Genre: Action / Shooter
Developer: EA Redwood Shores
Platform: Windows 98
Wikipedia: Future Cop: L.A.P.D.
Added to the lair: 3/9/21
Future Cop: L.A.P.D.
Serve. Protect. Survive.
Future Cop: L.A.P.D. has always been a favorite of mine. It was a blast 20+ years ago and it still holds up remarkably well. While not a commercial success, it went on to garner a cult following in the years to follow; and for good reason - it's a damn fine game.
You play as an unnamed cop, tasked with cleaning up the grimey crime-ridden streets of futuristic Los Angeles in a sweet totally-not-ED-209 robot. This one does at least have one advantage ol' ED didn't - it can transform into a hover car. Nice! Each mission consists of you running (or hovering) around levels, obliterating a ludicrous number of enemies, and completing various objectives, culminating in a boss fight to complete the level. The dialogue is campy and it clearly doesn't take itself very seriously, which I'm completely fine with. There are even a few tongue in cheek references thrown in on occasion - when I played through the game as a kid it didn't mean anything to me when I was asked to rescue a besieged yacht named the "Throat Wobbler Mangrove" but replaying it as an adult I literally laughed out loud when I heard it. If there are any Monty Python fans out there, you're likely to get this one. The Robocop connection should clue you into the sort of satirical tone that they were going for here, though it's even more cartoony; and that's just fine, because it works! Don't expect some kind of big overarching narrative here though - each mission is basically its own little self-contained story. Some not-Cthulhu cult has captured a Hollywood starlet that they intend to sacrifice to the old ones, some psycho has converted an observatory's telescope into a laser that he's using to take out commercial airliners, etc. One moment you'll be fighting robots and dudes that look like something out of Warhammer 40k and the next you'll be fighting mutants and giant worms with lasers attached to their back. It's all very entertainingly silly.
The combat is front and center at all times and, thankfully, it's excellent. You begin each mission with a loadout of three weapons - Gun, Heavy, and Special - which have limited ammo but can be reloaded and temporarily upgraded via pickups scattered about the levels. The selection is limited at first but expands as you complete missions, and there are even a few secret ones which you can unlock if you find them during certain missions. They're all fun to use, and you'll eventually figure out which combination works best for you. The game uses an auto-targetting system which makes the combat much more enjoyable considering the frenzy that can ensue when you encounter a large number of enemies at once, which is common. It's very easy to jump right in and you'll be running and swerving around, annihilating gangsters in no time. It plays very well with either keyboard (WASD + Numpad) or a modern dual stick joystick (I've included custom controls for the former and custom support for the latter). It's not uncommon for action games of this era to feel dated or awkward but Future Cop really doesn't to me, it's just fun.
Probably the biggest issue that the game has is with the platforming. It's okay once you get used to it, but that takes a bit of adjustment. They occasionally like to throw in narrow walkways or treacherous jumps - chances are your number once source of deaths will be from platforming fails. One thing that I realized later on that I wish I had known from the beginning is that you can hold down the interact button (Numpad 8 or LB) and you'll walk more slowly which can help a lot with these sections; but perhaps even more importantly, it will actually stop you from moving forward when you hit the edge of whatever you're standing on, which can literally be a lifesaver. I wouldn't say the platforming is bad, but it is a potential source of frustration, until you have a bit more practice at least.
The sound and voice acting are excellent. The actors are extremely hammy but that fits perfectly with the tone they're going for. The radio operator checks in regularly with you to keep you on track with what you should be doing and to occasionally crack jokes - it would be easy for this type of character to get annoying but they don't here, which is probably a testament both to the writing and the voice acting. Various screams, explosions, and other sound effects are very good as well. As an interesting side note, Rob Hubbard was the audio technical director for the game. If you're at all familiar with the C64 - and I certainly hope you are given my continuing dedication to that fine machine - that's a name you're likely to know well.
The graphics have taken a bit of a beating over time, but they're not bad. At this point I would say that they're functional. You shouldn't ever be confused by what you're looking at, but a lot of the textures are on the bland side and poly counts on models are of course fairly low. They get the point across though and don't look like some kind of kind of abstract nightmare (more than can be said of some games of the era) so they get the job done.
In addition to the main campaign with 8 missions, there's also a strategy mode called Precinct Assault with 4 missions. This is pretty widely known to be one of the earliest examples of and a primary inspiration for what we now refer to as the MOBA genre - a modern day gaming monolith all to itself. Aeon64, creator of the Aeon of Strife map for Starcraft (which was the precursor to DOTA), directly stated that he wanted to create a map that replicated the gameplay of Future Cop's Precinct Assault mode. So if you're a fan of LoL and company, check it out! I've never been particularly into or good at MOBAs myself, but I do enjoy Precinct Assault quite a bit (probably because it's comparatively simple).
As a bit of an added bonus. The entire game is playable with two players - cooperatively in the campaign and competitively in Precinct Assault. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get it to work via internet connection - and I spent a fair bit of time trying to - but split-screen works just fine. I'd recommend one player using keyboard and one using a joystick if you do that though - two people on one keyboard is likely to be a little unwieldy. I haven't completely given up on getting the online multiplayer to work, so if I manage that at a later date I'll certainly update the package.
In the end, Future Cop: L.A.P.D. is an extremely enjoyable action game that holds up incredibly well and is just a ton of fun to play. Absolutely recommended!