Retro Review: Virtua Cop
Platform: Sega Saturn
There was a time when Sega were the kings! They ruled the arcades and were extremely influential in the home console market. Unfortunately a few missteps and a lot of bad luck with the likes of the Mega CD, 32X, Saturn and the untimely demise of the Dreamcast meant that Sega unfortunately bowed out of the console market.
The Sega Saturn failed for many reason but mainly because it stood no chance against the might of the PlayStation. In the mid 90’s gaming was entering a new 32 bit era and although Sega had the pedigree, it wasn’t long before Sony became a household name destroying everything in its path. The Saturn did have some superb games in its library such as Sega Rally, Guardian Heroes and Virtua Fighter 2, but it was notoriously difficult to program for and when you add poor sales the console was doomed to fail.
The one advantage that Sega had over its competitors is that it could bring its arcade line-up of games to the home market, so Virtua Cop appearing on the Saturn was a no brainier.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Virtua Cop is a light gun game; so let’s talk about the gun itself for a minute. I’m just going to say it now but you feel like a real badass playing Virtua Cop! As much as I love the Sega Master System light phaser, it doesn’t even compare to the Virtua Cop gun. There is some weight to it and it feels really chunky in your hand, (for anyone wondering, yes I am still talking about the gun!)
Before you jump into the game there is a training mode which consists of you testing your skills at the target range. The challenges progressively get harder with faster moving targets and a requirement to have high accuracy. It’s a nice way to get used to the gun and adds something extra to keep you busy.
The game itself has three main stages titled beginner, medium and hard but you can tackle them in any order you want. There is an option to bring a friend along and play in two player.
With this being an on rails game you are essentially looking through the eyes of one of your cops as he walks through each level. As enemies pop up a reticule appears moving from green to red warning you that they are about to shoot. Although if you fancy a real challenge or are slightly insane you can turn this off. If you don’t shoot them in time a bullet hole appears in the screen and you lose a life. As well as normal gun toting enemies there are bad guys who throw grenades and axes at you which need to be shot down before they reach the screen. That all sounds straight forward enough but you need to be careful as hostages unhelpfully run into your path. If you shoot one of them it means you lose a life.
You start the game with a standard six shooter but there are opportunities to find other guns such as an automatic pistol, which has 15 bullets in the clip, a shotgun and machine gun. However, if you get shot you lose your special gun and go back to the standard pistol. You will need to reload your gun often and you do this by firing off the screen. I’ve always loved this game mechanic as it adds tension and there is also a satisfying click as you reload the weapon.
One of the things I’ve always loved about Virtua Cop is that there is something really cool about the way the bad guys react to being shot. Yes you can shoot them once if you want to be accurate with your shots, but pumping a clip into them and seeing them spin in the air with each shot is really fantastic! You can get extra points if you shoot the gun out of their hand but it’s much more fun to blow them away Dirty Harry style!
The music is fitting for the type of game and gets you in the mood for playing. Although the polygon graphics have aged it still looks great! The Virtua series had its own particular brand of graphics and style that I still find appealing today. I find it hard to explain but it just feels, looks and sounds like a Sega game at its wonderful best. The combination of sound and graphics make it seem like you have the arcade in your home.
I had great fun replaying Virtua Cop. There were times when I was really getting into the game. The music was pumping and I felt like a real cop taking out the bad guys. I was holding the gun with two hands and I may have held it sideways in gangster style once or twice!
Graphics – The graphics have aged but it doesn’t matter as Virtua Cop has that special Sega arcade feeling about it. 7
Sound – The music suits the tone of the game and the reloading sound of your gun is classic. 7
Playability – Although the game is short you will have great fun playing alone or with a friend. 8
Re-Playability – Virtua Cop is still great fun to play today and a reminder of just how good Sega were. 8
Overall – I spent a lot of money playing Virtua Cop in the arcades so being able to play that game in my own home is wonderful. The graphics, sound and playability are superb and all it needs to fully recreate that perfect arcade feeling is a couple of people standing behind you watching you play. Highly recommended. 8