SEGA are the king of the arcade, and they were on a high in the golden era of the 90s. Virtua Cop (or Virtua Squad in some territories) was their magnum opus for the on-rails light-gun shooter. Arguably the best home conversion at the time was not on the SEGA Saturn - their own console hardware - but the impressive 1997 PC ports.
Ok, so a light gun is out of the picture but the Saturn's Stunner would only be compatible with old-school CRT TVs anyway. The mouse is a decent alternative. The graphics are crisper too, allowing for translucent textures that SEGA's console was simply not able to do.
For those not in the know, Virtua Cop was created for the arcades in 1994 by famed SEGA AM2 designer Yu Suzuki (OutRun, Virtua Fighter, Shenmue). Like other titles in the Virtua series of games, it was the first of its genre to use 3D polygons. This allowed for a more cohesive game world than what we've seen before as well as context-sensitive animations. Depending on where an enemy is shot, he will react accordingly. It was ported to the Saturn in 1995 with the PC version - the one we're talking abot here - coming a few years later. The sequel, Virtua Cop 2 followed suit with improved graphical techniques such as texture-mapped polygons.
The story is a basic one, two cops nicknamed Rage and Smarty battle against the gun-running EVL Corporation. Their armed goons are not only numerous but seem to have the magical ability of teleportation. Maybe it's a prerequisite for the job.
One of the defining visual features of the series in the dynamic camera. It will zoom into the enemy with a circular reticle that changes from green to red the closer he is to shooting. It still looks impressive, though I have a few niggles about it. By using the mouse, the moving screen can put off your aim unless you have memorised the pre-determined movements on each level. Nothing is more annoying that aiming to shoot only to have the camera position move you out of the way. Ther split-second in which this can happen shows the kind of reflexes you'll need for the game.
The extra modes for Virtua Cop 1 & 2 respectively
Like the console port, the PC version of the PC game has a 'Training' mode that's a basic shooting gallery. You can play against an AI-controlled police officer for that competitive edge, but again, the mouse is slightly detrimental to the speed and accuracy that a light gun would give. Perhaps tweaking the mouse sensitivity in the DOSBox configuration would help.
Virtua Cop 2 plays pretty much the same as the first, but the set pieces are far snazzier. The in-game scenes are thrilling whether it be a high-speed car chase or a shoot-out on top of a moving train. It makes for a more intense game, as well as a more difficult one. Halfway through each level, you'll be given a fork in the road which adds to the replayability too. Sadly, there's still no light gun support (a bugbear for all such games of the PC) but the controls have been tweaked slightly to help with the chaos that appears on-screen. Where Virtua Cop 1 asks you to reload with a double-click to the right mouse button, the sequel requires only a single click. The camera moves a lot more here, so I noticed the aiming problem a lot more here, but that could just be me being terrible at the game.
The sequel also uses the extra year of development time over its console counterpart to add an extra game mode, one which cannot be found in the Saturn version. Called 'Proving Ground', it sees you trying to attack a specific enemy from a variety of vantage points. Depending on where you're coming from it may take several grunts before you reach the big bad and if you don't make it to him within a few seconds, you choose another point. Run out of places and it's game over. It's an interesting addition but I do think it could've been fleshed out a bit more. It's better than nothing which is what all of the other ports got, including the PS2's Elite Edition.
Despite the lack of a physical gun to hold in your hand, I still say the Windows versions of Virtua Cop 1 & 2 are the best of the home conversions, at least for the time. The simple polygonal visuals still look appealing to this day, and SEGA's masterful arcade style will forever be evergreen. A couple of true classics.
To download the game, follow the link below. This exclusive installer uses the DOSBox Daum build of DOSBox 0.74 running Windows '95. Press F1 in-game for help files and Alt-F4 to return to emulated desktop. Tested on Windows 10.
File Size: 330 Mb. Install Size: 590 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
IMPORTANT - Remember to shut down the emulated version of Windows before exiting DOSBox. This could potentially result in errors, lost saves and corrupt data. Press Ctrl-F9 when it is safe to do so.
Virtua Cop & Virtua Cop 2 are © SEGA
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me