Developer: Bigbig Studios
Release Date: January 29, 2008
Pursuit Force was an oft-overlooked gem of the PlayStation Portable's library. An exhilarating take on high-speed police chases not seen since the days of the Genesis and Super Nintendo, it was simply a game that was a lot of fun, if slightly flawed. While it didn't meet the sales success of games like Grand Theft Auto or Burnout, those who picked up Pursuit Force were treated to a rare walk on the right side of the law. Unfortunately, the game seemed to end far too quickly, and even those gamers who took their time were left wanting more. Luckily for PSP owners, Bigbig Studios is returning with a second trip to Capital State with Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice.
For those who didn't play the first Pursuit Force, the concept is quite simple. Gamers take control of a nameless member of Capital State's Pursuit Force, an elite police squadron designed to handle high-speed vehicular crimes. The actual gameplay is a fusion of shooting and racing games. Players drive a chosen vehicle along busy streets, struggling to catch up to the targets before they can escape. Once the player catches up, his brave officer can leap from his vehicle to the target's car and eliminate the criminal.
There are, however, a few twists to the gameplay. Since your character is a police officer, you've got to try to follow the rules as much as you can. That means you can to try to avoid smashing innocent cars or doing anything that would endanger the public. In exchange, your gain access to a number of special skills, powered by your Justice meter. Justice is gained by upholding the law (i.e., capturing criminals) and lost by breaking the law (i.e., accidentally crashing into a civilian vehicle). Once your Justice meter is full, you can perform a "justice shot" when leaping from car to car, a slow-motion super shot that does massive damage to foes. Alternately, you can choose to sacrifice some of your Justice meter to refill the health of your character and the vehicle he's currently piloting. Of course, all of this is going to be quire familiar to Pursuit Force veterans, but fear not — Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice certainly adds a few new tricks to the mix.
The first level in the preview build takes place not too long after the events of the original Pursuit Force. The nameless protagonist and his girlfriend, Pursuit Force helicopter pilot Sarah, are getting married. However, before they can exchange their vows, the wedding is crashed by the Convicts, a returning gang from the first title, who have broken out of jail just to ruin the big day. Naturally, your wife-to-be isn't going to stand for this and before long, all of Pursuit Force is out to capture the criminals. In this first level, things haven't changed too much from the original Pursuit Force, and many of the overall features are basically the same.
Hopping from car to car is exactly as simple and easy as it was in the last title, and returning veterans shouldn't have any trouble overtaking the Convicts' cars. The most interesting part of this level came after Pursuit Force finally caught up to Billy Wilde, leader of the Convicts, and took down his stolen fire truck. Before they could arrest him, they were intercepted by the Viper Squad, a new paramilitary organization who claimed jurisdiction over Wilde. While nothing came of this confrontation besides Billy being taken out of Pursuit Force's custody, it seems as if these new rivals are going to complicate things for the Pursuit Force.
The second playable stage in the preview build jumped ahead to the game's 17th level. Things had changed quite a bit for Pursuit Force since the days of the wedding. Sarah is nowhere to be found and has been replaced with a new pilot, and Capital State is under assault by a group of Russian renegades called the Warlords, who are seeking to eliminate Capital State's anti-missile defenses in preparation for a nuclear strike. This level starts out as an on-rails shooter sequence, as your officer manned the Pursuit Force helicopter's built-in mini-gun against the Warlord's jeeps and a giant tank. Once the tank suffers enough damage, it attempts to retreat, and Pursuit Force goes after them in their squad car. This second part introduces one of the game's new mechanics: Your nameless officer is joined in his car by his new pilot, who doubles as a demolitions expert.
Perhaps the biggest difference from the first Pursuit Force is that your police officer is no longer doing all of the work on his own. In the two levels shown in the preview build, players got a chance to get an assist from the other team members in taking down the targets. One of the new members is a heavy weapons expert named Preach, who assists your officer with a helicopter-mounted chain gun that severely weakens some of the enemy's vehicles.
The other is the aforementioned demolitions expert and helicopter pilot, who is just as skilled at jumping from moving vehicles as your hero. You actually have to maneuver your car so that she can jump on to the back of the moving tank and plant bombs, while defending her from the machine gun fire of nearby foes. This is a rather satisfying addition, since it really gives you the feeling that you're working with a group of elite police officers, rather than having a bunch of people screaming at you from the sidelines. While we have yet to see all of the members of the new Pursuit Force, it's safe to assume that there will be at least a few more new officers, each with his or her own set of abilities to help restore order to Capital City.
After planting enough explosives on the tank to take out its thick armor, your officer enters the third stage of the battle: a one-on-one boss fight against Yuri "The Fury" Andreov, the leader of this branch of the Warlords and the tank's commander. This fight revolved around shooting enemies who popped up from within the tank and quickly tossing a grenade into the hatch, forcing Yuri out from the tank's middle hatch and allowing you time to shoot him. Meanwhile, your hero has to time his movements carefully, hanging off the tank when its built-in machine guns would try to fire, and moving when the coast was clear. There were even a few sequences where Yuri would attempt to knock your character off the tank by swinging the barrel around, and a careful God of War-style button sequence allows you to turn his attack back on him for a hefty dose of damage. Do enough damage, and Yuri is taken out, and Capital State's safe … at least for now.
Aside from the additions mentioned above, not much has changed from the previous Pursuit Force. It still looks great, with some of the best and smoothest graphics to be found on the PSP, and while the graphics haven't improved much over the original title, they're still high quality. The sound work in the preview build was also quite good, with effectively intense background music and well-done sound effects. The only noticeable problem came from the game's voice acting, which seemed a little muted and over-echoed; it was a bit difficult to understand without the game's built-in subtitle feature, but this could have been improved upon by the final, retail version. Aside from that technical problem, though, the voice acting was generally quite good, if a bit cheesy.
Overall, Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice is shaping up to be both a satisfying sequel to the original title and a high-quality addition to the PSP's lineup. With an amusing, if admittedly silly, storyline, exciting and pulse-pounding gameplay and high-quality visuals, Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice looks like it's going to be a great game for any PSP owner's collection. Those eager to help clean up Capital State will want to grab a copy of Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice when it hits early next year.
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