In SNES's game 'Super Double Dragon aka Double Dragon 4'. The game overtures in Las Vegas, a city with standard civil order detachments such as the Police, Sheriff office, Military. Yet somehow, the city's streets are over run with violent thugs armed with :Swords, EXPLOSIVES'. Trying to kill Jimmy or Billy Lee. Key word: KILL. Murder 1 is a capital crime, sooo where are the police screaming "Down on the ground". especially when the first stage is set on a lively street with operational casinos? The Casino security who are armed to the teeth with armor and Automatic armaments (as seen on the film "2000 Miles to Graceland"; are not present to defend the interests of their Casino pit bosses. Stampeding tourists are not good for business, especially in such a economically viable city. The raganarok-esque battles on "Smoking Aces" set in just a quite lake side casino in RENO (mini-Vegas) is evident of the fire power that is at the disposal of law enforcement. In reality all the Lees would have done is just stand to the side as LVPD's Swat units mopped the floor with the thug's teeth! Then the second level as you try to escape Las Vegas through the airport. Again, you have mutant warriors who resemble Blanka throwing German potato masher grenades. Keywords: GRENADES and AIRPORT...., especially when you're running around the secure areas of the airport, (maitenance, luggage, the crew's smoke room etc), while Blanka and swordsmen throw bombs at you...
In Prototype, the police are so useless that by Day 4, they're kicked out of Manhattan and replaced by the Marines and Blackwatch. They only ever use a pistol in combat, which amounts to throwing spitballs in terms of damage to most things they fight. It is not their fault they weren't trained to deal with a flesh-eating zombie death-virus and twoPersons of Mass Destruction throwing each other around Manhattan.
Averted in Police Quest, in which you are the police officer and if you do stuff like what you think the police can do, you'd get a game over. The game was praised for being so realistic for its time specifically because you couldn't just go in and shoot everyone who broke the law.
A particularly notable aversion are the cops of EVE Online, which are overpowered specifically to avoid this trope.
In practice this is both an aversion and played straight. The EVE cops are highly efficient in punishing certain crimes but have a limited range of what they consider a crime. If you blow up another player's ship they will blow up your ship in response but will completely ignore your buddy who is looting the wreck of your victim for all its valuables. The EVE cops are completely useless for any activity that they are not programmed to recognize as criminal. Loophole Abuse is rampant for this reason.
Justified because anything they are not programmed to recognize as criminal actually isn't criminal in-universe.
Another notable aversion is in the first Parasite Eve game; when Aya Brea, a rookie cop, reports of the incident that happens at the opera house in the opening cutscene (everybody other than her spontaneously combusts), an investigation by all the cops goes down. And when the Big Bad sends in an ooze monster that attacks the city, all of Manhattan gets evacuated. Aya's partner also stores whatever items she doesn't need at the moment.
Pokémon. Good gravy, where to begin? There are criminal bases that are in plain sight, in the middle of town in broad daylight with police all around, doing nothing. They are letting 10 year olds sprint into a crime zone, and somehow they do a better job than the cops. A blatant example of this trope.
In Pokemon GSC, police officers are rare trainers who are only fought at night, as they will spot the player and assume he or she is a criminal, then unleashes his Growlithe. It is only after the child beats his Growlithe to death over the course of a 5-minute battle that the officer realizes you're a child. Let's not get in to what would happen if the child weren't a Pokemon trainer.
Most triumphant example has to be in RBY, where you go into the house that Team Rocket have just ransacked. The police are still there, and you see there's a giant hole in the wall which they're ignoring. Go outside through the hole...and you see that the thief is still sitting in the garden.What.
There's also the Saffron City guards who serve as a weird Broken Bridge. They don't seem interested at all in the fact that Team Rocket has taken over Silph Co. Instead they just prevent anyone from entering the city until you bring them a drink because they're thirsty — including a class of schoolchildren who seem to accept this as normal. Not that this matters too much because for some reason there are tunnels under the city that let you get to the other side — as if this is so normal and expected that the city dug a bypass.
