Police Quest: Open Season
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|Police Quest: Open Season|
|Platform(s)||Microsoft Windows, MS-DOS, Apple Macintosh System 7|
Police Quest: Open Season is the fourth installment of Sierra On-Line's popular Police Quest series. Released in November 1993, it was created by retired Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, who was the Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) from 1978 to 1992. He replaced ex-California Highway Patrol officer Jim Walls as the designer of the franchise.
The game is listed as Police Quest 4 (PQ4) in the manual. It is also shown in the file names and the credits, and when exiting the game in DOS, "Thank you for playing Police Quest IV: Open Season". The number does not appear on the title screen.
Police Quest IV differs significantly from the first three games, in both game engine and story. The player plays the character of homicide detective John Carey (portrayed by Sierra actor Brandon Massey), rather than Detective Sonny Bonds, and the game is set in Los Angeles, California rather than the fictional Lytton. Backgrounds for the game are digital photographs rather than painted scenery, and depict real locations in Los Angeles. The Parker Center is a location used in the game, and is virtually unchanged from when the game was made. Written text is replaced by audible narration and dialogues on the CD version, released in 1996.
The entire game, like Police Quest III and the 1991 re-make of Police Quest 1, is based on a mouse-controlled user-interface system. Icons for "walking", "speaking, "using" and "looking" are used rather than the old-fashioned text-parsing system used in the first two games.
Homages to Sonny Bonds appear in two places: the name of the police server is "SONNY" and "Sonny Bonds" also appears on the high score screens of the two arcade games in the Short Stop Bar (CD version only).
The game starts in a South Central Los Angeles alley at around 3:00 AM. Carey finds his best friend and ex-partner, Officer Bob Hickman, murdered on the scene, alongside eight-year-old Bobby Washington. The seemingly random string of gang-related murders continues along, providing Carey with clues to find his killer(s).
After five people are murdered, mutilated and found in public places, Carey finally closes in on the killer. He stumbled across the proprietor of a second-rate movie theatre, who has a stuttering problem. The owner offers him some tea and invites him into the theatre to watch a film. Carey passes out and hallucinates that the proprietor is the cross-dresser seen near the body of Hickman. The owner wakes Carey up and throws him out of the theatre. Carey finds the killer's house (led there by his dog), only to find a severed head in a fridge. Carey finds a hidden passage that leads back to the theatre, and finds a woman passed out in the seats. When he returns, he sees the owner dragging the unconscious woman into a back room. Carey is subsequently knocked unconscious. However, Carey manages to scrounge up some hairspray and a lighter, finds the woman covered in blood with the killer looming over her, and torches the killer. Although the woman is limp and covered in blood, we can assume that Carey saved her because the mayor mentions that only five people were killed, as he presents Carey with the Medal of Valor.
Development and release
The same year Open Season was released, ex-Police Quest developer Jim Walls released a very similar game called Blue Force. Although Blue Force is graphically more similar to Police Quest III, the storyline and completion time are shorter.
Also, for the 1996 release of the game, a two-minute promotional video was included.
Sierra had three box designs in consideration for the game: A bloody hand reaching for the title, a file folder, and the city skyline of Los Angeles. The company had a focus group vote on them, and the file folder design garnered almost no votes, with the other two covers splitting the majority. The final decision was reached because parents in the focus group often had a negative side comment about the bloody hand design, so the city skyline cover eventually won.
Open Season was met with some controversy for its perceived portrayal of some African-American characters and the stereotypical use of jive talk, of which the game was accused of portraying in an Amos 'n' Andy-style dialect. Examples of this include a witness introducing himself as "I be Raymond Jones the third", "I jest be out for some fresh LA air" or "Yo, I be fly today!". Although credited as the game's author, Daryl F. Gates did not write the game's story line, he renounced the inclusion of aforementioned dialogue in the game insisting they were not his idea. He said "I told [Sierra] that these people use the same language as you and I use. A lot of that was changed. It is not intended to offend anyone". Instead, Gates claimed that the story had been penned by Sierra's Tammy Dargan, a former segment producer for America's Most Wanted. Dargan in turn, claimed that the lingo was inspired by Fab Five Freddy's "Fresh Fly Flavor".
The first four Police Quest games totaled 850,000 sales by late 1995. However, Markus Krichel of PC Games noted that "interest on the part of the gamer fell slightly" with Open Season, which led Sierra On-Line to experiment with a new direction for the series with Police Quest: SWAT. According to Sierra, combined sales of the Police Quest series—including SWAT—surpassed 1.2 million units by the end of March 1996.
Computer Gaming World stated in February 1994 that "Police Quest: Open Season evinces a remarkable degree of work-a-day police realism as a result of Gates' contributions", with "marvelous digitized backgrounds". A longer review in March 1994 stated that the game had succeeded "at so many levels", that its realism and "seemingly endless amounts of" police procedure offered "larger implications about our society and its struggle against the drug machine". The reviewer noted that treating NPCs with the same "lack of consideration" players do so in other games "seems incredibly damning—and heartrending—because it's true to life. We treat each other, the game implies, in our attempts merely to cope with the problems with which we are faced, like NPCs". The magazine concluded that "Open Season tells that story magnificently".
Next Generation reviewed the Macintosh version of the game, rating it two stars out of five, and stated that "the ultimate Sierra police-based game is still a fond dream to look forward to; and in the meantime we can still keep ourselves amused with the Leisure Suit Larry series."
Like other games in the Police Quest series, the player has to follow standard police procedures and thoroughly investigate crime scenes to every extent. The CD version of the game contained copies of official LA police department employee and community relation policies.
It is believed the killer in the game is based on serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, noted for keeping body parts from his victims inside his house. Towards the end of the game, the player will find a severed head in a refrigerator before ultimately stumbling upon the killer, who is fondling a victim's corpse.
As with several other Sierra games of the era, a game over can result from a variety of causes: the game ends if a player constantly harasses female employees at the Parker Center, or if he shoots non-threatening people.
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