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I Fought the Law and the Law Won
Robbing people with a six-gun;
I fought the law and the law won
Sonny Curtis and the Cricketsnote , "I Fought The Law"

So, you think you're bad, huh? You eat Dragons (both kinds) for breakfast. You're WEARING the Level Cap. You're carrying so many Ancient Artifacts of Game-Breaking Power that you start glowing whenever you turn around. NOTHING can stop you!

...unless, of course, you piss off The Law.

These aren't your average, overweight donut-munchers. These law-enforcers, whether they're plate-armored city-guards or patrol-ships in outer space, are suicidally brave, tough as nuts, and/or attack in endless waves. If you're really unlucky, every one of them is an Invincible Minor Minion. It doesn't matter how hard you are — the only way to survive is to run. If you try to take a stand, you'll be trounced sooner or later, and they NEVER STOP. So just pick up your Upgrade Artifacts and your Level-Cap and get outta town before I run ya in for loitering, punk!

Often overlaps with Shoplift and Die, if this response is provoked by the slightest infraction.

The Trope Namer, of course, is the chorus to "I Fought the Law" by Sonny Curtis and the Crickets, which has been famously covered by Bobby Fuller, The Clash, Green Day, Dead Kennedys, and various others.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Action 
  • Played with in The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction: the game uses a scaling threat system similar to Grand Theft Auto, rapidly going from local authorities to the Army to special Hulkbuster divisions equipped specifically to take you down. However, they aren't instant-kill enemies, just mildly tough; a decently skilled player should have no problem with them whatsoever. And of course, breaking out specialized mecha might seem excessive... if this wasn't the Hulk we were talking about.

    Action Adventure 
  • In most of the Grand Theft Auto series, there's a semi-realistic Sorting Algorithm Of Law Response, with only the earliest being normal police. It is somewhat more realistic that The Army would be able to keep throwing bodies into the breach, which is where it usually ends. (GTA4 cuts out these advanced responses, however, and thus falls squarely into this trope.)
    • Played with in the Lighter and Softer spinoff Bully: it is possible to knock out any authority figure with enough dedication, but from the first punch your trouble meter is maxed out, which prevents you from escaping if they grab you. However, unlike the relentless cops of GTA, you can go from a filled trouble meter to empty in less than a minute by simply staying out of their sight, and there are only four prefects and four cops in the game (along with a few randomly present faculty members who serve the same purpose).
    • Sleeping Dogs follows the GTA model with progressively larger and better armed police response teams coming after Wei Shen. If you're on foot, cops can tackle Wei and attempt to handcuff him at a low heat level; you can run for a while, but eventually they'll catch up, and you simply can't fistfight them. If you reach high heat, they'll bring out guns, which can make short work of you. They never get to the point of deploying helicopters and tanks, but the Special Duties Units never stop coming. You can get an achievement if you can kill 50 of them before you're brought down. Promptly subverted if you manage to grab a car, at which point Wei can either escape with a bit of persistence or almost effortlessly ram the cop cars off the road.
  • The Godfather, the first installment at least, is a REALLY nasty example. Sure, all the cops are corrupt and literally line up to get bribed, but if you get a high enough wanted level, all the money in the world won't protect you. They will pursue you in squad cars that can mysteriously drive faster than even the swiftest car available to you, while hanging out the window to blast you with shotguns that heartily avert Short Range Shotgun. The good news is that with enough bribes, they'll fight FOR you, and utterly mess up the Tommy Gun-toting gangsters of the opposing families.
  • The old board-game-style crime-simulator Chaos Overlord had a (relatively) realistic rendition of this — basically, if you caused too much Chaos in any given city-square, it would cause The Law to descend on that area, reverting the area control to 'Neutral', and utterly destroying any units there. Not because of endless hordes, but because they ride around in squad-cars armed and armored like tanks. Even the toughest units available to you are still infantry and don't stand a chance against The Law's armored vehicles.
  • Subverted in Destroy All Humans!, where the threat scale will actually reset back to zero if you manage to defeat The Men in Black (the highest level antagonist), but only if you're on foot. If you're in your saucer, the tanks and missile batteries just keep coming.
  • Scarface: The World is Yours: As you commit crimes, a border around your minimap will fill up. If you fail to escape police attention before it does, the game will emphatically tell you that "You're Fucked!" and endless waves of SWAT teams with helicopter support will pour in to engage you. You can hold out for a while by using Blind Rage, but there's no escape other than biting it.
  • Averted in Assassin's Creed games, where you can lose pursuit by killing all the guards in a specific encounter and they will only respawn much later, more than long enough to get out of the area. Guards in other areas won't pay any extra attention to you for that. The only times this is played straight are when the plot calls for it.
    • From Assassin's Creed II onwards, if you kill too many people and your notoriety goes to 100%, the trope is turned up to eleven: every guard that sees you attacks on sight without warning. You can still kill everyone in a certain area and end the fight, but after moving to a new place, you have to do it all over again. You can reduce your notoriety by bribing heralds, taking down your wanted posters, and assassinating corrupt officials.
  • Your wanted level in The Saboteur goes up to five levels. The Nazis will not stop pursuing you until you find a hideout and lose them, but lower-level hideouts don't fool higher-level pursuits. At the highest level, the Luftwaffe joins the chase, and the only level five hiding places are at the top of the Eiffel Tower and a farmhouse at the top of the map.