Even Deputy Sherles would facepalm at the disgrace of the Eternia Jenny depicted much higher on this page. Then again, he isn't much better; only Interpol's Looker and the Ranger Corps have had any success at snuffing out crime without having to resort to an external prepubescent battle prodigy, and yet neither of them dare to think about Orre at all. Sherles and Officer Johnson both patrol Pyrite Town and yet are unable to make a lasting dent in the horde of hoods that inhabit that town, much less the rest of the region.
Above, Byron said that the regional Pokemon League and the people that challenge said League (substitute the Ranger Corps for the regions they cover) are the ones most fit for fighting the various villainous groups, and that said groups were out of the police's jurisdiction or ability to handle. Justy is the only Gym Leader in Orre, and in XD he's shacked beneath his own gym courtesy of Cipher. It's safe to say that, were it not for Wes or Michael, Orre is completely and utterly SCREWED.
And for you "League is government" crackpots out there, Unova is just as guilty of this trope as the rest. You'd think someone who listened to one of Ghetsis' numerous speeches would have voiced objections to liberation, but the Unova League only acts against them when [A] they are acting overtly criminal (Nacrene, Castelia, Driftveil) or [B] their big plan has come out into the open (Icirrus onward). At least unlike the other leagues (bar the Champions) they get their act together period, but there's a reason "those who forget history are doomed to repeat it" is an effective phrase. Speaking against Team Plasma back at Accumula had the potential to derail Ghetsis' entire plot at the station. On the other hand, Looker is pretty competent, even though the player has been led to believe otherwise, and takes down multiple crime syndicates despite not owning any battling Pokemon, albeit with the player's help. As for some of the other examples, several teams are well liked by the public and others are seemingly paying off cops.
To be fair, people do voice objections to liberation—the game veryclearly doesn't want us to agree with Ghetsis or Team Plasma, but just speaking out about owning Pokemon isn't illegal. That goes out the window after they steal the Dragon Skull and then Bianca's Munna, but...
Looker plays with this trope a bit. In Platinum, he's fairly useless against Team Galactic for most of the game, either showing up too late or being there but letting the player character do most of the work, until the very end of the game where he manages to arrest Charon with his Croagunk. Then in Black and White, although he does arrest the stray Plasma sages, he still lets the player do all the work of tracking the sages down in the first place. And in X and Y, he is there to investigate the doctor helping Lysandre and the mysterious Poke Ball thief, but the player actually does most of the work again. Perhaps somewhat justified this time, as he has no Pokemon of his own since his Croagunk was killed.
Largely the case in Spider-Man 3, in which "police crackdowns" rarely achieve anything substantial against the H-Bombers and Apocalypse gangs - but a few drubbings from Spidey can seriously reduce the territory of these gangs. On the other hand, you sometimes come to the aid of cops being attacked by gang members and they handle themselves pretty well.
Also, several Rhythm Games involve escaping the constables, using barely any effort, and they never come anywhere near capturing you.
Invoked in Crackdown; the Agency Peackeepers are so pathetic that the three major organized crime syndicates have divided up Pacific City between themselves; so the Agency has to create a super soldier in order to take them out. It was invoked intentionally, however. The agency's leader secretly supplied and informed the gangs while "running law enforcement into the ground", in order to make the citizens accept the police state that would be ushered in once the Agent killed off all the bad guys.
But also subverted, the Agency as a whole may have utterly failed to keep crime down, but in gameplay, Agency Peacekeepers have been shown to be quite competent in a firefight. A 2 on 2 shootout often ends with both Peacekeepers alive, and both gangsters dead.
In Crazy Taxi there's no police (at least patrolling).
The Grand Theft Auto series tends to portray police as incompetent (and highly corrupt). Not only can they fail to capture the player despite supposedly being better armed and in superior numbers, they can't hold him for any time and use capture tactics that would be more dangerous to themselves and the innocent civilians than suspects. That, and they're even less likely to go after NPC criminals. That said, police are more effective in Grand Theft Auto IV than in other installments; in a shootout with your average street thug or gangster, they usually win.
