Vic Mackey doesn't answer to you. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not even on Cinco de Mayo. Pardon the grizzled cop-speak, but if you're not already wincing at dialogue oozing with that type of machismo, then The Shield may be right up your dark and drug-infested alley. For those unfamiliar with FX's show, Mackey is an officer who "plays by his own set of rules," but what cop doesn't nowadays? No, our bald protagonist goes it a step further into the gray void of morality by stealing and planting evidence, pummeling suspects in custody and actively ripping off the crooks he should be putting behind bars.
Above: "Didn't mean to interrupt your game of butt darts." - actual game dialogue
Therein lies the game's most interesting feature, Vic's Heat meter. Getting the job done using more *cough* unorthodox methods will cause your Heat meter to rise, possibly resulting in the failure of your mission. To keep the scrutiny down, you can lower the heat meter by arresting perps "by the book" or turning in evidence instead of stashing it into your team's "retirement fund."
Fans will love seeing all the show's gritty details - and then some - intact within the game. The characters are here, and so are the true-to-detail Farmington precinct and the herky-jerky camera. Also, going beyond the show, say hello to the F-word.
Picking up between seasons three and four, the storyline wraps up the Money Train debacle (don't worry - you don't have to know what the hell that means in order to understand the plot) and sees Mackey's Strike Team on the brink of termination. That is, unless they can pull one more high-profile bust. Cue the One-Niners, Byz-Lats and the Armenian mob. For the uninitiated, those are all the factions that will be firing at you, so try and stay alive.
Above: Detective Mackey punishes smut
The Shield is a bit of survival story in and of itself. It saw release through the perils of company acquisitions, and was ultimately resurrected from cancellation by publisher, Aspyr. Thus, the game has spent several years in development, and it shows. Mackey himself looks good, but many of the other characters look positively Muppet-like. And granted, the inner-city LA locales on which the environments are based aren't that pretty to begin with, but they're still pretty bland and blocky.
And surely, some of those years languishing in development hell could've been spent hammering out the glitches and giving us smarter targets. Enemies will stand there and take as many bullets as you can throw at them. Missions with your partner, Shane, don't fare any better. He'll run headlong into a hail of gunfire, getting himself killed and thereby failing the mission for you. And the fighting mechanics flat-out suck.
The show is not about law-enforcement commandos with high body counts, and the game reflects this by requiring a little more restraint than most run-and-gunners. You'll find that stealth and nonviolent - okay, less violent - methods of subdual are preferable in most cases.
Unfortunately the missions become repetitive, and something that Vic does in one particular episode will become your signature Mack-Attack, used over and over again. The Shield has some unique things going for it, but the spotty enemy (and friend) intelligence and monotony keep it from achieving anything close to greatness.