There's a good reason why TV shows like Police Camera Action are so popular. It's not because viewers want to see justice being done. It's because most criminals are alarmingly stupid, especially behind of the wheel of a car, and it makes great entertainment. Smash Cops is built around the same principle, and it valiantly lives up to its name.
How does it play?
Players are given the keys to a police cruiser, their mission to chase and apprehend suspects who're dangerously freewheeling through the city. These perps won't stop at the sound of a siren, however; you have to keep ramming their vehicle until the wheels fall off.
You can gently graze their bumper by nosing into the car, or you can wait until the meter is charged to deploy a super-charged smash and send them pirouetting through the air (in slow-motion, naturally).
The controls are pretty nifty – you plant a finger behind the car to start accelerating, and then drag the bumper in the direction you want it to turn. It's not the most precise method of movement, but that's kind of the point. Your car will turn a corner by skidding and carooming across the tarmac, or it'll weave through traffic by clumsily bashing several cars in quick succession. Insurance premiums are going to soar over this one.
There're other missions available, like racing to the scene of a crime within a time-limit, or working your way through a test track without hitting any traffic cones. Every mission you complete awards you with stars, which in turn will unlock faster/tougher cars and more missions. And if you find a mission is too tough to complete, you can use a special "super-cop" power-up that temporarily boosts your stats.
Why do we like it?
The game screen is cunningly disguised as aerial camera footage from a television newsfeed, together with the whirring of helicopter blades over the soundtrack. Game events like mission briefings or completing a level are presented as straplines over the top of the action, just like you'd see on a satellite news channel. This is an inspired idea, though the satirical possibilities aren't as fully explored as they could've been.
Elsewhere, the vehicle physics are calibrated on the right side of fun, so that a well-timed smash into another car has a satifying amount of heft and crunch. The difficulty curve is steep in places, so that a task where you have to apprehend multiple vehicles in one go might seem a bit daunting, but there're techniques to be learned that'll make scrap out of those cars in mere seconds.
The city itself is beautifully designed, a gleaming sandbox of steel, glass and granite, and there's a strong likelihood that more missions and game-types will be added in the future. Perhaps even multiplayer games, if the technology allows it. Currently, players can use Apple TV's AirPlay function to mirror the action on a big-screen TV, thereby enacting a special episode of Police Camera Action of their very own.
Smash Cops is available now on the App Store (£1.99)