Other highlights include being fooled when a car with a different color drives out of a Pay and Spray shop that the suspect just drove into, or giving up if the person manages to get into his house and change his underwear.
In the Saints Row series you attract police attention by attacking a cop or shooting/running over a civilian in front of them, but notably not by crashing into a car, or even jumping out of a car with nitrous active and pointed at a crowd of civilians. Rear end a cruiser at a traffic light, though, and they will try to shoot you.
And taken to a ridiculous extreme in Saints Row: The Third. The way to shake the cops off your tail instantly? Why, hide in a store you own. This immediately causes your notoriety to drop to zero. Even if you gained that notoriety by holding the store up yourself. The game explains this by telling you there are (invisible) gang members defending the shop. This may be a step back from the visible gang members guarding your stores in Saints Row 2, but this way the game doesn't have to explain just what two gangsters with machine guns are supposed to do against the numerous SWAT teams, microwave tanks and the air force on your tail. And if the cops still have to let you go, they would probably find you at your own super secret stronghold which is so super secret it is a giant purple skyscraper with the Saints fleur de lis on the front. It should come as no surprise that the law finally decides to bomb the whole city to dust, lampshaded by one of the characters as "if they blow up every building we gotta be in one of them".
Averted in Bully, where getting other kids in trouble with authority figures is frequently a viable tactic.
In Persona 3, the Police aren't capable of activity during the Dark Hour, but they provide the bulk of the weapons used by the party to fight the shadows.
In Persona 4, the police can't do everything given that they can't travel to the other side of the TV screen, but they still contribute a lot more to the investigation than you would expect. Dojima in particular correctly guesses at the involvement of the main character and his friends in the case, but as he has no knowledge of the TV world, he can't fill in all the gaps. It doesn't help that not only does Dojima not believe his nephew at a critical juncture when the player gets the option to tell the truth, but a member of the police force is also a villain and deliberately misdirects the force to ensure more murders occur.
In Ace Attorney the police range from mostly effective (Jake Marshall, Angel Starr, Tyrell Badd) to corrupt (Damon Gant, Lana Skye) to flat-out incompetent (Maggey Byrde, Mike Meekins, Dick Gumshoe). You spend the most time around the latter.
Maggey's less incompetent than horrendously unlucky.
Gumshoe, to his credit, does have fits of competency. It usually depends on either circumstances being dire enough (Maya being kidnapped by an assassin, for example) or someone he cares about being put on the line (Edgeworth or Maggey being arrested for murder). He also has quite a few Big Damn Heroes moments, though those rely more on him having an uncanny ability to show up just in time.
In Apollo Justice, Ema actually is quite competent and provides Apollo with helpful evidence-finding methods. She generally is really apathetic towards her job (which she never actually wanted), though.
Justified because, in a city where the gangs consist of fire-breathing demon worshipers, juiced-up Hulk-wannabes, elementally-powered mutants, and soul-eating carnival performers (among other things), there's not a whole lot your average guy with a gun can do.
Averted because, you will occasionally run into police duking it out with gangsters, or holding them at gunpoint. There are also the more ambitious parts of the police department, such as the Powered Armor Cops, the Psi-Division, and the Awakened Division.
Played straight, because your contacts in the police department and various guards will never move, no matter how close any baddies come.
Lampshaded in Going Rogue when you break into a Destroyer drug den; the enter-mission blerp includes you wondering how the PPD keeps missing the drug dens... then they show up; AFTER you rescue the person you're trying to rescue and they try to stop you from escaping; failing.
Heavy Rain: The police detective in charge of the Origami Killer case is rather fanatical about beating confessions and information out of suspects, even ones who are obviously innocent. The one cop who isn't useless, FBI Agent Norman Jayden, never gets any backup from the locals which can lead to his death on three separate occasions. One of which after he discovers the body of a murdered local cop that they don't even know about.The Killer, posing as a private detective, manages to collect and destroy most of the evidence against him because apparently the police never even asked for it.
