In the year 2000-something criminals think they can just do whatever they want in a post-apocalyptic world. Obviously that sort of thing can't fly in the face of justice and a trio of Undercover Cops are brought in to restore order. There's the karate-dude Zan, the football-player Matt, and the hot blonde Rosa who for whatever reason does a flying butt attack in lieu of a jump-kick.
This traditional cast of vengeance-seeking heroes has to face off with a rather untraditional cast of freaks, villains, and some things that are just plain sick. It's all good though because rarely has it been so satisfying to clobber the ugly out of these jerks. Each of the three characters has a handful of combos, grabs, and even some super-special health-draining attacks to get things done. Furthermore instead of swinging around some lame bats or pipes the heroes swing girders, stone pillars, and even toss some cars and motorcycles around.
There is not much in the way of fancy tricks and while a finesse rating rewards players who perform lots of moves there's nothing in the way of unique combos. To keep things fresh over the course of the game a number of different themes are introduced over the course of each stage. Things such as pitfalls and unique enemy types keep stages moving but at the same time their inclusion can also throw off the player. Without a real strategy or knowledge of how to defeat certain enemies the player can get stuck on encounters as their attacks are knocked away and they chew through lives just to get a hit in. When it comes to design beatemups tend to favor either aggressive or defensive tactics.
I'd like to say Undercover Cops is for the aggressive but the enemy tends to get priority on most attacks due to longer reach and number-advantage. Grabs are probably the most useful technique as they can be used on nearly anyone but getting close requires an understanding of what an enemy will do in a given situation. It becomes frustrating as enemies will go into an attack depending on their location and without a dodge-roll or block, the player either has to stop the attack before it happens or have predicted it to the point where they're safely out of the way. To some extent defeating enemies may require a bit of baiting so that they perform these attacks that'll give the player room to breathe.
Though the game has only five bosses the difficulty curve is very sharp. The first boss is absolutely pathetic but the final boss is practically impossible. Everyone in-between may be susceptible to grabs but they can also slap a good 1/3 of the player's life away in one hit over the slightest mistake. It's a bit of a raw deal as the bosses are easily the least fun part of the game. It's also the kind of game that favors playing along with friends. Scores may suffer but at least sanity won't have to.
Still this is a beatemup you want to play. When everything comes together this game stands up to some of the best in the genre and overcoming the different style of play is rewarding in itself as it isn't too hard to go long-stretches without a death as the enemies pile up. This game is especially fond of its high enemy counts and any time a fist makes contact with more than one person in a single punch is a thrill that hasn't gotten old for close to thirty years. Undercover Cops delivers in its own way with a unique style and a level of brutality that isn't seen enough in the genre.
Game rating - 4 out of 5 stars
My rating - 4 out of 5 stars