Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice

A few months ago, The Guardian published a piece taking a sideways look at the Die Hard series of films. Read it at your leisure, but the thrust is this: far from being a hero, John McLane is a paid public servant who kills suspected criminals without trial, goads terrorists into committing massively lethal and costly atrocities, and generally behaves more criminally than the criminals he recklessly apprehends.

If Die Hard is a film that conceals wrongdoing under the umbrella of high-octane maverick, loose-cannon not-playing-by-the-rules good-guy righteousness, then Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice is Die Hard on crack, a pantomime of cackling villains and growling police chiefs, festooned throughout in gaudy Mardi Gras colours.

Sequel to 2005's Pursuit Force, Extreme Justice addresses some of its predecessor's flaws and ignores others. Improved driving and a deliriously camp action plot are the major differences, and accompanying them are improved boss battles, the inclusion of NPC colleagues to assist in the blood-letting, and a range of excellent multiplayer modes.

However, the John Woo excessiveness at the heart of the original Pursuit Force thumps on, and nothing fundamental has changed. In its essence, Extreme Justice is a game about driving a car quickly, jumping out of it onto another car by pressing Circle, killing the driver by holding down R shoulder, and taking the wheel.

Which isn't to say the gameplay isn't to some extent varied. Typically, each mission unfolds three times, beginning perhaps with a session behind the trigger of a mounted cannon, before touching down for a bloody jaunt on foot, then progressing finally to a high-speed chase in a car or a motor boat towards an explosive and extravagant victory.

These three models – on foot, driving, and target-shooting – make up the meat of the game, but within the driving sections in particular there's a surprising amount of variety. In some, time is the concern as you race to catch up with a marauding villain, while with others all you're trying to do is survive long enough to reach the next section.

On the road, you can take out enemies either by shooting their cars to pieces or leaping from your own vehicle onto theirs and brutally commandeering them. By hopping, you get to conserve the 'Justice' you've accrued (more on this later), but there's also the model of the car you're driving to consider. If you need to ram someone off the road, for instance, you might be better advised to stick with your muscle-truck.

All of this is punctuated by set-pieces, such as clambering across a fire engine to reach the cabin, or creeping along the wing of a plane in flight, in both cases only using Square to duck and the R shoulder to fire.

While there's a lot of variety, however, there's very little freedom, and for a game that looks like (seminal sandbox-structured console title) Grand Theft Auto III, Extreme Justice is surprisingly linear, its closest spiritual partner being on-rails shooter Time Crisis or something of that highly choreographed ilk.

Inevitably, the action soon becomes repetitive, and occasional convulsions of difficulty bring you to a halt. On foot, there are some inexplicable enemies that come up behind you and kill you almost every time, which is infuriating when you've worked your way patiently through most of a level, while the difficulty in some of the driving sections is just badly judged, giving you too little time or too many villains to overcome.

However, for the most part Extreme Justice's furious hair-tousling pace sweeps you along. The corny dialogue, the exultant stupidity of the driving acrobatics, and the brash colours all combine to create a strangely satisfying experience, the gaming equivalent of riding a rollercoaster through a firework display spelling out patriotic slogans.

For all the garish charm, however, Extreme Justice has a rampantly skewed morality, and nothing gets this across better than its 'Justice' meter. In accordance with none of the laws of our land, every time you shoot a criminal to death you earn a little bit of Justice as a reward. If you shoot him in the face, the game positively crackles with pleasure, declaring 'FATALITY' as a beam of revitalising energy squirms into the meter.

Philosophical problems aside, this is actually quite a neat system. When the justice meter is full, the performance of your avatar is enhanced. You can shoot more accurately, fire whilst in mid-air, and, if you happen to be shooting from the side of a helicopter, release a volley of missiles. If you're running low on health, meanwhile, you can press Triangle to drain some of your Justice into your health and vehicle meters, replenishing both.

For all that Extreme Justice is crass, if you could somehow peer into the imagination of a child smashing cars together and making 'kksshhh' noises you'd see something like this game: a silly and enthralling distillation of everything that makes danger, speed and violence enjoyable, hampered only by a lack of real depth and a couple of minor schoolboy errors that, if riotous action is what you like, really shouldn't put you off.

Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice

Although it isn't quite the game it could be, Extreme Justice is nevertheless a polished, outrageous and – most importantly – highly competent video game equivalent of the kind of films that have turned high-camp action into an art form
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