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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Pursuit Force (PSP)


By Michael Palisano

Sony's latest PSP release is Pursuit Force, an action title combining high-octane racing with shooting, on foot missions and airborne battles to create an intense battle. Your mission is to defeat one of five rival gangs who've over-run your city in vehicular and on-foot combat. The gameplay is intense and challenging, offering a thrilling joy ride with accessible controls. Pursuit Force also offers deeper play with its career mode. The game's structure allows you to jump right in, and later levels become longer and increasingly difficult adding to the challenge. While the gameplay becomes a bit repetitive after extended sessions, Pursuit Force is best in small doses, making it an experience that suits the PSP handheld nicely.

Pursuit Force takes place in the dangerous streets of Capital City that have been over-run by street gangs who've taken control of the roads and are terrorizing civilians and wreaking havoc wherever they go. This situation is unacceptable to your boss, who has enlisted you to put an end to their reign by forming a new squad called Pursuit Force. As a member of the Pursuit Force, your mission is to chase these bad guys and capture or kill them by any means necessary. There are five different gangs in the game, and each one presents a different style of attack, offering some variety. You can also switch between missions and gangs during the game, giving the level progression an open-ended feel. Pursuit Force offers a mix of driving and on-foot missions, which adds some variety to the gameplay, but the basic structure is consistent throughout. Pursuit Force's missions begin simply enough, as you battle gangs on the streets. As you complete the earlier levels, increasingly complex objectives emerge. These include protecting civilians, defeating boss characters, and racing the gangs to the city limits. These elaborate levels require more strategy and better timing come into play. As you progress up the ranks, the missions become more challenging with multiple gameplay styles within the same level.

While some levels seem to drag on, most of the game seems to go by quickly. It can be frustrating to die in the middle of a long mission, Pursuit Force allows you to continue at the last checkpoint, reducing the monotony and annoyance factor. In order to help you arrest or kill the gang members, you're given a state of the art police vehicle to use in your chases, and you have to keep pace with the gangs while dodging oncoming traffic and other obstacles. Your main objective is to catch up with and kill or arrest the gang members. You have a certain number of kills to achieve, and there are sub quests such as protecting a convoy or the city leaders from attacks. When you have to protect a vehicle, an energy bar appears over them that shrinks as the targeted vehicles come under attack. If this reaches the bottom, your mission fails and you have to start over. While the early missions aren't complicated, the latter levels include multiple chapters to complete, which can encompass driving, shooting and on-foot levels, making them much more challenging and somewhat difficult.

In order to capture these thugs, you drive and catch up to them, and wait until you're in range of them and then jump onto their moving vehicle. You can use the auto-target to aim your shots and disable them. However, they'll drive recklessly to avoid capture and turn suddenly and skid off the road, which you can then use your car's power-sliding techniques and cornering ability to keep up and help out-maneuver them. Once you've caught up with the gangs, an icon appears which allows you to jump between the moving cars. After this appears, you can then jump onto their vehicle and shoot at them. This is trickier than it sounds, but you have an auto-targeting feature that allows you to take them out quickly. Most of these battles are simple, but some of these foes will try to shake you off their vehicle. You can climb back up onto the roofs of the car and take them out. This can be tricky and requires good timing to perform some of these moves successfully. You can also take over civilian vehicles such as taxis and motorcycles. This comes in handy when your vehicle has taken a lot of damage, allowing you to escape from a vehicle that's about to explode. Each vehicle offers a slightly different feel with different levels of responsiveness and control, which adds to the challenge.

Pursuit Force's driving missions are quite intense, but the game also offers other mission types that take place on foot or in the air. When you are walking, you can shoot and target opponents just as you would while driving. To help you along, the radar shows you the location of your enemies, allowing you to sneak up on them from behind if you are careful enough. You can also dodge fire by ducking and can make the character run around. Most of these levels feature multiple opponents, and there isn't as much leeway given here to attacks, so you can't take as many shots. This makes these missions harder and somewhat more frustrating than the driving sections, and they definitely fall short of the mark. Using the auto-targeting helps to some degree, but you always seem to take a lot of cheap shots when on foot. You can fire at the opponents from a distance, or can arrest them up close, either method works fine, though the auto-targeting doesn't work as well as it could, and frequently aims your shots at a less dangerous faraway enemy, leaving you wide open for close-range, and far more damaging attacks. This is one area where Pursuit Force definitely feels rough and these areas aren't nearly as polished or exciting as the rest of the game. Even though the controls are simple in these areas, the overall feel isn't as smooth or exciting as the driving or flying missions, making them feel like somewhat dull interludes between the action.

As you complete missions and objectives, you'll also unlock additional tracks and vehicles which you can use in Pursuit Force's time attack and racing modes. This gives you some incentive to keep playing, though the gameplay itself is quite addictive in its own right. Adding to the game's appeal, the controls seem fairly intuitive and responsive. Most players should have little trouble learning the basics, and the smooth controls make steering and controlling the vehicle a simple task. Leaping between the vehicles is quite easy as well, you only need to press a single button, and the character automatically jumps, with the auto-target shooting adding to the fun. The camera is stays in a fixed position while you race, and changes angles when you jump, allowing you to concentrate on the action. These simple play mechanics make Pursuit Force accessible, but some of the later missions aren't as easy as you'd think. You'll definitely need solid reflexes and skill when you need to time your jumps and attacks perfectly. This makes for a challenging title that offers plenty of replay value.

Pursuit Force's production values are excellent throughout, with excellent cinematics, voice acting and camera angles used to give the game a cinematic flourish. From a visual standpoint, the levels show an impressive level of detail throughout with occasional lens flare and robust track rendering that gives the game a sleek, polished appearance. Pursuit Force's racing sequences are quite intense, and run at a fast and smooth frame rate throughout. There's also plenty of traffic on the streets, but the engine handles it well, allowing the action to jump off the screen without suffering from excessive slowdown. The on-foot missions are a little less impressive, and some areas in these sequences feel a little flat thanks to average character modeling and a somewhat dull presentation. Pursuit Force's music and voice-over acting added polish to the proceedings with the other gang's taunts nearly as bad as your commander's insults when you fall short. A decent, if somewhat generic cop-movie soundtrack compliments the action throughout the game, and effectively conveying the sense of danger you face. Sadly, the score repeats and becomes repetitive quickly. Pursuit Force's visuals and presentation are above average by PSP standards, with its fast-paced racing and arcade style approach its main draw.

Pursuit Force's action and arcade style approach are sure to appeal to a wide range of players. While the gameplay is instantly accessible, the difficulty curve gets steep in a hurry. Its controls are easy to learn and use and most players should be hopping from car to car with little effort. The game is challenging, especially when you have multiple objectives to complete, making this an exercise in timing, requiring great reflexes to complete. By using both racing and on-foot action, the developers lend some variety to the game, though that doesn't prevent monotony from setting in, especially during long play sessions. Playing through the levels sometimes straddles the line between challenging and frustrating, but the persistent gamer should be able to progress quickly once they get the hang of the somewhat tricky timing and quirky play mechanics. Pursuit Force isn't perfect, but it's an enjoyable experience that combines the feel of an action-packed movie and solid arcade play that makes it solidly entertaining title.

Grade: B

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