Clean up crime-ridden streets by any means necessary. Just beware of traffic cones.
Smash Cops should be a lot better than it is. Here we have a game that gets so much right, that what it gets wrong stands out like a huge zit on a prom queen's forehead. We desperately want to love this title, but its faults left us wanting more.
First, the good. You get behind the wheel of a police cruiser that's more like battering ram, charged with performing a handful of tasks throughout a fictitious city that reminds us of Los Angeles, California. That said, the developers at Hutch Games intended to capture the look and feel of America's wildest TV chases, seen through the eyes of a helicopter, which they did successfully, giving Smash Cops a unique look.
The graphics, meanwhile, look gorgeous. So much so, that we hope Rockstar Games takes some notes on how to do a proper Grand Theft Auto on the iPhone and iPad. A realistic ocean, sunlight reflecting off blacktop and various set pieces (bridges, parking lots, neighborhoods) are but a few of this game's visual highlights.
Missions, meanwhile, normally involve chasing after (and destroying) rival cars, collecting evidence by driving into it and speeding to some location with enemies on your tail within a time limit, where passing through specially marked checkpoints adds more seconds to the clock.
Two things get in the way, starting with the controls. Hutch Games calls them "ground breaking", and that's partially true. They do in fact make us want to break something. You press behind the car to make it go and drag a finger left or right to swing it around corners or make 360 degree turns, but the learning curve is so steep you'll probably just crash into things and explode. We couldn't get a feel for this control scheme at all, and nearly lost it during the mission that required us to weave through traffic cones without hitting one. Impossible. Thankfully, the virtual joystick located in the options menu is much easier to use.
Next, we have the missions. Things began well enough, as we tracked down some lowlife on the run and turned his or her car into scrap metal. Thing is, the developers don't deviate much from this simple concept, instead opting to go from an SUV to a sports car, or challenging you to take down four enemies instead of three, with little imagination as how these events can unfold. You won't see ramps to drive off, police barricades or set pieces designed for destruction. It's the same bland thing through the same environment. There's no creativity to elevate Smash Cops to Burnout quality status, which we so desperately wanted.
Even worse, the game only has 22 levels, and you can beat them all in one sitting. Sure, achieving the best possible rating for each takes time, but it's by no means a requirement. That makes the in-app purchase to acquire more powerful vehicles (after spending $2.99 to download the app) pointless.
On top of that, where's the multiplayer? Why can't we chase after friends through online or Wi-Fi? It's cops and robbers. This game begs for social interaction.
Finally, for some bizarre reason, enemies have a nasty habit of disappearing when flipped and then reappearing a distance away, forcing you to track them down. That's hardly realistic, and unfair to players hoping to obtain all of the level's stars.
Don't get us wrong. We like Smash Cops, but there's simply not enough meat on this game's bones to make it one of the premier titles on the App Store. Wait for Hutch Games to add more levels via free update (if that's even a possibility), or at the very least, a price drop.
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation) and iPad.Requires iOS 4.2 or later.
What's Hot: Intense car chases, beautiful city, different vehicles to drive, 60 achievements via Game Center.
What's Not: Not enough levels, same old mission objectives, disappearing criminals, no multiplayer.