After a year of sequels, remakes and ports, the PSP needs some original content you can't find anywhere else. By all accounts 2006 appears to be the year Sony's portable PlayStation finally starts seeing some brand new franchises, and Pursuit Force is leading the charge.
Pursuit Force might not have the giant buzz that games like Burnout Legends and Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories had, but don't let that fool you, this is an action-packed experience that will rival anything you currently own on your PlayStation Portable. It's part racing, part shooter, and all balls-to-the-wall excitement.
Pursuit Force starts out like a standard racer, you're driving at high speeds through some of the most beautiful locations on the planet. But this is no racing game. Instead of racing to some far-off finish line, Pursuit Force has you tracking down criminals and doing everything you can to bring them to justice … at extremely high speeds. You can shoot at them, you can ram them off the road, and best of all, you can leap from your car to theirs and commandeer the perp's vehicle. I'm not talking about getting out of the car and getting into theirs, I'm talking about leaping from one to the other at well over 100 miles per hour.
These high-speed car-jackings are not just cool looking; they actually play a large part into Pursuit Force's game play. Jumping from car to car is extremely easy to pull off, which is for the best since you'll be doing it hundreds of times by the time you've finished the game. When you get close a car a little icon will pop up informing you that you can make that leap of faith, all you need to do is press one button and your jump begins (in slow motion) and it's time to hang on to their car for dear life.
Once on the car it's time for you to shoot anybody currently occupying either the driver or passenger side, but you better do it quick before they shoot you first. If you're taking too much damage you can move to different parts of the vehicle, which makes for some really cool looking fire fights. Shoot them enough times and it's your car to drive, until you find the next bad guy and it's time to repeat that entire process over again.
Although not all of the missions I played were the same, most involved you having to take out a specific number of enemy vehicles to "solve" the case. If this is the only mission-type in Pursuit Force then I can see where it might get a little old, but it never became boring in the demo thanks to its amazing sense of speed and top-notch graphics. Jumping from car to car at top speed is nothing short of breathtaking, it's one of those effects that will wow even the most jaded gamer.
Not all missions will have you in a car; one of the three playable missions in the demo features a high speed boat race that will have you on the edge of your seat the entire time. Some levels will feature more than one objective, including traditional boss battles. The hardest playable level in the demo (Wilde's Boys) features a unique helicopter section where you rain bullets down a convict who is hurling molotov cocktails at you. This sequence reminded me a lot of old school arcade rail shooters, games like Panzer Dragoon and the Virtua Cop series. I'll admit, it was a nice change of pace and one of the first times I've seen that style of shooting on a portable game system.
Despite the fact that it isn't coming out in the U.S. until next month, Pursuit Force is not a brand new game. This action-packed shooter was released in Europe a number of months ago to mixed reactions. Some critics had problems with the game's handling and difficulty, two things that managed to make some of the levels extremely frustrating. Thankfully developers Big Big Studios are taking the time to address some of these concerns, and from the demo I played it shows. The vehicles handle without a hitch; they feel just as natural as Burnout or Ridge Racer. There is also brand new voice acting and a few other upgrades in store, all of which lead to one of the most exciting new PSP games of 2006.
Like all those big-budget Hollywood movies it's based on, Pursuit Force could end up being style over substance, but that was not the impression I was left with after this three-level demo. Although this demo is short, I ended up going back through the various chases a number of times to improve my rating and play it all again, it's one addictive arcade racer/shooter that I'm not afraid to admit I'm looking forward to.
Expect more information on Pursuit Force as we inch closer to the game's release, including a full interview with the people responsible for this PSP game. Expect a full review around the game's release, but until then take a look at these pictures and mark your calendars for what may just be the first must-own portable game of 2006.