Police Quest 4: Open Season, or paperwork the game (1993)

Police Quest 4: Open Season (1993) "author" Daryl F. Gates, directed and designed by Tammy Dargan, developed and published by Sierra On-Line

Police Quest 4 is a first game in the series that didn't have the series creator, Jim Walls attached to it. He had left Sierra before the completion of PQ3, so Sierra wanted to attach another police to the title and somehow managed to get that police in the form of a former Los Angeles police chief, Daryl F. Gates.

As far firsts go, there's something final as well, as Police Quest 4 also is the last point 'n' click adventure in the series, as while the series did continue on, the next entry was a tactical shooter SWAT, a game revolving around real police special forces, which Daryl F. Gates was a creator of. While SWAT series did end up 4 titles, some of which were very well received, the same didn't happen with Police Quest 4, as it is easily the worst game in the series. Not because of the absence of Walls, as his games weren't really that great either, but because of that is just is a badly designed game.

Open Season transports the series out from a fictional town of Lytton and places our protagonist police, a homicide detective Carey, in the real setting of Los Angeles. Out from the bat, the take on police work is much grimmer than what Jim Walls ever did. The first steps of the game take place on a murder scene, where Carey's good friend, also a police officer, is found tortured to death. And not only that, there's a body of a ten-year-old boy in the near dumpster, riddled with bullet wounds.

Carey is the dude wearing a brown suit.

From the get-go the game starts to underline that it doesn't only expect you to follow police procedures, it expects you to do it to a T. You need to go through the crime scene as well as remember to take notes. After that, when you get to the police station you need to fill out follow-up forms of the case. And this is something you need to do after each day. Jim Walls was content on letting you fly with fewer scores if you goofed, at least on some cases, on others the game just killed you, but Open Season won't even let you proceed if you haven't done absolutely everything.

What really makes the matters worse is, that there's a tonne of pixel hunting in the game. And extremely badly done at that, as in some cases there are no visual clues what so ever where you need to click in order to proceed. there was one scene where I was looking for a shoe from bushes, which existence I didn't even know, and ended up clicking the room just randomly until I found the damned thing. Had I not checked from the walkthrough I wouldn't have ever known.

One reason for this is, that the game is extremely ugly. As it is, Open Season is an FMV title, just like Gabriel Knight 2, but every scene is extremely pixelated and at times it's even difficult to know what you are looking at. To add insult to injury, there are some random scenes with much higher resolution than the main game has, so the Sierra SCIV engine could have pushed out higher resolution backgrounds, they just opted not to do so.

One of the few higher resolution screens. What's worse it is a completely useless screen. I can't even fathom why they even included this.

But really, the big issue with Open Season is, that while it also is anal police procedure game, it also is, more so than the other games in the series, very old school adventure game. This means, that at times you need to pick up random stuff, as you might need it later on, even if you don't have a real reason to pick that stuff up. And to add insult to injury, would you care to guess how you finally end up finding the serial killer, who has terrorised the city? Police work?

No, you need to pick up a random rope from one side of the city, go to a park where a dog is lolling on another murder scene, lasso the dog up and the mutt drags you to the lair of the killer. Sure, you've been there before, but it's not the police work that takes you there to actually confront the killer. And better yet, you really don't even have a valid reason to break into the house either.

As I've said, I don't think Jim Walls was that good of a designer, but at least his games felt like something that progressed naturally. Open Season feels like something, where you just do stuff until the point where the developers ran out of ideas and made up some bullshit way for you to get to the murderer.

And this was the last of the adventure games in the Police Quest series. A poorly designed, badly written shell, that could have been interesting, but ended up being a wreck. All I can say is, avoid and jump to SWAT series instead.

You can get PQ4 from GOG, if you feel like it.