The hilariously-incompetent SWAT team that tries to catch Ethan. Some seem to be unarmed, the others carry nothing other than pistols. They fail to seal off the hotel and are evaded by an untrained and extremely fatigued man who has, in the past week, sustained broken rib(s), an amputated finger, electrical burns, severe lacerations, a possible concussion, as well as an assortment of other more "minor" injuries.
Played straight, justified and then subverted in Urban Chaos Riot Response where the Burners more or less make mincemeat of the city's cops, who do try to fight back but are outnumbered and out-gunned. That's where you come in, as part of a new zero-tolerance unit, you're given the shiny new stuff and license to Kill 'em All.
Martha, the cleaning lady from Rule of Rose writes to the police about her (correct) suspicions concerning the recent disappearances, but Officer Dolittle (oh, the irony) dismisses her fears, leading to her death and worse disasters later in the line.
Initially averted, but quickly played straight to the point of being painful to watch in Phantasmagoria 2. The only time you see the police in action after Bob's murder is Detective Powell, who is not a credit to the force for many reasons including the following:
She allows Paul Allen Warner to get his office back to work the day after the murders, ruining the crime scene, and all she does in threaten him with an obstruction of justice, no actual action is taken.
She latches onto Curtis as her prime suspect with absolutely no evidence aside from he acts a bit weird and suspicious, ignoring the idea his odd behavior may have something to do with his cubical being the site of a horrific murder. She also questions him alone every time despite being convinced he's a homicidal maniac.
She lets Curtis know he's her prime suspect and intimidates him with a warning that if she finds any shred of evidence to point to him, she's locking him up. She then never puts him under surveillance of any sort, or does any sort of actual interrogation.
After Tom is killed, Curtis told her he overheard Paul Allen Warner and Tom arguing about Warner forcing everyone to come in to work the day after Bob's murder, the argument including Warner threatening Tom's life, and he suspects a company conspiracy is to blame for the killings. She never even considers the possibility he may be on to something.
Switches between being played straight and subverted in Alan Wake. At first, the Sheriff of Bright Falls is more than cooperative with Wake, attempting to be helpful and understanding in the search for his wife. However, the trope is played straight later on when Agent Nightingale gets involved, leading law enforcement officials in the area on a manhunt for Wake. Not only is Nightingale often drunk, belligerent, and trigger-happy, the deputies he sends into the forest end up having to contend with the Darkness. They don't do very well, which is somewhat justified by the fact that they were chasing a single person and weren't aware of the Darkness and its people puppets which promptly slaughters them. However, the trope is later subverted again when the Sheriff is quick to support Wake in fighting the Darkness, releasing him from prison and proving to be a very competent escort when armed with a shotgun and flashlight...
Even more subverted when you find out that Agent Nightingale isn't even an FBI agent anymore. He was fired, presumably because he's such an ass. So the only useless officer isn't even one anymore.
Exaggerated in Uncharted 2: the Big Bad invades Kathmandu (the capital city of Nepal), riles up the local guerrillas to cause a massive amount of collateral damage, ransacks 500-year-old temples that form a large part of the city's cultural heritage, and generally tears the city apart looking for the next clue for the Cintimani Stone. None of this garners any sort of response from the Nepali Army.
In the Resident Evil series, it tends to be both subverted and played straight to the point of exaggeration. On the one hand, most of the protagonists (Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield, Leon Kennedy) are from police backgrounds, and prove to be competent (barring the occasional bit of Cutscene Incompetence ) and intelligent while surviving their respective ordeals. On the other hand, you have characters like Brad Vickers, a man who flees from the slightest hint of danger and leaves the rest of his team stranded at the mansion. Not even police outside of Raccoon City are spared. The Spanish police in Resident Evil 4 send only two uniforms to escort Leon into potentially hostile territory. This is just exacerbated by the fact that the mission they are supporting Leon on is rescuing the kidnapped daughter of the President of the United States of America! Even the deaths these characters suffer show their incompetence. How in the name of God does a police marksman get pecked to death by crows? While armed with a grenade launcher no less! Chief Brian Irons deserves special mention. True, he's a stooge for Umbrella but even that is astounding, because he is spectacularly unreliable, with obvious and serious mental illnesses. This makes the whole of the RPD completely ineffective by the time the zombies show up. This is however lampshaded a few times, mostly by RPD officers who question his competency after numerous questionable decisions and displays of odd behavior. In defense of the Spanish Police they were only investigating a lead. Unfortunately that lead was real and lead to a village of psycho villagers. And still the police officers were killed by getting rammed off the road and into a steep ravine.
