Hot Fuzz is one of the greatest movies ever made and Robocop IS the greatest movie ever made.
Ah, the benevolent, do-gooder, and well-meaning officer. Despite having made a list entirely dedicated to how great I think fictional mobsters are, I enjoy the rare occurrence when a game features an old-fashion, good hearted cop it’s too bad they’re rare to come by. As this article points out, finding a video game character that is a law enforcer and NOT a corrupt douche bag or an obstacle between the player and committing more crime/genocide is hard.
Some say this is because it will always be more entertaining to play as the bad guy or break the rules of society in a game, but I honestly think there is a lot of potential entertainment to be had in playing a game starring a hard-ass law officer, cracking down on criminals with the might of justice! They may not be able to let loose and commit the level of violence your average sand-box crime game’s protagonist can, but police officers and law enforcers are none the less awesome! They’ve got a moral code and they stand by it! Some may not like cops, some may be annoyed by the speeding tickets they hand out, the parties they crash, or the fun they interfere with, but sometimes a little order is needed and they’re the ones to provide it!
Before I count down the best of the blue-clad and not so blue-clad officials though, it’s time to ‘lay-down this blog’s laws’ (meaning the rules).
1. No military soldiers or people who fight in wars scenarios. Don’t get me wrong, armed forces and tales of soldier's many acts of bravery are great, but if I didn’t have this rule this list would be crowded with characters from war-themed games. I’m looking for uniformed, local, residential law enforcers, the sort you’d see roaming the streets with their sirens at the ready. Federal agents/detectives/murder investigators are allowed though as long as they don’t work privately.
2. The character needs to be attached to some sort of governmental organization whose purpose is to uphold the law and be at least somewhat noble. No independent investigators, corrupt cops, or “ex-cops out for vengeance” (sorry Max Payne) they don’t quite capture what it truly means to be a law enforcer.
3. I need to have played the game the character is in (duh).
Switch Force (The Mighty Switch Force)
The first honorable mention comes from a fun little downloadable 3DS title made by the talented game developers, Wayforward. I don’t know the name of The Mighty Switch Force’s protagonist or the robot that assists her, but I know they’re good at their job.
As a virtually story-less Platformer, the game doesn’t dedicate any time to making a plot or giving the characters personality, but the character designs and excellent sprite animations speak for themselves. This game’s heroes are officers in every sense of the word. I have to wonder how effective being able to make blocks become solid or transparent (that's the game's big gimmick) would be in real life law enforcement though. All I ever seem to do in the game is get myself crushed.
Inspector Hector (Hector: Badge of Carnage)
This honorable mention BARELY escapes the ‘corrupt cop’ category, but while Hector is far from a shining example of a well-meaning cop, he is still the most competent and least morally lacking investigator in his game…Which isn’t saying much. Despite being a lazy, good for nothing, asshole of an inspector, Hector is somehow the greatest member of his police department. Throughout his adventure in Badge of Carnage he makes use of used condoms, ‘Lubricant’ (if you know what I mean), sex dolls, and any other object available to him to solve the game’s many perverted Adventure puzzles and save the town of Clapper’s Wreake.
He tends to be pretty lazy and easy going towards police protocol, but the fact that he continued investigating a terrorist operation that threatened his town while the rest of his fellow officers were getting drunk shows he has some resilience and passion for the law.
Crackdown Agents (Crackdown)
All of these characters can best be described as, Robocop minus the brilliant satire and cool poses. That doesn’t stop these super-powered officers from having their charm though. Crackdown is a very rare sandbox game that makes the player clean up crime rather than commit it, but is able to retain a lot of the juvenile fun the genre is known for. These super cops can lift cars, leap entire buildings, and blow a lot of property up and all the player needs to do in return is commit their typical mass murder antics on criminals instead of civilians.
They don’t make the cut due to the second Crackdown being pretty bad, the original Crackdown’s FUCK AWFUL ending, and because *Semi-Spoilers* it’s revealed the Crackdown agents are being used for government gain rather than protecting the public from crime. Still, anyone who says there is no catharsis in a Sand-Box game that makes you beat up crime, go play Crackdown.
