Riot Police is one of those games that are usually more fun in theory than in practice. This real-time strategy game requires you to use different police units to quell angry mobs. Using nonlethal weapons, you engage in running battles with incensed union activists, enraged student protesters, wild football fans who rampage after a game, and more. You'll have to take crowd psychology into account or you'll do more harm than good if you use the wrong tactics and whip outraged bystanders into a frenzy. On paper, this game features some neat ideas, but control problems, micromanagement, and other flaws often make Riot Police a lot less fun than it could have been.
In Riot Police, you work through a linear series of 16 missions and a bonus mission. Superficially, at least, the missions are varied enough to make the game moderately interesting the first time through. They gradually introduce different units and feature varied goals, like keeping damage under a certain dollar amount or arresting a particular troublemaker among a crowd of vicious thugs. Unfortunately, there's only one game mode and no multiplayer options. There are no difficulty levels, which is a problem since some missions are very poorly balanced. On top of that, scripted events seem to play out the same way every time. All told, there's not a whole lot of depth, variety, or replay value in the long run.
You get six unit types with different strengths and weaknesses. Heavy riot police, for example, can set up cordons with their shields to knock onrushing hooligans backward. They're most effective en masse, and they run slowly, so you'll need to anticipate trouble spots early if you want to get them there in time. Standard riot police are a lot faster and can arrest people instead of just knocking them to the ground, but they can't endure much punishment. Other units can fire rubber bullets, tear gas, or other painful but nonlethal weapons.
Facing off against the boys in blue, protest leaders stay above the law while egging fellow demonstrators on, hooligans set out to destroy shops and vandalize cars just for kicks, and everyday citizens look on at your actions with satisfaction or join the lawbreakers if they get too agitated by the violence or think you've crossed the line. In fact, crowd control in the broadest sense is part of what makes this pretty simplistic and repetitive game more interesting than it would otherwise be. For example, indiscriminately firing tear gas into crowds or beating up everyone in sight can cause law-abiding passersby to join in the violence. Suddenly, you'll find your men grossly outnumbered and taking a beating. Colorful icons help you track these mood shifts among the populace.