Police Quest 3: The Kindred
First posted on 15 January 2014. Last updated on 15 January 2014.
Police Quest 3: The Kindred is the third game in the Police Quest series but the final game in the series under the direction of Jim Walls (before being replaced by Daryl F. Gates). Unfortunately, despite the success in previous games in illustrating life on the police beat as Sonny Bonds in the fictional small town of Lytton, this sequel is a soulless and disappointing affair. The novelty of the police beat has worn off, and the game (even with the addition of Jane Jensen to the development team in her first writing assignment) struggles to bring on new life to the series.
Oddly enough, in spite of the obvious shortcomings, this is the most technically polished title in the original series. The revamped interface (with a single glaring exception) is welcomed and accessible, and the VGA graphics are an improvement over those of previous games. Gone is the text parser, replaced by a single icon which cycles through different action functions just by right clicking the mouse. Also new is the dialog system, which is now handled through close-up sequences with each conversing character. The close-up images showcase the pixelated versions of actual actors and finally allow you to admire Sonny's perfectly coiffed hair!
While the game has made advances in its technical production, its narrative, plot, and puzzle elements have regressed by comparison. The story has returned to the gumshoe days of Sonny again—even though the town is clear of the Jesse Bains' threat, there is no rest for the righteous in Lytton.
There appears to be a new crime syndicate—or a serial killer or a nasty cult—in town. Even after playing through the entire game, I am still unclear of whom or what Sunny is investigating. What have once been cohesive stories punctuated by logical police procedural puzzles has now been degraded into an incoherent narrative interrupted by random and tedious police duties. Further, the opportunity to play as a veteran police officer dealing with a changing crime world is now just a cliché. It is as if Walls sees the world in only black and white, where all criminals are pure evil without an ounce of remorse.
Regardless of the motive of the crime, citizens of Lytton are being murdered in a ritualistic manner. Even worse, Sonny's wife Marie, former street walker turned happy homemaker, is among the victims who have been attacked. For Sonny, it is now personal!
In addition to the incomprehensible plotline, the black and white moral of the fictional world is not as enjoyable this time around—the game aggressively challenges the your suspension of disbelief. The killers actually carve pentagrams on their victims as a symbol of their satanic beliefs, which is as absurd as it is inaccurate. It is also difficult to turn a blind eye to the racial stereotypes depicted in the story. The cast of criminals, including the routine driving offenders, runs the gamut of ethnic diversity that is too often played for laughs.
True to previous games in the series, accurately following proper police procedures is still a requirement to solving the game—at least, racking up the most points in the game. You will need to walk on the right side of a vehicle during a traffic stop, enter in the correct case code at evidence lockup, and use the proper investigation equipments at a crime scene. The game is somewhat forgiving, though, and allows you to advance the plot even if you do not enter the right traffic code on a ticket.
There is a single mechanic that simply does not work in this game—driving. Plainly speaking, driving around in the town of Lytton is a disaster. The driving system is implemented, obviously, as a method of copyright protection for the game. However, the system ends up being an exercise in frustration that routinely ruins the rhythm of play (in fact, I often had to make a game save before I reached a destination to either avoid crashing or missing a stop altogether).
Composed by Jan Hammer (best known as the composer of the theme music for the television drama Miami vice), the music does a superb job of providing musical cues to the dramatic moments in the game. It can be a bit cheesy at times, but it works to provide atmosphere and tension. At a minimum, it fits well with the simplistic world envisioned by Walls.
The gameplay, while not terrible, seems tired. As long as you follow accurately police procedures outlined in the game's lengthy police manual, you will not get stumped in the game. The puzzles are not at all difficult and feature a mix of inventory puzzles and environment riddles. While the world view of the town of Lytton may look a little odd, it is at least consistent.
Despite the lackluster gameplay, there are still a few moments of fun to have in the game. It is thrilling to be behind the steeling wheel of a police cruiser caught up in a high-speed chase, and it is satisfying to experience firsthand the next chapter in Sonny's life. It is also hard not to enjoy the few B movie moments during the game.
Unfortunately, the game's lone subplot is weak. Further, the town feels uninhabited, and none of the characters feel truly developed. The final scene in the game is by far the weakest climactic scene in the entire series. Unlike previous games, in this game you are never entirely sure who you will be facing in the final confrontation. When you finally face the ultimate evil, it barely merits a yawn.
As a passionate fan of the Police Quest series, I am sad to see the series ending on such a sour note under Walls. Despite the technical improvements in the interface and graphics, the game falters due to a dearth of ideas and imagination. The game has its moments, but it ultimately fails to deliver.