Chris Boulder Punching Redfield still takes the award for my favorite Resident Evil character, but Leon Kennedy takes the award for best cop. He may technically have been on the police force for only 1 day before becoming an international government agent, but it must have been a hell of a day considering zombies invaded the city he was patrolling. Back before he became another action badass in Resident Evil 4 he was the scrub, a cop new to the force with nothing to rely on except a gun, his wits, and his own sense of duty. Resident Evil doesn’t exactly have the deepest story available in video games, but Leon has become pretty iconic as a character and tends to star in what most fans, me included, consider the best Resident Evil games (that would be 2 and 4). Not to mention what he says in most of his games is hilariously bad!
10. Cybil Bennett (Silent Hill)
But if you want a less campy Survival Horror police officer there’s always Silent Hill’s Cybil Bennett. I’ve always thought Cybil was an interesting character, especially after Shattered Memories re-interpreted the original game and Cybil herself in the process. At first she comes off as a fairly standard, but likeable strong-willed police officer who is skeptical about super-natural occurrences in Silent Hill and VERY serious about her police-work ever since she witnessed the murder of her parents as a kid.
She’s the one who gives the player the saving grace that is a fire-arm and despite being oblivious to the NUMEROUS super-natural phenomena in the town at least she remains as helpful as possible. Close to the end of the game Cybil ends up getting possessed by one of the game’s parasitic creatures and can only be saved by using a certain item. I’ve still never beaten Silent Hill without saving her and getting an ending where she lives. Sadly that doesn’t seem to matter, the most commonly accepted as canon ending is one where Cybil dies. Then again the writer of the Book of Lost Memories claims the ending is whichever one the player prefers and I prefer to see Cybil live!
9. Lynne (Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective)
Sometimes an officer of the law is admirable not because they’re any good at their job, but because of how hard they TRY to be good at it. In this case Lynne from Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective gets the biggest A for effort possible. Lynne had the misfortune of being taken hostage by a runaway criminal at a young age, but was thankfully saved by a certain famous detective. From that day forward it was her dream to become a member of the police force and when she finally became a detective…She was killed by a near-sighted assassin. But death is cheap in Ghost Trick and not enough to stop her, something that becomes more and more apparent as the player sees Lynne die more and more only to revive her through good old fashion time manipulation. Lynne isn’t 100% useless though, she frequently guides the main character, gives advice, and was able to save one of her friends from a sinking submarine.
Some may question if a detective who has made no arrests, never solved a mystery on her own, constantly gets killed, and got their badge through fudged tests can be considered that great of a law enforcer, but dammit! In Ghost Trick a lot of heavy stuff goes down later in the game, to the point that Lynne suspects she was the one who murdered the main character at one point, but this never gets her down and she always keeps looking for the truth even if she has to take a bullet and get crushed by a giant chicken to do so. In the end, isn’t that what being a law enforcer is all about?
Plus…Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is awesome. You all should play it!
8. Kurtis Stryker (Mortal Kombat)
People may or may not yell at when I say I’ve always considered Stryker to be a really underrated Mortal Kombat character. Yeah-yeah, his early character designs in MK3 and Armageddon were terrible (a backwards cap!? SERIOUSLY!?), but the new MK9 design is badass and so is the character overall. Even though his fatalities aren’t all that special he has what is possibly my favorite X-ray move in the game.
Stryker doesn’t have cybernetic arms, a fancy spear, or a nut-punching technique to do battle against robots and gods, he may in fact be the most normal character in the Mortal Kombat universe. He has only his training with S.W.A.T, the NYPD, and his tools of law enforcement yet he is somehow able to make do with that and keep up with the rest of the Mortal Kombat series’ many deadly characters. This die-hard dedicated cop had spirit in him even before a magical portal with Outworld terrors came to threaten his city, which is shown by his history of stopping terrorist attacks, getting decorated for his achievements, and often being called a ‘1-man hit squad’. Some people have complained that his ‘everyman’ look and fighting style makes him stick out like a sore thumb in the Mortal Kombat games, but that’s what I think makes him unique as a character. And even the haters have to admit, for as bad as his design in MK3 was Stryker was also one of the highest tiered characters in that game, which is part of what made him one of my mains in the game.