    Adventure 
  • In the 1997 Blade Runner video game, it is completely impossible to avoid being arrested at some point, due to the simply overwhelming and unrelenting force of the police.

    Arcade 
  • Hitting a cop in Burrito Bison costs you a great deal of speed, ending your run entirely if you hit one while going too slow. In the first game, the cop beats Bison down and has him hauled back to his cell. Inverted in the second game, where the run ends with Bison beating the cop into a pulp before returning to the ring.

    First Person Shooter 
  • In the original Halo: In the very first level, when you first get a weapon, you can backtrack and kill Keyes. Cortana will call in a squad of marines, who are completely invincible.
  • Cops in Turok 3 are unkillable by the player, and will ventilate you if you attack them or try to cross a police checkpoint.
  • PAYDAY: The Heist is all about stealing money or other valuables while the law sends wave after wave of cops and SWAT to stop you. All you can do is survive each wave as you do your objectives and the hightail it out of there when it's time. The cops never stop coming!
    • In the second game, the police respond to the number of hostages you have: if you have more, they delay longer in assaulting (after the first assault, which will start as soon as SWAT arrives on the scene). Conversely, if you kill a hostage, on purpose or accidentally, they will assault much faster to stop you from doing it again. If you have no hostages, they'll basically stop assaulting you in name only: Mission Control will tell you they've backed off, but they'll still keep attacking you. Fighting the law is always a losing proposition, though: you can't kill enough of them to stop them from coming, so your only hope is to do what you need to do and get out.

    MMORPG 

    Platform 
  • There are neutral zones in Bionic Commando. If you fire your gun in one, suddenly you're under attack by an army of white-suited soldiers (who don't give you any rewards for killing them) until you leave and re-enter the zone.
  • In Jak II, you can steal vehicles from civilians and run them over to your little heart's content. However, if you hit a Krimzon Guard or steal one of their vehicles, it causes a city-wide alert that will send tons of them after you. Luckily, you can run or hide from them.

    Racing 
  • The Need for Speed series, with the endless waves of cop cars (which can be improbably cool) pursuing you until you manage to hide long enough from them. In Most Wanted, all bosses require you to endure pursuit in a determined length of time before you can challenge them. The final stage is you desperately fighting to defy this trope.
    • Annoyingly, when you're The Law, it's up to you and you alone to stop the racers.

