Sunday Bits

TODAY: Future Cop LAPD sorta-kinda invented the MOBA about a decade before it got popular — Earn your grade with Ol’ Unca DailyBits ancient history lessons, Ion Fury edition!

Blast From The Past

Fighting crime one mech at a time in Future Cop: L.A.P.D.

Before their horror shenanigans in the great void with Dead Space, developer Visceral Games was formerly known as EA Redwood Shores. Today the studio is sadly defunct with its remnants assumed into EA Vancouver and EA Montreal. In the days of Redwood Shores their first ever game release was Future Cop: L.A.P.D. – it was for PC and the original PlayStation console in 1998.

It was a third-person shooter with you piloting a state-of-the-art crime fighting robot designed to bring some much needed firepower to the so-called Crime War in Los Angeles that was raging by the year 2098. The X1-Alpha mech-like robot could transform between a more traditional looking pursuit vehicle, which also happened to hover because it’s the future, and the bipedal fully combat ready mech. It was an awesome premise and we followed all the story action in Crime War Mode.

Co-op cops – the buddy cop caper of your own making

What made things extra fun was that it supported co-op so you could take the fights to the streets of Los Angeles with a chum, and unload some impressive ordinance. Of course the gangs and criminal syndicates had their own arsenals of war to throw at you, which is why you’re on a neighbourhood beat in a freaking X1-Alpha designed for all-out war in the first place. You blast your way through the grunts in the story-driven mode before eventually coming to a boss fight. These could get quite tense because they usually had a nasty trick up their sleeve. Criminals don’t fight fair – the cheaters!

It wasn’t just the enemies shooting at you that proved a danger because the levels themselves could get lethal. There was some platforming involved as – unsurprisingly – a lot of the places you were fighting in weren’t exactly designed with police mechs in mind. One of the levels had you blasting into a prison because of a mass riot taking place that threatened to see all the inmates escape. The prison was designed to be quite a formidable fortress so you had your work cut out for you – not much time for jelly doughnut breaks.

Future Cop was MOBA before it was cool with the kids

It wasn’t just the single-player mode though because Future Cop: L.A.P.D. also featured Precinct Assault Mode, which was actually a MOBA ahead of its time. Essentially you would fight in an arena where you could capture strategic points to shore up defences as you took on another player in an X1-Alpha or the AI controlled Sky Captain, which had a flying fortress. Once you got enough defences up could then escort armoured hovertanks that would roll out from your base and travel along predetermined paths to overwhelm your opponent’s base and capture it.

Sadly Future Cop: L.A.P.D. did poorly in sales but it was at least positively received by critics at the time. Some reports claim it may have sold a mere 200k copies even though it launched for both PC and PlayStation. There never was a sequel to this little mech gem, and actually the entire project started out as a new title in the Strike series, which started with Desert Strike in 1992 and ended with Nuclear Strike in 1997.

Where to get Future Cop: L.A.P.D. today

This gets a little tricky because EA Redwood Shores’ first official game isn’t so ready for duty anymore. Not even Electronic Arts include Future Cop: L.A.P.D. as part of the Origin store as a classic PC title, like so many others in their back catalogue. The only place online to get it today is through the PlayStation Store as a PS One Classic title for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable. You can still buy physical copies for PC and even the original PlayStation but they’re almost certainly used copies.

Getting Started Guide

Ion Fury

Excuse me while I don my hunting cap and false beard.

*Ahem*

You first-person shootin’ kids today have it easy! Every gosh darn single-player campaign coddles you with regenerating health or shields and bottomless ammo depots ahead of every major enemy encounter. Why, it’s like you don’t want your games to be a real challenge. Now listen up, sonny-boy, things were a whole lot tougher back in my day.

But you’re in luck! Even young whipper-snappers like you can enjoy Ion Fury, a good, old-fashioned honest-to-god first-person shooter made using the Build Engine – just like they used to make ’em back in the 90s. But don’t you worry about old-school difficulty or gettin’ confused by carrying more than two thingamajigs at a time – ol’ unca DailyBits is here to show you how, by diggity!

No regenerating health, armour, or shield!

Remember how I told you that when I was young, they only showed one movie down at the movie theatre, and it was uphill both ways? Well, before Halo: Combat Evolved ruined everything with its fancy-pants inn-uh-way-tuns, you didn’t have no fancy regenerating health or shields or nuttin like any of that malarkey.

No, back in my day you had to gather health packs and armour pickups and you was grateful to do so! Now, if we got real lucky, we found a portable health pack so we could press that good ol’ M button and heal ourselves. But running away and hiding won’t save your bacon, oh no it won’t!

Where and how you aim is important

Now, some things just don’t change. Know where you should shoot your enemy, kid? In the noggin! Right in the face! Aim for the head, sonny-jim! Whatchoo mean old-school games didn’t feature location-based damage? Of course they did! Don’t get uppity now, or I’m gonna have to get the belt out. Oh, and don’t forget – you can get all sneaky too, get the jump on your foes.

The right gun for the right enemy

Now this shouldn’t be a big surprise even to a youngun like you: you gotta pick the right weapon for the right situation. Different strokes for different people, as they used to say: That flying rocket-launching cyborg horror floating about there? You wanna aim your penetrator machine gun at that one, blow it right outta the sky!

Oh, and don’t forget about the ol’ Loverboy six-gun – it’s pretty useful in any old situation, even at long range. Although you might wanna go injun-style with the Ion Bow if those blasted wonners are too far away!

Know your enemies

You need to know your enemies, kid. It’s not enough to know your weapons, you gotta make like Sun Tzu and git tactical. Now you might be used to enemies just sittin’ behind shoulder-height obstacles, occasionally poppin’ their heads out to squeeze off a round or two at you, but this ain’t Call of Duty! This is Ion Fury!

Them baddies are gonna come from above, from below – hell, they might even come right at you! Now, fortunately, they also got weaknesses to exploit too. See those red fellas, them ones with the ion bows? They got heavier armour than the resta the grunts, but they gotta draw and nock that bow, so you can whack ’em while they’re doing that! Weaknesses, son! Gotta learn to spot and exploit them!

Can’t find where you need to go? Explore!

Now, let’s face it: A kid like you are gonna get stuck in the big, labyrinthine levels of a good, old-fashioned 90s shooter like Ion Fury. No sirree, they don’t make ’em like they used to! These are some gigantic levels, some proper non-linear old spaces with keys and key cards and colored doors and good stuff like that.

So go explore, look out for puzzles, and pools of water – or just try blowin’ something up! Oh, and maybe try some platforming, some proper jumping. You know what that is, right?

Secrets are everywhere

Oh yes, they didn’t just hand out stuff on a silver plate back when I was your age. No, you had to earn your rewards by sniffing out some secrets. There’s health, and ammo and maybe ways to get guns earlier – or even Easter eggs! So you gotta go off the beaten path, whipper-snapper, you gotta look for cracks in the walls or weird old routes requiring pain-staking precision platforming. May sound tough, but it’s always worth it – and don’t go thinkin’ you’ve beaten the game until you’ve found all the secrets! Every one of ’em!

Now chew on these nuggets of wisdom for a bit, and I think you’ll be ready to brave some of that old-school Duke Nukem 3D-style goodness. It’s a lot like your grandma’s stew – it may look a bit funny and kill ya if you don’t look out, but by golly it’s good and filling too! What are you waiting for? Go pick up Ion Fury and remember what I’ve taught you!

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