Rebel Cops is a well-made, but difficult turn-based strategy game like XCOM that encourages players to arrest, rather than kill, their opponents.
Rebel Cops is a spinoff title in the This is the Police franchise and the third game from developer Weappy. Unlike the series' two previous entries however, Rebel Cops exchanges police management and crime investigation for a more straightforward turn-based action experience based on the strategy mode found in This is the Police 2, bringing to mind similar unforgiving grid-based tactical shooters like those of the XCOM series.
Rebel Cops sees the player directing teams of up to six underground police officers (and an additional sniper) who have holed up in the woods after their town, Ripton, was taken over by a Russian gangster. The entire mood of the game, from the text to the music to the art style, feels reminiscent of 70's era crime dramas, as the outnumbered titular Rebel Cops attempt to retake control of their rural town one area at a time just like some of the best bad action movies.
The game has less missions than one might expect, optional side locations included, but nearly every level can take over an hour to complete, even when holding down the game's handy "speed up gameplay" button. Play areas in Rebel Cops are massive, sprawling locations, filled with secret loot items, dozens of enemies, and opportunities to get discovered around every corner. Many levels also include additional optional tasks that can affect the way Ripton citizens feel about the player's underground police force, which in turn impacts item cost and weapon availability in the game's store.
Rebel Cops wants the player to engage with the game in very determined, patient manner, even though at any moment - unless a current mission's requirements prohibit it - a player can open fire upon their enemies, likely killing them outright if they have a clean line of sight. There are no hit points in Rebel Cops, save for the two-shot protection offered by expensive body armor, and a simple shot to the hand will end an officer or enemy unless it is treated quickly. However, both the game and the town of Ripton itself would rather officers arrest their opponents, not kill them, unless they have no other choice.
Given that more experience and Rebel Points (more on those later) are earned when enemies are handcuffed rather than shot, players are encouraged to take a non-violent approach whenever possible. In the larger levels this becomes a necessity, as a single wrong step or loud noise can see the player being surrounded by swarms of enemies, and any gun fired without a silencer can draw the attention of everyone in the immediate vicinity. Thankfully, Rebel Cops offers a few concessions in the face of these overwhelming odds.
The first helpful thing Rebel Cops does is give a warning whenever an officer is about to move into an enemy's line of sight. This is something which will only occur if the currently selected character is nearby another officer, further encouraging players to move slowly and keep their teams together, something which is made much harder to accomplish by taking on the aforementioned side missions, which see assigned characters starting at opposite ends of the map.
The second trick players have up their sleeves has to do with Rebel Points, which are earned by arresting criminals and completing tasks. Using these points a player can give sweeping, party-wide orders such as putting every officer into an Overwatch mode or giving the entire team an extra action point for that turn. Proper use of Rebel Points can mean the difference between life and death, but they are accumulated very slowly and the buffs can become quite expensive, so they must be used sparingly.
On its default setting, Rebel Cops employs a stilted save system which limits the amount of times a player can save the game per level. Considering the size of the levels and the amount of time it takes to finish each one, this is a baffling inclusion. Thankfully, it can be easily disabled in the main pause menu on the off chance a player would like to take a break during, say, a two hour-long mansion siege. While in the pause menu, players may also want to go ahead and adjust the volume sliders for character voice and VFX, which are mixed far higher than they should be, especially considering how good the game's music is.
While not as deep an experience as This is the Police 2, Rebel Cops accomplishes what it sets out to do with determination and confidence. The game is quite difficult and tables can turn in an instant, so newcomers to the turn-based strategy genre may want to begin the game in Relaxed Mode before stepping into the shoes of a hardened police officer. Although it would be nice for the title itself to have been a bit longer and the missions a bit shorter, fans of strategy games like XCOM will find a lot to enjoy in the dangerous town of Ripton.
Rebel Cops is available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. A PC key was provided to Screen Rant for the purposes of this review.