    Roguelike 
  • Borderline example from Nethack. Robbing a store will cause the Keystone Kops to spawn and attack you, and they do so in intimidatingly high numbers. They are amongst the only creatures in the game that cannot be rendered 'Extinct' by killing 120 of them. Hence, though it's possible for a high-level character to kill all of the 'Kops' that appear after a particular heist, there'll always be another wave waiting next time... (The shopkeeper himself is a much bigger threat, but nothing a high-level character can't handle.)
  • The shopkeepers in ADOM are not to be scoffed at; getting away with shoplifting is very hard for a low-level PC to do. But there is almost no hope for you if you try to get past the Eternal Guardian without the Ring of the High Kings. He is beastly strong, resistant to teleportation, and respawns infinitely, stronger each time.
  • In Dungeons of Dredmor, stealing from the shop causes the high-level shopkeeper, Brax, to attack you, and summons mass armies of powerful "Dread Collector" demons to dogpile you.

    RPG 
  • In Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, it doesn't matter if you have wiped out the entire village (or occaisional City) the patrol will just keep coming at you in their endless, invincible waves. Also, after a time, even the NPCs in an area that you have killed will come back to life
  • Starflight, a memorable 1986 space exploration sandbox game, uses this trope as copy protection. Upon leaving the space station, the player is asked to look up a number on a code wheel. If he fails, the game lets the player fly around — for a while. Eventually, you encounter a group of very well-armed ships and receive an incoming transmission: "PULL OVER! THIS IS THE INTERSTEL CORPORATE POLICE. YOU ARE UNDER ARREST. DROP ALL SHIELDS AND DISARM ALL WEAPONS. YOU ARE IN VIOLATION OF INTERGALACTIC SOFTWARE THEFT LAW. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RESIST." The player has one more chance to answer the copy protection correctly. If the player fights, he dies. If the player gives the correct code, the police disappear. If the player cannot answer, the game ends without a chance to save.
    • However, it's not unknown for the player to be able to simply outrun the cops if he doesn't talk to them.
  • Want to actually go the whole evil hog and permanently depopulate a town in Fable? You can't. Even if you've killed every last civilian, the guards just keep pouring in in groups of three (or more in the Guild.) Apparently, Albion's military population is over ten times its civilian one. Must be all the monsters...
    • The guards themselves are pretty weak, even a low level player can effortlessly crush them with only a few points in the right spells (looking at you here, Enflame).
  • In Baldur's Gate, The Flaming Fist guards the city of the same name — and regardless of your level and divine blood, you have no chance against them. They are literally invincible.
    • The sequel, on the other hand, is a subversion — provoking the local mages in Athkatla will result in larger and larger squads sent to exterminate the player, but eventually the mages have had enough: they cut their losses and stop interfering with the player character's actions.
  • The Elder Scrolls series usually features infinitely-respawning guards in the cities, becoming particularly infamous in Oblivion when they combine this with Shoplift and Die. So not only will you be arrested for picking up a cup you just nudged off a table, attempting to fight the guard will simply result in an endless flood of auto-leveling guards who will, after a short time, stop trying to arrest you, and concentrate on killing you.
    • Exacerbated in that many players don't read manuals and don't know that you can yield. So if you accidentally hit a guard... whoa momma.
    • Also averted in Oblivion if you get the Cowl of Nocturnal. As long as you don the cowl before doing anything illegal, you can kill as many guards as you wish. When you want to stop fighting guards, take the cowl off and yield. Due to the magic of the cowl, the guards will think you are innocent and accept your yield without giving you a single fine, and the guards you killed will still have some measly loot on their bodies.
      • Of course, with the proper magic item sets and/or proper leveling, you can indefinitely fight off the guards until you get bored. Word of warning, though: Once your bounty gets too high, the only way to eliminate it is to serve time, unless you bother with the Gray Fox quest. The Cowl, of course, is a better choice, more so if you combine it with your 100% reflect damage combinations. So it becomes more a matter of "The law has more endurance" than it being able to actually win. Nothing can stop arrow damage aside from dodging, so you can't even get the violence in motion then go do something else.
      • Also, in the "Shivering Isles" DLC for Oblivion, similar things happen in one of the two towns there. Given that this is a very magical place, the cowl's magic doesn't work. However, if you complete the main storyline, you gain clothes that give you the exact same ability as the cowl to go off without getting your main character busted.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption features an unusual example. Starting a brawl or trying to drink blood in public will call down infinite numbers of city guards/policemen down on you, but the real danger is not from their weapons. Instead, the danger is that every time you kill one, your Humanity score goes down by 5 points, and when it reaches 0, you get an automatic game-over.
