Saturn Reviews

Virtua Cop 2 (Saturn)

Genre: Light Gun Developer: AM2. Publisher: Sega Ent. Players: 1-2 Released: 1996

Similarly to Virtua Fighter, Virtua Cop revolutionized its respective genre and became a smash hit. when it shot its way into arcades in 1994. Sure, it was a bit on the short side, but the fluidity of the gameplay, the more natural sense of movement within the game and the (for the time) highly detailed polygon models helped bring a new era of 3D gaming into the fold. Much like its fighting genre sibling, within a year Virtua Cop saw a sequel that took all these revolutionary features and gave them more spit-shining and fine-tuning to produce something bigger and even better. 

Basically Virtua Cop 2 takes all the hallmarks that made its predecessor a hit and improved them. There is basically more of everything: More polygons, more textures, longer levels, even an additional player character (Janet Marshall) that can be selected by a hidden controller input when starting a new game. The latter doesn’t change anything about the gameplay other than showing the character model in the intro and outro sequences of each stage, but it is still a nice little extra to have. Other changes are rather cosmetic: perfect hits are now called “Justice Shots” instead of a “nice bullseye” but don’t change anything in terms of gameplay. The sequel is still a very fluid shooter where you hunt for criminals through a set of three locations. This time around, players blast their way through a jewelry store robbery that includes a car chase, a high-profile kidnapping aboard a cruise ship, and a terrorist attack on the subway system, in all likelihood inspired by a similar event that went down in Japan in early 1995.

Other than these improvements, Virtua Cop 2 is still the quintessential definition of a light gun shooter: Enemies pop up on screen, and you use your light gun accessory to shoot them before the shoot you. Occasionally a hostage – now in more varieties than before – gets in the way. Get shot by hostiles, or shoot a hostage by accident, and you lose one bar of your life meter. Lose all your lives, and you get to the continue screen (which allows you to get right back where you left off. So, basically it’s just extra lives that reset your score count). Lose all continues or let the counter run out, and it’s game over.

Similar to the first game in the series, Virtua Cop 2 received a Saturn port a year after its original release. The 32-bit console version is certainly not as arcade-perfect as its predecessor was. The game flow is slower than the arcade (though it’s still notably faster than the first game), and it’s obvious that the Saturn isn’t able to push quite as many polygons than the coin-op. For example, there is some dithering going on with some textures to cover up a certain lack of transparency effects. It rather looks like the creators basically took the Saturn engine of the first game and significantly increased the number of different textures, but even such a small touch makes the sequel look notably better than the original. The soundtrack is spot-on and comes very close to the arcade original in terms of quality. Only the voice samples are – again – very murky and hard to make out.

The game still initially offers only three stages or police “files” (beginner, medium and expert) divided into three acts each, but these acts are significantly larger than before. Play each of these files in sequence (or cheat by repeatedly shooting the arrow pointing to the “beginner” stages), and you enter a short final stage, which solely consists of a final, “true” boss fight similar to how the first game ended. After completing the first act, each stage offers a selection of two different routes for the next segment. These routes later reconvene once you’ve reached act three and don’t change anything other than giving you a different route and scenery for one third of the game, but it is a nice diversion. After finishing the game (or if you use a cheat code), you also get the option to play through it again with different enemy placement. So, the game offers significantly more replay value this time around.

Is Virtua Cop 2 a perfect game, then? Well, there are a few minor niggles here and there. One is the aforementioned murky quality of the few voice samples. While the gunplay with the official Virtua Gun – or Stunner, as it was called in the U.S. – is still fantastic, playing with a gamepad is quite awkward (though this port still retains Saturn mouse support for those that for some reason own that obscure accessory but have no light gun). Virtua Cop 2 itself is a tad more difficult than the first installment, but the same can’t be said for the boss fights: The first boss in particular is piss-easy and while the fight sequence is nice to look at, the battle itself is rather boring. There is a slightly greater variety in enemies, but these changes are mostly cosmetic with little differences in their behavior or types. There still aren’t any extra gameplay modes other than the regular arcade experience, though there is the aforementioned option for new enemy placements, at least. There’s also one instance where the game actually cut back in comparison to the first Virtua Cop. There are now only four different weapon power-ups in the game (automatic, shotgun, magnum and the machine gun, the latter of which with a marginally improved rate of fire). The rifle has been cut in Virtua Cop 2, though considering that this weapon was a strange hybrid between the automatic and the machine gun but only offered a single clip without a reload option, its omission hardly makes any difference. But like I said, these are basically minor issues that don’t distract from the great whole: That this game is a lot of fun!

If you own the light gun peripheral, then this is one of the best games the Saturn library has to offer. It takes everything that was great about the first Virtua Cop and improves on it: More variety, longer levels, higher replay value – the works. Virtua Cop 2 is one of the main reasons why I dig my Saturn out of storage every once in a while. If you’re a fan of light gun shooters, this game certainly is an absolute must.

SCORE: 10 out of 10


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