Deep Fear mentions frequently how the Navy SEAL's will arrive to save the day. Half way through, they finally show up. But they get massacred by some of the most blatant Cutscene Incompetence ever put in a video game. When confronted with a mutant, they begin wildly firing from the hip or with one hand at well-lit walls with nothing to shoot at, firing hundreds of rounds without being able to hit a thing. And what is it that brings down these men from such an elite and respected special forces unit? A mutant rat. Ouch.
In Ghost Trick, the police mean well and do their best to figure out what's going on, but most still are pretty incompetent. Granted a lot of their confusion stems from the fact that there's ghostly activities going on, but the detective Lynne is still quick to point out particularly bad performances (for example, the one cop failing to notice a very suspicious notebook right in front of him, or realize that if the suspect tries to phone for someone, it's best to notify a higher-up). Lynne herself is the only cop to take on a difficult case to save a fellow officer from death row or so we think, but she still manages to die five times (to be fair, she does put herself in danger mainly to protect others) and Sissel comments that her job as a detective doesn't look long, when she says she has trouble remembering names and faces. Inspector Cabanela, meanwhile, seems to be very laid-back and has a tendency to randomly do Michael Jackson-inspired dance moves, but still has a "natural genius" for investigating and is secretly putting vast amounts of time and research into clearing his friend's name. Inspector Jowd, meanwhile, is pretty badass, but spends most of the first part of the game in prison. There's also the matter of his greatest failure...which set the entire plot of the game into motion.
One notable instance involves an undercover cop working at a restaurant. Not only does she peg Lynne as "suspicious" purely based on her drinking a lot of water, while she does also correctly suspect Beauty and Dandy of criminal activities, her attempt to bug their meal and listen in on their conversation causes Detective Rindge and Lynne to both die, Rindge's van to crash through the side of the restaurant, and Memry herself to nearly get killed (she survives only because Lynne pushes her out of he way of a giant plastic chicken falling towards her). Sissel even lampshades how badly she screws things up.
"Sheeesh. There always seems to be a lot of police around when you DON'T need em'!"
Specifically, the police chased down and arrested Sonic after mistaking him for Shadow, even though they look nothing alike (sure, they're both super-fast hedgehogs, but this is in a world replete with talking animals). In fact, while Sonic's friends endeavor to break him out, Shadow and his cohorts are getting away with a number of thefts and assaulting military facilities. It later turns out that corrupt military officials were covering up the incident that turned Shadow against humanity in the first place.
PAYDAY: The Heist: An average of 130+ Police Officers, SWAT Units, and FBI Agents versus 4 Armed Robbers, guess who comes out on top?
In World of Warcraft, some guards will try to take out enemies that come too close. Most are much stronger than the players in the area, but the guards at Sentinel Hill will stand around for ages whacking at gnolls that the player characters can kill with two hits. And then some won't do anything at all, even if the player leads an enemy right to them.
The police in EarthBound aren't good for much. In Onett, they can put up a mean roadblock, but they can't shut down the Street Sharks gang, and the captain and four of his five best officers get clobbered by a psychic ten-year-old (the fifth runs away). In Twoson, they can't find a girl who's been kidnapped by cultists or shut down the criminals operating out of Burglin Park. In Fourside, they're probably on the take from Montoli, but that ultimately doesn't keep Ness and his friends out of the Montoli building. And there's apparently nowhere they can do anything about the humans driven to murderous rage by Giygas.
