Force represents an unusual approach to strategy
gaming in that instead of being a military commander
in charge of winning a battle against an easily identifiable
foe by the process of elimination, the player's task
is to run a town's constabulary. This presents far more
of a challenge to the player, as the police are a peaceful
force in a generally peaceful society and the 'enemy'
is not easily observable.
supposedly typical town of Middletown has been created
as the backdrop for the strategy. It has many of the
features and similarities of a small city, complete
with urban, suburban and residential housing; centres
of entertainment; industrial estates and the unfortunate
but realistic run down, underdeveloped areas. Middletown
also has its own airport. Across the town are four police
stations. Each has its own particular equipment and
type of policing, and your job is to effectively control
and co-ordinate these four stations with the aim of
keeping down crime whilst simultaneously creating a
good community atmosphere.
display of land use in the area covered by
your four stations.
individual tasks include VIP visits via the airport,
meetings of all kinds, marches, football matches (the
town has an aspiring team who are climbing the league,
though there has been no trouble to date) and traffic
control. Such tasks are incorporated into the daily
routine of making sure there are enough forces available
during the day's three shifts and, of course, throughout
is fairly straightforward as the whole simulation is
icon driven. An overall view of the town may be split
into any of four more localised views, with a police
station at the centre of each. These are shown in pictorial
form during the deployment of units. They may later
by viewed as collections of colour coded icons which
show the crime level there. The lighter the colour,
the higher the crime rate in that area.
pictorial view of one station's territory. Note the
Shift markers and icon store at the bottom of the
screen. Deployment is handled from screens like this.
are deployed by selecting the icon for the type of unit
you want (foot, motorised etc) and positioning it over
the area that needs covering. The diary for the week
ahead needs to be checked whilst deploying forces. Any
units selected to police the events in the diary have
to be taken from the correct station, day and shift.
The computer will not allow for error here. A message
window at the bottom of the screen tells you how the
events go and of any other crimes that happen during
statistics for the week may be examined to help you
devise a strategy for the coming week and to meet the
changing requirements of each area under your control.
At the end of the week a mini-arcade section puts you
in control of the traffic computer. As cars and trucks
move along a perimeter road and venture towards the
centre of the city, you have to ensure that everything
runs smoothly. To change a set of lights, a cursor is
moved over a set of lights before pressing the fire
button. This changes the direction priority of the lights
until the button is next pressed. This part of the game
only lasts for a minute, so speed and accuracy are essential
for maintaining a good traffic control system. After
this has been completed, a message tells you how you're
doing as Superintendent.
dear . . . Something of a crime stricken area.
The shaded diagrams represent recent crimes; the
lighter the shade, the more serious the crime rate.
Argus Press have taken an original approach to a strategy
game, there are problems. Three manuals are supplied
with this game -- one is a local information guide,
another is a training manual suggesting strategies and
guidelines for the many problems that might arise, and
the last manual explains how to interact with the computer.
None of them are particularly good, they constantly
stress the difficulty of the situation but offer little
in the way of a coherent guide to play. Strategies are
expounded with reasonable detail, but the actual instructions
for play are sloppy, unclear and incomplete. No proper
explanation for the meaning of some of the icons appears,
for instance. A first time player will not get into
the game very quickly.
screen layout is good -- it's bright, informative and
intelligently constructed, but the pointer is a little
jerky for easy control, sometimes speeding up or slowing
down (and it is occasionally necessary to be accurate
and fast when using it). The traffic control section
appears to be an excuse to add variety to gameplay without
any consideration for the internal logic of the game.
It is supposed to represent changes to the programming
of the traffic computer, but even if a Superintendent
had to be a qualified programmer, it is unlikely that
he would need to implement changes in real time. Another
approach may have been better in this case.
are however, small niggles. The real problem with The
Force is that there isn't enough game there. Whilst
it's subtle to have an 'unseen enemy', what results
is very abstract play consisting of not much more than
shoving a few icons around a screen. I sometimes felt
that it was rather like shooting in the dark. Granted,
this is where the challenge is supposed to lie, but
it's all too much of the same for me. There are no logistics
to consider, no shape to the course of the game and
never any obvious signs of progress.