Fun, but challenging
The Police Quest Collection was a standard of my childhood! This title, PQ4, was a completely different twist for the series, moving to more realistic mid-90s pixelated "real" images. At the time, this was a very cool thing... the game felt very modern and current. Playing it today (as with most old games), the poor points stand out more than they did back in the day...
Like "Grand Theft Auto", perhaps the best aspect of Police Quest IV is that the player experiences a degree of freedom within the confines of the storyline. Once a location has been discovered, the player can return there via the Map function later if they want to pursue a hunch further. If the location has been fully searched and the purpose achieved, the player is deterred from entering via some kind of message (i.e. "You knock and receive no answer", or, "It appears no one is home, detective", etc) - much appreciated when you have tons of locations and are not sure where to go. This freedom is especially hilarious with Teddy the evidence guy - you can hand him anything in your inventory, including your character's personal affects, and he'll take them and respond in the way a regular evidence guy would react if you handed him your car keys, etc! Amazing that they bothered to record that much audio for every possibility...
The writers toss you enough red herrings early in your investigation so that you're not sure who the killer is until later in the game, so that's kinda cool.
The graphics are the first sore spot for me. Though an advancement in their time, now the pixelation factor of the imagery is nearly intolerable to suffer through.
Though it's cool they recorded so much audio for just about any situation you might put yourself into (mainly involving showing your inventory to other in-game characters), the voice acting is by-and-large terrible. Your character, John Carey, is voiced by a guy clearly just reading his lines from a sheet of paper under the direction of "sound as dry and cop-like as you can". The ethnic characters (South Central L.A.) are stereotyped so far as to be borderline racist, basically what white people in the early 90s would think inner-city black guys sounded and acted like. As well, the dialogue can be monotonous, as you are required to listen to speech after speech from the coroner just to advance in the game.
The realism factor is great, but they really went to tedious extremes - making you file paperwork/reports each day, requiring that you reach into your inventory and flash your ID or badge at everyone EVERY TIME you meet them or enter a location, and requiring you to walk through mazes of corridors and take an elevator (which works in real time) just to reach your desk (and the other relevant departments of the Police Department). The game also makes you listen to pointless and annoying repeat phrases like "You push the button to call the elevator" over and over... no crap I pushed the button!
There are certain "stuck" points you get in a game that gives you freedom like this, where you've done everything obvious and even tried to play a few hunches, yet there is still something keeping you from advancing. This can be incredibly frustrating, and to some degree, you need to be willing to access help/walkthroughs at some point or be stuck forever because you didn't do some minute thing like think to get the license plate number off the impounded car, or to combine items in your inventory to make something new and useful.
The story was interesting, but like most games, kind of ridiculous that they wrote so many events happening within the such a short span of days. There's a serial killer on the loose in L.A. and you're the only one workin' the case!! Yeah right... One limiting factor of the game is that it's possible to figure out who the killer is earlier than the game wants you to, and yet you can't do anything but go through the prescribed steps to solve the case a day (and one more murder) later...
The Bottom Line
The game is still really enjoyable, though once you've played through it, you can never go back and have the same completely fresh and naive approach that you did before. In that respect, the re-playability is limited. Still, the game is fun and challenging for a first-time player with the resolve to not cheat (or cheat sparingly!).