Police procedurals are a concept we’re all familiar with. We pick up on the ins and outs of the law, find a guilty pleasure when a cop gets too rough with a real criminal, and watch as friendships and rivalries form within (and outside) the precinct. A few games have tried to emulate that feel before, but never quite hit the right notes with tight restrictions and railroaded plots making the game more about puzzle solving and less about your choices. Not so with The Detail, which truly gives you the freedom to be the kind of cop (or criminal) you want to be. Rival Games’ The Detail is the police procedural game I’ve always wanted.
Episode 1 kicked off the story, but Episode 2 is on an entirely new level. An early moment in the game involves an elaborate crime inside an apartment building. Starting with just a few clues, it’s up to the player to start piecing together a picture. This winding, twisting scene was so much fun to play as grumpy, old detectives Reginald “Reggie” Moore and Tyron DeShawn, the new heads of the Major Crimes Unit or “The Detail.” Reggie and Ty offer their two cents on observations and events but don’t hold the player’s hand to piece it all together. Best of all, there are no arbitrary puzzle restrictions. I ran into a scene where I had every reason to suspect someone of being a part of the crime, but without the right piece of evidence I couldn’t get a warrant. Unable to find anything to help my case and frustrated as all hell by it, I elected to make up a reason up, bust open the door, and arrest the sleazebag. That snap decision may have revealed more in the moment, but it came back to bite me in the a** later. My excuse had holes punched in it, and the criminal, who I suspected was a murderer, was let back out on to the streets, and there was nothing I could do about it. The Detail is full of these wonderful, complicated choices, where there is no clear right or wrong choice, it’s all a matter of your approach.
Episode 2 advances the plot of rival gangs, political corruption, and a police force on its last leg as the Major Crimes Unit (MCU) goes on its first cases and continues its hunt for those responsible for the shootout at the Walton Hotel. This episode heavily expanded the roles of Tyrone DeShawn (Reggie’s partner), Joe Miller (the family man cab driver who got sucked back into a life of crime acting as a police informant), and Katelyn Hayes (a fresh-out-of-the-academy recruit trying to find her path). Perhaps it’s just the way I play Reggie (My Reggie is a jerk.), but I greatly appreciated the expanded focus on the other cast members. The MCU’s members feel more like a unit, with every character having their own unique opinions and skills based on their backgrounds. One detail I love is that Katelyn, as the only girl in the group, turns out to be the best fighter, but without falling into the usual tough girl/tomboy tropes. (Take that, sexism!) Joe, as a good guy drawn back into the criminal underworld, has sections that are full of stress and tension as he struggles with finding his path to get away from the gangs and what to tell his family in the meantime.
And, the villains. They are all complicated, fully formed characters, but there’s one in particular that will stick with me for a long time, Mikhail. Every action Mikhail takes from shooting a gun to eating a plate of spaghetti manages to be utterly terrifying and completely in control of every situation.
From the Ashes much improves the simple controls for this series. The mouse pointer felt more responsive and stopped jumping into the middle of my screen, but I still found myself scrambling when a set of choices had to be made on a timer, making success not guaranteed. Likewise, Episode 2 makes full use of its interactive motion comic design. Close-ups of characters played out dialogue heavy scenes, which pulled me into the situation more than staring at the models from afar did. Have a theory for how a crime went down? It plays as a short comic on the screen. Seeing it all line up is immensely rewarding when you settle on a theory.
The Detail is not without its blemishes. I encountered odd errors such as “The Board,” which collects character/suspect data in one easily referenced place, calling one character by the name of another and inconsistencies with the game’s memory. On one occasion I fell into a repeat conversation with a character and in another instance the game forgot my choice entirely. While these moments brought me momentarily out of the story, they were small moments out of an otherwise deeply satisfying experience.
If you’re a fan of police procedurals, motion comics, or well-done adventure games (or all three!), I recommend picking up The Detail. Both episodes of the series are available on Steam.
Story: 10, Presentation: 9.5, Gameplay: 9.0, Overall: 9.5