7. Sonny Bonds (Police Quest)
In the big city of Lytton California Sonny Bonds was a humble cop spending most of his days dealing with drunks, traffic violators, and trying to be the best officer possible when one day he uncovered a car with drugs inside it. He was then promoted to a narcotics detective, one thing led to another and eventually Bonds went undercover to bust some crack heads, illegal gamblers, and even get his own hooker with a heart of gold in the process. This guy epitomizes what makes a good cop. He sticks to police procedure (provided the player does) and makes sure anyone breaking the law is put behind bars, yet is also sympathetic towards his friend when he hears his daughter has a drug problem and helps out the aforementioned hooker with a heart of gold escape her crime-ridden life.
As far as old-school Sierra Adventure games go Police Quest is surprisingly restrained when it comes to silly Adventure logic that is usually so prominent in the genre and doesn’t shy away from realism. Heck, some rookie police officers were taught police procedure by playing the game and learning the consequences of not following the rules properly while remaining in a safe environment. It’s one thing for a game to match that level of realism today it’s a completely different story when it comes to a game made in the late 80s.
I haven’t played Police Quest II, but it sounds like it does justice to the character and expands on the narrative to the first one.
6. Jonathan Ingram (Policenauts)
Policenauts has gained a massive following over these past few years largely thanks to a fan-translated English version of it FINALLY being available in 2009 and is a game that comes courtesy of Hideo Kojima of Metal Gear Solid fame. Funny story, apparently at a young age Kojima either wanted to become a detective or an astronaut when he grew up. In the end he took up game design and wrote a story about Jonathan Ingram, a guy who was both.
Jonathan Ingram is a member of a team of 5 astronauts with Police training charged with protecting the borders of the very first man-made space colony. Unfortunately a freak accident occurred and Jon wound up in cryogenic sleep for 25 years, but was eventually found and got back to doing the police officer part of his job. Being a game by Hideo Kojima game, the main character is unsurprisingly a womanizing pervert, but that isn’t all there is to him. When his ex-wife asks him to find her currently missing husband, Jon is at first reluctant, but when said ex-wife gets killed by an assailant he quickly takes on the job and reunites with his former partner, Ed Brown (who bears a striking resemblance to Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon) to crack the case wide open.
Jonathan has a lot in common with characters like as Captain America from the Avengers, Fry from Futurama (OK he doesn’t have as drastic of a change in lifestyle as Fry does) and other such characters frozen in a past time and put into a new era with new culture, new technology, and new people they’re unfamiliar with. But if there’s one thing that never changes it’s crime and Jon may not be the most disciplined officer of the law, he has what it takes to take criminals in whether it’s his time era or the not so distant yet radically different future 25 years later.
5. Chun-Li (Street Fighter)
Often called the strongest woman in the world Street Fighter’s Chun-Li is also likely one of the most well-known police officers in gaming. Those of you who actually pay attention to the Street Fighter story know that Chun-Li works an Interpol agent/police officer tasked with entering Street Fighter tournaments and putting a stop to M. Bison. When she isn’t facing off against other members of the Street Fighter circuit, she is either teaching adopted children martial arts or doing her regular policing duties and arresting criminals many times larger than she it.
The animated Street Fighter II movie isn’t canon (it’s so awesome it should be though), but it does an excellent job showcasing how level-headed Chun-Li can be in her work. Even though M. Bison murdered her father when she was young (it was just another Tuesday for Bison) she doesn’t let her personal emotions interfere with her doing her work and contributes far more in taking down M. Bison than the hot-headed vengeance driven Guile does because of it. Through it all though she wants to see M. Bison taken down just as much as Guile, she just knows where her priorities are and takes her work and position as a law enforcer much more seriously.
Thanks to her training with her former teacher Gen, Chun-Li typically doesn’t use guns to deliver justice, only her martial arts training. Players have only been given a glimpse of her doing her everyday police work, usually in her endings, but it’s pretty apparent she is efficient at cleaning up crime. Whether it’s in a Street Fighter tournament or just on the streets, Chun Li will always be willing to kick crimes ass and is likely one of the most iconic and well-liked Street Fighter characters.
