It is hard to call any entry in Police Quest series as a regular video game, because it is not. Especially in this day and age where most games -from casual mobile app to heavily funded AAA console titles are designed from the ground up to appeal to as many willing, paying customers as possible, Police Quest's entries are all from the school of "buy this game only if you want to play it sort". That alone gives it enough merit for you to try it out. But Open Season has lots more going for it than novelty, like its predecessors, it presents the players with a totally realistic look at the world of police work. The big question is, how many gamers are ready to deal with reality?
There is a reason why plenty of gamers are escapists: the world is full of crazy, redundant things, especially red tape. But unlike most games that let you skip all the boring stuff, Police Quest pretty much drowns you in it. Now, if you are not familiar with the series, you would think that Open Season needs a better delivery. But the fact is, Police Quest has a long history of making players do paperwork, walk around patrol cars before boarding, and knowing that it is never acceptable to cuff suspect in the front (in the very Police Quest game, failing to do a routine check of the police vehicle before boarding results in a flat tire, which means game over). Open Season lives up to that style of gaming.
It is like heavily moderated role playing game: you can do a lot of things, even make crazy decisions, but the world and people around you will react accordingly. Be sloppy with a criminal and you are likely to get hurt, be offensive against civilians and you face consequences, use the touch command on female officer and you get slapped with a sexual harassment complaint. In this sense, Open Season is very much unlike a game since it hardly gives players any true freedom -or at least, that what it feels like at first.
The way that Police Quest was meant to be played was to try and figure out which actions are the most appropriate at any given time in order to make the right decision and earn more points. This usually means following the rules and progressing the story. Or, you could choose to experiment just to see what happens if you do something you should not do: like point your gun at civilians.
The game has a narrator that reacts to the player's input, and this is an interesting gameplay device. Design-wise, the narrator was probably put in there to guide players towards making the right decisions. Let us say you are in a crime scene and you see a piece of evidence on the floor. In any other point and click game, the idea would be to pick that up, stuff in your inventory, inspect it, and keep it forever until you find a use for it in-game.
With Police Quest, you are not allowed to touch it. You are supposed to mark it with chalk then leave it for the Scientific Investigation Division (SID) to take and analyze. And it is up to the narrator to push you towards that correct action should you decide to do something else.
We did realize, after following the rules for a while, is that there is a completely different game inside this game: how many rules can you break without getting a game over? And from what we found: not much. A couple of wrong actions can get you fired pretty quick, or in some cases, even killed by criminals. It is an interesting way to play the game as you get to see the different scenarios play out -just remember to back up all your progress in a separate save file.
The game is old, like real old. The visuals are a simulation of 3D using completely pixilated 2D images of real things. Even the characters are a pile of pixilated human photographs. It makes for a slightly surreal kind of game, like the entire real world has suddenly gone low res. Still, we love the unique delivery style (certainly a massive upgrade from the super 8-bit days of the original game), and dialogue. Police Quest Open Season does not always tak into account how much craziness a player can bring, but watching the world react when you irresponsibly point a gun at others is certainly amusing for a game.