    • Similarly, in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, police get involved if you get violent outside a combat zone. Killing cops is a humanity violation, and once your humanity drops you frenzy, and when you frenzy you get a masquerade violation, and when that hits 0 it's game over.
      • On that note, Bloodlines' Masquerade meter is this. If you have five unredeemed Masquerade Violations on your record at any one time, a blood hunt is called against you, resulting in an automatic Nonstandard Game Over.
  • Final Fantasy VII has an example of this early in the game after jumping off the train bound for Sector 5. Going to one end of the train tunnel, you'll find a checkpoint guarded by some Shinra troops. Try to fight them, and you'll just face wave after wave of soldiers until you wise up and run the other way down the tunnel, or die trying to kill them all.
  • This can happen in the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games, overlapping with Shoplift and Die. If you're in a dungeon and attempt to steal from the Kecleon shop merchant, you'll find out just how ridiculous it gets — in the first game, they're level 90. In the second, level 49 with max stats in everything but HP. Either way, when they're after you they're permanently at double speed and they spawn infinitely until you reach the staircase to get to the next level. Their moveset consists of attacks like Fury Swipes (instant death for most if it connects), Faint Attack (instant death that never misses), Screech (for the rest, this will make the aforementioned attacks instant death), Psybeam (long-range instant death), Ancientpower (an attack with a chance of self-boosting that shall be quickly followed by instant death), and Substitute (your only hope at a reprieve... given that you're traveling alone). I must not also forget to mention that you can't use Escape Orbs and the like while they're chasing you. You'd only steal from Kecleon for two reasons: to gain a hefty profit — assuming you're actually strong enough to handle it — and trying a very unlucky attempt to recruit the bastards...
    • They have a base recruitment rate of -39.8% (note the negative sign). The maximum recruitment rate bonus one can get is 40% by being level 100 with a friend bow. In the best case scenario, you get .2 percent chance of recruiting them. By that level the only real threat is screech, which drops your defense into OHKO territory from fury swipes. Don't forget that you cannot stay on a floor forever with the purpose of farming them, as you'll eventually be killed for staying too long (granted, you're given plenty of warning). The second game would also require similar conditions. Given that not everyone can learn the IQ ability that increases recruitment rate, that means that there is a small set of Pokemon even capable of recruiting them, none of them except for Mew are terribly good.
  • The guards in Ultima III Exodus are highly overleveled, fast, and like to respawn a lot. Stealing treasure or worse, attacking royalty tends to bring them out in force.
    • In Ultima IV Quest Of The Avatar doing this not only gets you the guards, it makes the game Unwinnable because you're supposed to be virtuous to win, and doing things like stealing or attacking townspeople takes your Karma Meter to the floor, unable to ever raise it again. Though if the point is playing the very opposite of a Pacifist Run...
    • In Ultima V Warriors of Virtue guards are massively powerful, able to take out a low to mid-level party with ease. This even applies to the villain's guards — if, of course, they don't simply "strike thee unconscious" and capture you without a fight. Fortunately, there is a shop where you can buy unlimited numbers of invisibility rings ...
    • In Ultima VIII Pagan there's only one guard — Beren — but he's completely invincible. You can, however, exploit a glitch to kill him.
  • Guards in Avernum are finite, and even beatable at higher levels, but they have a special trait that makes them more effective against player characters than against monsters.
  • A number of characters in Deus Ex are unkillable for plot reasons, and going on a rampage at the office will cause all of them to go aggro against you, forcing you to run or eventually die.
  • Fallout 3: If you have Evil Karma, you will regularly encounter Regulator hit squads. Conversely, Good Karma will attract the attention of Talon Company.
    • Similarly, in Fallout: New Vegas, having a negative reputation with either of the major factions will cause them to send hitmen after you every couple of days. The NCR Rangers give you a three-day warning, while the Legionary Assassins will shoot on sight. In the second act of the game, the NCR and Legion will declare you an enemy and permanently turn hostile once you progress far enough into the opposing faction's quest line, gain significant general infamy, or kill one of their leaders.

