Outside of the illicit deeds and savage beatings, all you're left with is a series of short shooter and sneaking levels. The stealth missions are some of the most annoying stealth sequences you'll ever play (guards with X-ray vision, nothing for you to do while sneaking around except...sneak around), so it's perhaps a godsend that you can opt to shirk stealth in most cases and start gunning down gangbangers instead--though even that strategy comes with a caveat, in that the game seems to not quite know what to do when you choose this strategy. Several times we ran into bugs where missions would fail halfway through a level, even though we weren't dead. Sometimes we'd get all the way through, guns blazing, and sometimes we'd get messages that the target character we were after escaped before the level timer even ran out. Other times we'd find out he was dead, for some inexplicable reason.
Being able to shoot like an action hero doesn't make the game good, since the shooting happens to be pretty lousy. There's no weapon variety to speak of (there are only three guns you can use), and until you get to the heavy machinery, you'll find yourself having to pump way too many rounds into enemies than is realistic. Seriously, should it really take six bullets to the chest and head to kill a Kevlar-less gangster? Vic can use a couple of basic cover mechanics, which are great because they're placed so you'll never have to get out from a cover position to kill bad guys. Your enemies always stay just within your sight range, so all you have to do is peer out real quick, unload a couple of rounds, and repeat until they're dead. There are also some sequences that involve working with an artificially intelligent partner. These guys evidently weren't programmed with cover mechanics in mind, so they like to go running out into the field of gunfire and get shot to death very quickly, which ends the mission. Your best bet is to keep running ahead of them, shooting all the while and hoping you don't die.
One of the weirdest things about The Shield is its presentation. You can tell that developer Point of View desperately wanted to ape the show's sense of style, but its imitations of the show's scattered camera angles, brutal violence, and gritty environments aren't very impressive. If anything, the camera makes the cutscenes feel kind of vomit-inducing, and as mentioned earlier, most of the violence is off-kilter and not all that extreme. One particularly weird sequence is the opening level, which intersperses title cards with the actors' names at oddly-timed intervals that break up the pacing of the stage badly. The environments and levels do feel appropriately dingy, but dingy levels can take you only so far. The technical graphics aren't very impressive by themselves, either. Vic and the principal character models look kind of grody and misshapen, and some of the skin and facial textures are laughably bad. Animation is stiff, world textures are blurry, and there are some occasional glitches and ugly spots. The PC version is arguably a bit crisper than the PS2 version, but not by a particularly wide margin.
The Shield tries to provide vague opportunities for moral decision making, but most times it's just easier and less frustrating to play it shady.
The lone bright spot is the voice acting. Nearly all the actors from the show reprise their roles (though CCH Pounder appears to have turned down the opportunity to be in this game--smart lady), and though you can definitely grasp a lack of enthusiasm by the actors, they don't totally dead-read everything. Chiklis chews the scenery as per usual, and other actors, such as Benito Martinez, Walton Goggins, and Jay Karnes, turn in decent performances, despite the shoddy dialogue. The rest of the audio is less enjoyable, however. The main theme song is in full effect in the game, and, in fact, the developer decided to cut the opening riff from it into every search sequence that you fail. So every time you fail to pick up contraband from a search, this same three-second-long, very loud guitar riff pops in to drive you bonkers. Speaking of repetitive audio work, the background dialogue is mind-numbingly repetitious. Characters repeat the same lines with insane frequency. This same problem plagued one of Point of View's last games, Narc. The problem here is that the lines that are being repeated aren't even unintentionally funny, so the repetition becomes obnoxious very quickly.
It is perhaps understandable that a publisher might pick up a game like The Shield dirt cheap from the cancellation pile simply on the strength of its license, but it ultimately would have been better for all of us if The Shield had stayed away from retail shelves. It's a conceptually flawed and poorly executed action game that has only the most base-level details in common with the license it's based on. The action isn't fun, the extreme violence isn't all that extreme, and the storyline is a dull, hacked-together snoozefest. The Shield is perfunctory in every imaginable way, and everyone, fan of the show or not, should avoid it.