The PlayStation 2’s incredibly belated Beverly Hills Cop game

London-based publisher Blast Entertainment was a latecomer to the PlayStation 2, arriving on the scene in 2006. To put this into more perspective, the PS2 was about to enter its twilight years, with the Xbox 360 and Wii already available – and soon to be joined by the PS3.

There was a strategy behind this. Blast hoped to capitalise on the PS2’s current demographic of teens and pre-teens, many of which would have likely gained a PS2 as a hand-me-down. Blast’s games were based on recognisable TV shows, films and other media, and released at a mere £9.99 each – a commercially viable price point due to Sony recently reducing publishing fees.

By this point, most studios already had several PS2 games under their belt, and as such, most developers already had libraries of engines and assets ready to be re-used. Blast’s Jetix Puzzle Buzzle from 2008 – based on a logo for a kid’s TV channel, of all things – was in fact a re-skin of Kemco’s Egg Mania from 2002. 2007’s Captain Scarlet, based on the cult Supermarionation ‘60s series, wasn’t an action game but rather a generic racer from a studio specialising in budget racing sims. It also appears that some studios for hire were contracted to make multiple games simultaneously, likely reducing costs further.

Cost cutting led to Blast acquiring the rights to a hefty number of older movie properties from Fox, Universal, Sony, and Paramount, doubtlessly at rock bottom prices. And so throughout 2006 and 2007, European PS2 owners were treated to games based on such ‘80s and ‘90s classics as Dr. Dolittle, Top Gun, Jumanji, Home Alone, An American Tale, and Beverly Hills Cop.

While these were all recognisable properties, they weren’t exactly the freshest of films. The existence of a Beverly Hills Cop game certainly piqued a few people’s interest, though, skewing more towards adults than teens due to the movie’s tone and humour. It wasn’t a property that had been over exposed either – there were a few more timely tie-ins for the likes of the Amiga and Commodore 64 back in the ‘80s, and that was about it.

One thing Blast lacked was the rights to use actor’s likenesses in their games; an extra step they likely didn’t want to deal with. As such, the majority of their movie games either have no human characters whatsoever or used generic/cartoon personas instead. Jumanji was merely a board game/mini game package featuring animals, while Home Alone had a generic blonde-haired child up against a gang of cartoonish goons. Instead of starring the wise-cracking Eddie Murphy, Beverly Hills Cop featured a bald protagonist closer resembling a modern-day Vin Diesel. Oddly, this isn’t a new character – they’re still referred to as Axel Foley – which no doubt resulted in fans scratching their heads.

Development duties for Beverly Hills Cop went to Atomic Planet, responsible for Blast’s Top Gun, Charlotte’s Web, Paddington Bear, and Jumanji games – all of which launched in 2007, giving some idea to the timeframe these productions were given. Atomic Planet had already created a couple of generic military FPSs for Midas Interactive in 2005, and it seems logical to suggest Beverly Hills Cop recycled the engine.

Beverly Hills Cop, then, is a first-person shooter with six stages that feature a mixture of stealth sequences, shootouts, and sections where Axel must talk his way out of tense situations by playing a reaction-based mini-game. The whole thing takes around 3 hours to finish, but in reality, it’s actually far shorter than this. Atomic Planet used every trick in the book to extend its runtime, making cut-scenes unskippable and omitting checkpoints entirely. There are even invisible walls that are impassable until Axel stops reeling off text-based corny dialogue. To reiterate, if you get caught during a stealth section or die during a shootout, you’re placed back to the start of a stage and must rewatch cut-scenes again.

Visually, it’s crude with angular characters and backdrops (Axel has oddly long fingernails, that often clip through weapons) and there’s little in the way of music. The licensing agreement didn’t even include the infamous theme tune (‘Axel F’ – later ruined by The Crazy Frog) instead using an imitation. It’s also hilariously shoddy technically. Enemies lack the ability to aim up and down, so if you explore the stages while crouching, most bullets will whizz straight over Axel’s head. And after unlocking a door it’s vital to back away a few feet, otherwise it won’t open.

The methods implemented to extend its runtime make it feel like a chore to play; a rough slog with nothing to reward the player for their efforts. Gunplay feels sloppy and wooden, with limp weapons that fire unrealistically, and no flair such as slow-mo or gratuitous headshots – which wouldn’t have suited the tone. There is almost nothing of worth whatsoever here, and in a way, you can’t blame the developers. They were presented with the challenging task of making a first-person shooter based on a recognisable property in a matter of months and likely had other games in development.

It’s a shame Blast couldn’t see the potential for a Beverly Hills Cop game. It was released at a time when similar ‘80s movies were gaining belated adaptations, such as Scarface, Reservoir Dogs, The Warriors, and Miami Vice so there was clearly a demand. A bigger budget and a longer development would have likely fixed some of its flaws – or at least, removed some of its padding – to make an experience at least palatable. In the end, it was just another box-ticking exercise; something slapped onto a disc and sold for a pittance, just because the publisher could.

Images via Giant Bomb.