The optional side-quests are imbalanced, but the game seems to be proud of this. When being radioed about a local gunman near the start you're warned it's no rookie quest. Take it and you'll find the enemies are all but invincible. At one point I took on a car chase mission where it not only interrupted the instructions by suddenly blanking the screen to load midway through a sentence, but then two seconds later announced I was dead for no understandable reason. "You are not the one who will save the city," it tells me, before automatically reloading me to the moment before I died.
Many missions have bonus achievements for completing them within a certain time limit. Take longer and it makes no meaningful difference except for the lack of kudos. But (there's a "but" in every paragraph) succeed and the next thing you'll see is a message saying, "If you didn't beat the timer and earned the award (sic), you can replay the mission..." Er, game, you're supposed to know if I did or not.
Cut-scenes are not only gibberish, but they're also created from static manga-style images that are ludicrously zoomed in on until they're giant pixellated blobs - it's phenomenally tacky. Oh, and to ensure I got properly cross it told me I had to shout "HEY!" into the mic to distract guards during a stealth section. Fortunately I did not have to alarm everyone else on the bus, as flicking the mic with my finger achieved the same result.
I could go on. It's important to recognise the achievement of building a big, detailed city, even if it's charmless. On the DS that's no small feat, and while there are many graphical costs (cars are four polygon boxes until they get close enough, and obstacles often pop into existence only when it's too late), they still managed that, and in a slightly less cartoony way than GTA: Chinatown Wars. It really is a sandbox city you can explore, find the (rather naff) bonus games, and explore main quests in your own chosen order. But even ignoring the giant technical flaws, it doesn't have the balls or the wit to pull it off.
For all its swagger you can't run people over - they all miraculously dive out the way. There's not a speck of blood anywhere, and the innocents just absorb your bullets without reacting. You're not stealing cars in the street - you're taking them because you're a cop. And at one point someone said to "frag off". Of course, none of those things are necessary for something to be enjoyable, and none make it a poor game, just one afraid to be itself - it wants to be a bad boy, but without being bad. What does make it a poor game is the crappy driving, ridiculous shooting, cackhanded interface and nonsense story. COP would get its head kicked in by GTA, before it cried home to its mum. It's essentially not cool.
4 / 10