4. Detective Dick Gumshoe (Ace Attorney)
If it isn’t obvious by this point, I’m a massive Ace Attorney fan and easily one of my favorite recurring characters is Detective Gumshoe. This scruffy individual is the semi-dimwitted homicide detective who is very frequently put in charge of the cases Phoenix Wright is a part of. He is always getting into trouble and having his salary cut, heck his very first day as a homicide detective consisted of him accidentally going to his old post out of sheer habit, getting his pay cut for arriving to his new job late, and being falsely accused of murder! There are rocky starts and then there’s falling into a canyon of jagged-edged boulders with your first step! But once Miles Edgeworth found the true culprit and got him off the hook, Gumshoe gained a new loyalty for the prosecutor and promised to, 'stick by his side from then on’!
Ace Attorney comes from Shu Takumi, the mind behind Ghost Trick: Phantom detective, so like Lynne, Gumshoe isn’t exactly the most skilled detective in his division, though he plays a lot more crucial roles in the series when compared to Lynne. Often times Gumshoe will be one of Phoenix Wright’s worst enemies due to: his vague, staged, and hole-ridden testimonies, fierce loyalty to Miles Edgeworth, and bad habit of unintentionally misleading Wright, but other times he has been one of Wright’s greatest allies by giving valuable information and investigation tools, transporting vital evidence, and giving him access to areas he would otherwise be unable to investigate.
Above all else Gumshoe is just a very kind detective, willing to put his neck on the line in any way he can if it means delivering justice properly. Anyone with the level of dedication Gumshoe has even with a salary he can barely live on, poor knowledge of proper police procedure, and higher-ups that abuse him both physically and mentally is someone I would consider a good detective regardless of how good they actually are at investigating. Gumshoe might not do everything right, but he can do it when it counts pal!
3. Cole Phelps (L.A. Noire)
L.A Noire has seen some heated discussion since its initial release. Some absolutely love it while others see it as a complete disappointment. I’m not expecting it to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I had fun playing through it for what it was worth and if there was one aspect to L.A Noire that I will openly praise it would be its protagonist. And for those wondering, I'm aware that L.A Noire flashes back to his days of service in World War II a lot, however his military days are not the focus of L.A Noire his experience as an officer and detective are, so Phelps is the exception to my "no military soldiers" rule.
Cole Phelps is the strict by the book officer and decorated World War II veteran who the player is given control of in L.A Noire. After being honorably discharged from his service in the war Cole goes on to be a Police officer/homicide detective and quickly rises through the ranks due to his diligence and exquisite talent for investigating crime scenes. On the surface he sounds like a standard honorable cop/detective in a corrupt city, but he is far less cut and dry than that. As more and more of his backstory is revealed it is learned he made a lot of grave mistakes during his service in the Marine Corps, enough so his superiors may not have been as eager to give him that honorable discharge if they knew about it.
His belief that the honor and praise he received in his WWII service are undeserved is what gives him much of his humility. While this makes him the least prejudice and most accepting officer you could find in the 1940s, to the point that he even respects the country of Japan he fought in World War II, it also means he has a tough time sticking up to the corruption he sees from his higher-ups. That is Phelps’ biggest character flaw, his willingness to call out the misconduct of those equal to or beneath him in rank yet hypocritically turn a blind eye from his corrupt overseers. By the end I began to wonder if he did so because he didn’t think he could do anything or because he cared too much about rising higher in the ranks of the LAPD.
Some credit has to be given to Cole though in spite of an affair later on in the game he truly does care about his family and when said affair leads to his demotion he finally decides to team up with a former rival from his World War II days and put an end to a large scale conspiracy. Having to deal with this sort of corruption every day and the way he deals with it is what makes Cole the intriguing character he is and what gives L.A Noire the underlying question of, “Quis Custodiet ipsos custodes?"
