Smash Cops lets you live a high speed police chase on the local news

When it comes to personal entertainment, there’s one stone cold fact that film and television producers have relied on for years: everybody loves a car chase. It’s what made The French Connection so great. And The Italian Job. And Bullitt. And in more recent years, any local news station with a traffic copter. Smash Cops is a game that takes a page right out of the playbook of that last example, putting players in control of an officer behind the wheel and in hot pursuit.

But while the game’s presentation may feel like every highway pursuit you’ve ever seen on Los Angeles’ KTLA 5, there’s very little about Smash Cops that feels familiar in terms of gameplay – and that’s a good thing. Developer Hutch has created a unique touch control method for steering your police car around the city streets that’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

Instead of the typical steering wheel/d-pad/tilt mechanics that most have grown accustomed to, players will put their finger behind the on-screen police car and move it to the left or right to control direction. If you move left the car will go right and vice versa. Think of it like putting a pencil flat on a table with your finger on the eraser. If you move the eraser to the left, the tip moves right. It feels incredibly intuitive, meaning there’s no learning curve to keep players from jumping into Smash Cops feet first.

And the game’s unique mechanic isn’t the only thing that’s strong here – Smash Cops knocks one out of the park when it comes to presentation. From the top down view and chopper noise to the on-screen “Breaking News” banners that kick off each level and timers that look like a clock in the corner of a news channel, Smash Cops has nailed the feel of real world police chase videos perfectly. And the technical polish when it comes to Smash Cops‘ graphics? That’s just the icing on the cake.

Smash Cops

For all the fun we had with the game though, there were a few issues that held it back from being everything that it seemed like it could be. Of the 22 levels available at launch, there are only three different mission types – and while they’re unique, the gameplay didn’t really vary enough to shake things up.

For the most part, you’re in hot pursuit of another vehicle or two that you’ll need to ram into a few times until you’ve disabled it and can make an arrest. These missions, as you might expect, were the most fun. But the “challenge” and “emergency” missions that task players to do things like hit checkpoints in a set time or escort prisoners? They just ended up feeling like more of the same, but without the fun of slamming into other cars.

Smash Cops

Players can earn up to five stars in each mission, and unlocking enough stars will open up other stages and new vehicles, giving Smash Cops plenty of replayability – but whether you’ll want to play through it more than once depends entirely on how comfortable you are with repetition.

Smash Cops offers a fantastic new control scheme and plenty of polish, making Hutch a developer that’s definitely worth keeping an eye on in 2012. But their debut has left us with mixed feelings. We love the originality that’s here – we just wish it could have gone a little further into the style of missions on offer. Regardless, Smash Cops is a unique enough offering that shouldn’t be missed by fans of high speed chases (by which, of course, we mean everybody).