Police and Border Patrol ships in the X-Universe series are generally armed with popguns. They seem to exist mainly to attack the player after friendly fire incidents, or when the player keeps a ship he's supposed to return as part of a mission.
This is true to some extent in Tachyon: The Fringe. Obulo, the Star Patrol commander in the Hub region, explicitly states he doesn't give a crap about the Bora/GalSpan war, only that they "keep it off my front porch".
In the Nancy Drew gameThe Final Scene, the police (or more specifically, the head sergeant) dismiss Nancy's report of her friend's kidnapping as a practical joke and are reluctant to get involved until she comes up with evidence that a kidnapping occurred. By the time they finally agree to follow on a lead, it's from those who actually are playing a practical joke.
In the third level of Max Payne 3, major firefights break out between the Max-Passos duo and an outlawed paramilitary group at a major stadium, yet there's no sign of police response. Even noted after a shootout in Chapter IV:
Passos: I ain't hanging around to see who shows up. Max: [Narrating] I thought about saying "the cops", but this was no time for bad jokes.
Used with some justification repeatedly in Hatoful Boyfriend. In Bad Boys Love, they can't interfere due to the dome and the treaty. In chapter two of Holiday Star Ryouta calls the police but makes the mistake of telling them that a magazine editor is planning to blow up their school with a giant laser - it's true, but sounds too absurd to believe, and he can't try again with something more plausible or else there wouldn't be the rest of that chapter's plot. In one of the drama CDs there is a hostage situation and this exchange.
Yuuya: I'm sending them a message. But right around now is the season for summer birds crowding the streets. Everybirdie's working on traffic control, so they'll be delayed.
Okosan: Coo cooo! (Is that how it is?! If you wish to commit a crime, right now it's an all-you-can-commit special!)
Polices AI in Need for Speed series are good in their own right, but the game machanic enforces the player to make them useless because these cops can never take down street racing even in broad daylight. Most Wanted has the most humiliating example where the entire police force from Rockport can't even stop a single guy (You) from escaping the city.
Double Subversion in LEGO Island. When the Brickster escapes jail, the police officers Nick and Laura Brick take part in the chase to catch him, removing blockades and investigating the helicopter pieces along the way, and are ultimately the ones who arrest him once again. That does not change the fact that the Brickster was escape from jail so easily and steal the police helicopter, or the fact that most of the work to catch the Brickster once again is done by Pepper Roni, a pizza delivery boy, instead.
brutalmoose: But don't worry, though. Even though I just released the only criminal on LEGO Island, the police are basically like, "Oh, s'all good."
Infomaniac: So we need someone to race over there! Someone who can use a vehicle that can travel on roads and paths, over ramps, and in a jiffy!
brutalmoose: Oh, you mean a motorcycle.
Infomaniac: A skateboard, perhaps!
brutalmoose: What? There are two people on motorcycles right there! [arrows point at Nick and Laura, both riding motorcycles] But no, the general consensus is that a skateboard would be a much, much better idea. Everyone here? Idiots.
It's even worse in the sequels. In LEGO Island 2: The Brickster's Revenge, Nick's only role is granting Pepper permission to use the police helicopter. In Island Xtreme Stunts, Nick does some investigation into the Brickster's activities. In both games, Laura does nothing, and Pepper is ultimately the one who has to do all the work catching the Brickster.
Which is where the trope is played straight, since Ryo and Robert had to take matters into their own hands, by searching South Town and beating the ever living sh*t out of some of the toughest Mob bosses and enforcers in Big's Syndicate, until they found Yuri. At the end of which, Robert personally laid a smackdown on Mr. Big, himself.
In Dead Case, the police seem disturbingly unconcerned with the fact that there have been an alarming number of deaths in the town in the past week or so. If the protagonist enters the police station early on, one of the cops on duty can be seen using the computer to play Solitaire. The library ghost also mentions that the police seem to be covering up the protagonist's death. The library ghost himself subverts this - he was a police officer when he was alive, and even in death he continues to research everything going on and try to help the other ghosts. The epilogue shows that he becomes more directly involved in getting the police force back into shape.