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Review Rewind
Review Rewind: Pursuit Force (PSP)
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on January 05, 2018   |   Episode 1 (Show Archive)  

Introducing Review Rewind, the show where I revisit games I reviewed a long time ago. Today we're taking a look at Pursuit Force, the Sony published action/racing game for the PlayStation Portable. Will I like this game more, less or about the same as I did when I first reviewed it in 2006? Find out now when you experience the debut episode of Review Rewind!

"Pursuit Force is, without a doubt, the single most exciting portable game on the market today."

That's how I started my review back in March of 2006, and the main reason why I wanted to revisit this early generation PSP game. Is it possible that this wasn't just a hyperbolic introduction to grab your attention and Pursuit Force actually is as exciting as I thought a dozen years ago? That's what I want to find out.

In case you don't remember Pursuit Force, it was a Spy Hunter-style action game where the player literally jumps from car to car in hopes of taking down gangsters, drug cartels and a whole bunch of Saturday morning cartoon villains. Think of it as the forerunner to the FarCry series. At the time, I had never seen anything quite like it before. And not just on a handheld, but just in general. It was like a fast-paced mix between Grand Theft Auto and Chase HQ.

"What sets Pursuit Force apart from all the other action/racing games is that it allows you to swap vehicles any time you want to. I'm not talking about pulling somebody over and getting in their car; oh no, Pursuit Force gives you the opportunity to fling yourself out of the car and leap on to other cars, at which point you can kill the driver, kick them out of the car, and use it until you see a reason to commandeer another car."

Going in, I was a bit worried that that it wouldn't handle as well as I remembered. Even though I said that the controls are "always tight and responsive," I was dubious. But it turns out that I was right, Pursuit Force still handles well. "Taking corners is a breeze thanks to a power slide, and racing along is effortless with the game's arcade-style controls. This game isn't about driving simulation, it's about getting next to a car, jumping on the car, killing the people inside, and then driving it to victory." I stand by that statement a dozen years later.

When it comes to the negatives, my glowing review only pointed out one problem, but it was a big one. "If there are any problems with the career mode it's that some levels end with non-driving sections, which come off feeling awkward and out of place. It's not that your Pursuit Force officer has bad control, but these sections just seem tacked on and unnecessary."

This is 100% accurate and the on-foot sections still annoy me. The game's momentum comes to a screeching halt the moment you get out of the car, and the developers at BigBig Studios should have realized that early on. This is a game about driving fast, shooting enemies and crazy acrobatic stunts. This never should have been a third-person shooter.

Despite this being my original review's only complaint, I found a few other problems when revisiting this game for the first time in a decade. I noticed that there are a lot of escort missions, which are kind of a drag in this type of action game. I was also surprised by how long the levels are. There is one stage early on where you race through the streets on a police bike, shoot up the outside of a warehouse and then jump in a boat to go up against a helicopter. There are a lot of these missions that have multiple sections and checkpoints, and part of me wishes they would have just fleshed out each part and turned them into separate levels.

"One thing you can't be too disappointed in is the graphics. Pursuit Force looks phenomenal on the PSP's wide screen display, everything looks so beautiful and crisp. The world whips around you at a mind-blistering speed; this is the type of game you use to show off the power of Sony's portable PlayStation. The entire game -- from introductions, to menus, to endings -- are all top notch, they feature a very polished look that leads to one of the most satisfying PSP games I have ever played."

I think it's safe to say that the graphics don't look nearly as good today when compared to what we're getting on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, but I was still impressed with the speed and performance. I booted the UMD up on my first generation PSP and was surprised by how well it ran. I have no problem understanding why I was so blown away by the graphics back in 2006, especially for this being a portable game. (It's worth noting that I had to turn to an emulator in order to capture footage for this review, but also played through a bunch of it on my original console.)

I'm going to be honest with you, I kind of went into this expecting Pursuit Force to be bad. I mean, I definitely remember being caught up in the excitement and impressed by the presentation, but also recall being one of the few to give it a high score. Electronic Gaming Monthly gave it 3s and 4s out of 10, complaining that it was too violent and killing criminals and terrorists was unsavory. "I really felt like I ought to, y'know, pull these guys over and take them into the precinct for questioning." That's the only time I can remember EGM complaining that an action game had too much action.

But after twelve years and a fresh set of eyes, I'm ready to say that most other critics were wrong. Pursuit Force remains a great time that does a good job of holding up. The on-foot missions are still lame and I can't believe I let the escort missions slide all those years ago, but my opinion of the game remains largely unchanged. I gave it a B+ back in 2006 and would probably give it a B today, but that's only because I know that Pursuit Force 2 exists and improves on the formula. I say give it a shot if you're not too turned off by action and excitement in your action games.


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