    Simulator 
  • In the space-sim Darkstar One, doing anything to raise your wanted-level above one star will cause police-ships to rapidly descend on you. Depending on where you are (the ships will be equipped with the favorite weapons of the race), they may not be a major threat, but they'll keep spawning from the nearest Trade Station for a long time... and shooting them down rapidly raises your wanted-level until it hits Five Stars. At that point, a patrol-cruiser will be diverted into the system to teach you a lesson, and since you're basically flying a glorified Fighter, a Cruiser is a pretty serious opponent. It IS possible for a system to run out of police-ships, but even if you manage to take out the first Cruiser to arrive, another will just warp into the system shortly after. Better flick on that Afterburner and put some AU's between you and them...
  • In The Sims Medieval if your Sim breaks the law they will be arrested, even if nobody actually witnessed the crime. Oddly, while stealing and breaking other Sims out of Stock Punishment are definitely against the law, dueling to the death doesn't seem to be.
    • Truth in Television: Dueling only became a crime in the 18th and 19th centuries, and even then they were largely tolerated and/or supported by authorities.
  • In the X-Universe, fighting the Police and Border Patrol is generally not difficult because they mount terrible weapons, but god help you if you piss off the racial naval fleets enough that they start chasing you down, especially in Albion Prelude or with the Rapid Response Fleet mod, where they will react much more aggressively to player hostility - typically by siccing a couple corvettes on the player. Blow those up, and they'll start throwing frigates and destroyers at you. The one law enforcement/navy faction you do not want to piss off is the Earth State's AGI Task Force - partly because if you make them angry, you cannot get back on good terms, and partly because their ships are apocalyptically powerful, especially their Skirnir missile frigate which can destroy an entire fleet from 60 kilometers away.

    Third Person Shooter 
  • Averted in Mafia. If a police officer spots you committing a crime, it's possible to stop being wanted by getting away quickly enough or by killing the officer. Unless another police officer spots you doing that, you can get off scot-free. Additionally, even if you earn a city-wide wanted level, you can wait it out by hiding somewhere. You may have to deal with a carload of cops enroute to your favorite hide-outs, though.
  • Happens in Crackdown. If you kill too many cops peacekeepers or civilians too quickly, the peacekeepers will go nuts and start mass-spawning all around you. Mind you, they are Red Shirts and you're a Super Soldier, but if you keep killing them, the hate-meter stays topped and they'll never stop coming.
  • Averted in Total Overdose, which also lacks wanted levels because you're nominally associated with the Federales through a DEA task force. Killing the rare and random police may make others attack, but after the ones within sight are dead, others you come across will pay you no attention. One minigame brings police in droves of squad cars for a limited amount of time, but the same minigame begins from a mounted ''minigun'' to blast them with, and any police remaining after the time expires can be easily mopped up.

    Other Media 
  • Michael from the Knight and Rogue Series refuses to bring in a murder suspect who he discovers is innocent, knowing that the court he's expected to take her too will be stacked against her for political reasons. Unfortunately, he's required by law to catch her, and his refusal to bring her in gets him branded as a criminal.
  • In the 2013 Bonnie and Clyde TV movie, the titular Outlaw Couple seal their doom when they start killing police officers. They can no longer use Jurisdiction Friction to their advantage as the task force sent after them pursues them across county and state lines. When they go on vacation to Florida, the task force finds them there. When their hideout is discovered, an army of police officers surrounds them and engages them in a massive shootout. This culminates in the couple's deaths in an ambush when their car is riddled with bullets as police officers fire machine guns at them in a classic example of There Is No Kill Like Overkill.


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