Anthony's Film Review
Police Quest: Open Season
(Video Game, 1993)
An entertaining police simulation game that is both gritty and realistic...
Police Quest was a series of computer adventure games from Sierra On-Line released from 1987 to 1993. They were made as both a source of entertainment and an informative glimpse into the work of everyday police officers. Retired California Highway Patrol officer Jim Walls designed three games - Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel, Police Quest II: The Vengeance, and Police Quest III: The Kindred - all featuring Sonny Bonds, a cop in the fictional California city of Lytton. Each game involves playing the role of Bonds as he follows police procedures in traffic duty and detective work, all in the context of a crime story. It has been said that some real-life police departments have used these games to train new officers.
Then, in 1992, riots broke out in the city of Los Angeles following a controversial verdict in the Rodney King case. Suddenly, Los Angeles Police Department chief Daryl Gates became a big name in the media. Not too long after this saga, Sierra On-Line president Ken Williams approached Gates about developing another Police Quest game. Gates said yes, and in 1993, Sierra released the fourth game in the series titled Police Quest: Open Season. It continues the same adventure gaming concept as seen with the first three PQ games but with a couple of differences.
For one thing, the setting is not Lytton and the main character is not Sonny Bonds. Rather, the setting is Los Angeles and the main character is LAPD Robbery-Homicide Detective John Carey. This PQ game is also the darkest of the four in my opinion. There is plenty of raw subject matter, including gangsters, neo-Nazis, and graphic depictions of murder victims (including one image that reminded me of the notorious killer Jeffrey Dahmer). For me, it was somewhat disturbing but I thought the game was a lot more intriguing because of this type of content.
The plot of the game involves the kind of case that is difficult for any detective. Carey's best friend, Officer Bob Hickman, has been found murdered in a dark alley along with a young boy. There is a vicious killer prowling the streets of Los Angeles, and even as you, playing the role of Carey, follow police procedure and collect as much evidence as you can, the body count continues to go up and the whole city is thrown into a panic. The climax of the game involves a final confrontation with the killer, which is somewhat hokey because it's taken from a particular horror movie, but it's still the most heart-wrenching part of the game.
While some fans of the PQ games may criticize this entry because it deviates from the first three games, I don't have a problem with it. In fact, I liked this game more than the other three games, which isn't to say they're bad because I still enjoyed them. The main reason I enjoyed Police Quest: Open Season is simply the realism. I don't mind stories that take my mind away from reality, but works of fiction that are set in the world I am familiar with tend to be more memorable for me. As for Daryl Gates himself, I can say this. Regardless of your opinion about his role in the L.A. riots of 1992, he still has something he deserves credit for, and that is this entertaining computer game he's designed.
For more information about Police Quest: Open Season, visit the Internet Movie Database and Moby Games.