controversy has been raised by fans when the game is first released. It is because this is the first game in the Police Quest series that is not written by Ken Walls, the creator of the series. His departure and the replacement by Gates for obvious marketing purposes have been frowned upon by many devoted Police Quest fans. The game also takes on a much grittier and more sadistic look at crimes and police work than its predecessors. While this may bring on a new level of reality play, its execution is problematic at times. Slow gameplay burden by an underpowered game engine that is obviously incapable of handling digitized graphics boils down to annoying slowdowns and numerous crashes. Even though my game has been patched there are still bad spots to work around, such as the firing range, the shootout, and City Hall.

Police Quest: Daryl F. Gates' Open Season has captured my attention, challenged my mind, and made me laugh. It is a fictional story that rings so true to life it can even appear in tomorrow's newspaper headline. The realism portrayed by this game makes it a title worthy of a look by any gamer interested in police work.

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