2. Naoto Shirogane
It feels strange putting a character that is younger than me on a list of law enforcers worth looking up to, but age does not equal wisdom and Naoto Shirogane is one hell of a wise detective when it comes to law enforcement. This ‘Detective Prince’ hails from a long line of famous detectives and when a strange series of serial murders occur in the quiet town of Inaba she is called to assist in the investigation.
Because she wants to be taken seriously in spite of her age, Naoto has an incredibly formal and mature demeanor, but that doesn’t prevent the town’s police force from responding poorly to having a freshman high school student take control of their work. Hoping to end the series of murders, that were growing more and more infamous, the force closed the case even when there were still loose ends to tie up. Rather than follow their lead Naoto became a student at the town's school and continued her own investigations. I have no idea how this ‘2000 IQ Killjoy Detective’ deduced that the killer had been throwing his/her victims into a monster-ridden television world and that several of her fellow high school classmates were saving said victims, but what do I know about detective work?
To say that Naoto is dedicated to her work would be an understatement, she goes as far as to intentionally get herself kidnapped and thrown into the aforementioned TV world and face her own inner conflict with her age and gender to solve the case. Much of her dedication to the law can be attributed to her fascination with detective stories and wise grandfather. Her Social Link segments consist of investigating a mysterious ‘Phantom Thief’ and helping reignite her passion for solving cases. Being a legalized officer/detective Naoto is also the only playable character in the game licensed to use a gun. Her adult-like demeanor can make her intimidating to some, but through and through Naoto is a kind human being. Of all the characters from Persona 4, Naoto is one of, if not the most popular (Kanji may be slightly more popular). So much so that she’s frequently cited as a good example of a compelling female character and will be receiving her own spin-off story set several years after Persona 4.
1. Mr. Francis York Morgan
My obsession with Deadly Premonition has not waned in the least over these past few months, far from it, and I proudly place my favorite character, York on the top of this list! He is not only one of if not the most entertaining characters I’ve interacted with in video games, but also shows a type of diligence and strange, but reassuring dedication to the law not found in any other video game character. The story of Deadly Premonition goes that a young high school student by the name of Anna Graham was murdered and in a manner not unlike Twin Peaks, FBI investigator, Mr. Francis York Morgan is called to the case to discover the murderer of Anna, the strange connection it has to previous murders he has worked on, and the dark history of the Northern American town of Greenvale.
His many strange investigation techniques range from seeing into the future by looking into his coffee to uncovering lost documents by fishing them out of a waterfall.....With a fishing pole. I’m pretty sure neither of those are normal techniques used by FBI profilers, but it gets the job done. As more and more time is spent with him one begins to realize the true level of strangeness York and Deadly Premonition as a whole exhume.
Deadly Premonition has been called many things: a Sandbox game, a Murder Mystery Adventure game, a Resident Evil 4 style Survival Horror game, a beard and coffee simulator, but what it is above all else is the ultimate buddy-buddy cop game with the player taking the role of York’s imaginary friend and the two of them being the bestest of best friends in the whole god damn world! The game does the impossible by making a Sandbox game about stopping crime that is more entertaining than any other one based around committing it. And it does this largely by giving us the most mentally insane, yet ridiculously fun and 3-Dimensional character EVER! Together York and the player chat about B-movies, punk music, and occasionally their love interests all while trying to bust mentally unstable murderers with all they’ve got!
Many may be put off by York’s superstitious mannerisms, his habit of working poorly with others (unless that other person is Zach/the player), and reliance on strange investigation methods to get his man, but he gets results and he gets them without bringing harm to those around him. There isn’t much more one can ask from an FBI investigator and besides, later on in the game he does open up a lot more to the other citizens of Greenvale. The primary chemistry does come from the player and York though.
For all the ridiculousness in Deadly Premonition, for all the bizarre pseudo-supernatural things that happen in it and for as quirky as York could get the man never felt quirky for the sake of it. He just seemed like a friendly agent doing whatever he could to see that justice was served. If there were one fictional enforcer of the law I would wish to be there to solve any crime that came to my town (not that my town has a huge crime problem or anything), it would be Mr. Francis York Morgan and I would only hope he stare at his coffee the entire time through.
Thanks to all who read this and stay tuned. I have a lot planned when it comes to blogging.
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