Smash Cops Heat is a sequel to the popular Smash Cops game from Hutch, a team made up of veterans of console development. Unlike the previous incarnation, which was a $4.99 paid app, Smash Cops Heat is a free-to-play title that carries a variety of in-app purchase options.
Smash Cops is a top-down driving game in which players take on the role of a police patrol car. The game makes use of a rather unconventional control scheme — rather than using the usual virtual buttons, steering wheel or accelerometer-based controls that most other driving games favor, Smash Cops instead adopts a system where the player places their finger behind the car to move forwards, then slides it from side to side to steer. The car acts as if the player is holding on to a stick behind it — sliding your finger to the left on the screen actually causes the car to turn right. It sounds counter-intuitive and initially takes some adjusting to — particularly since there is not much space on the screen to put your finger on the small screen of the iPhone — but it is an interesting control scheme that works quite well.
After completing the tutorial levels, Smash Cops Heat offers three different types of level for the player to challenge. In Pursuit levels, players must chase down a fleeing vehicle and destroy it as quickly as possible; in Emergency levels, players must race through a series of checkpoints before a countdown expires; in Challenge levels, the player is tasked with a special objective such as reaching a checkpoint while driving a badly-damaged vehicle.
The game monetizes in a variety of different ways. It does not throttle play with an energy or lives system, but instead leaves it up to the player’s choice as to whether or not they wish to invest any money into the game. A small quantity of consumable “Instaram” and “Super Cop” powerups are provided to the player for free when playing for the first time — once these are depleted, more may be acquired via in-app purchase. Instaram powerups allow the player to immediately charge forwards and deal damage to a fleeing car — the normal “ram” function has a cooldown before it may be used again — while Super Cop toughens up the player’s vehicle and makes it more resistant to damage. It’s also possible to purchase a “Donut Radar” permanent upgrade to assist with finding hidden pickups, and a selection of vanity paint jobs for the player’s vehicles. New vehicles may only be unlocked by earning stars in the game’s levels, not through in-app purchase, so the player cannot really “buy progress” through the game as with some other titles.
Social features for the game are relatively limited. Liking/following Smash Cops on Facebook and Twitter respectively rewards the player with a free Super Cop powerup, while Game Center support features leaderboards for each level in the game as well as a suite of achievements to unlock. With iOS 6, players are able to use Game Center to directly challenge their friends to beat a time/score on a particular level, though none of the Game Center features are particularly well implemented into the game — both leaderboards and achievements may be accessed from the game’s title screen, but there is no facility to compare performance with friends immediately after a level has been completed, for example. This aspect could do with some refinement in a future update, as impromptu competition against friends for the best times is often a powerful motivator for players to keep coming back for more.
This aside, Smash Cops Heat is a good game that doesn’t feel like it is withholding content from non-paying players. Those who do pay for additional powerups may find the game a bit easier, but players must still actually work their way through the game’s content to unlock new levels and vehicles. This uncompromising nature makes the game particularly appropriate for “core” gamers looking for something a little more challenging than much of the other fare on mobile — and the attractive, smoothly-animating 3D graphics will help convince them to stick around for more, too.
Smash Cops is the No. 3 free app on iPhone and No. 2 free app on iPad at the time of writing. You can follow the game’s progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social games and developers.
An excellent, impressive and fun game that doesn’t leave non-paying players feeling like they are getting an inferior experience.