Daryl F. Gates Police Quest: Open Season

aka: PQ4, Police Investigation 4, Police Quest 4
Moby ID: 149
DOS Specs
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Description official descriptions

Police Quest: Open Season is the fourth installment in the Police Quest series. It abandons the story arc of the previous three games, introducing a new setting and a new protagonist, homicide detective John Carey of the Los Angeles Police Department. Carey finds his best friend and ex-partner, Officer Bob Hickman, murdered in an alley in the Southern part of the city. An eight-year-old boy named Bobby Washington has been murdered as well. Carey begins an investigation that leads him deep into the criminal life of the city and a hunt for a maniacal murderer.

The game utilizes Sierra's traditional icon-based interface for interaction with the environment and generally follows an adventure format. However, it focuses on realistic police procedures even more than the previous games in the series. Much of the gameplay is dedicated to examining crime scenes, questioning suspects, and conducting a by-the-book investigation. There is a considerable degree of freedom in the interaction, allowing the player to perform actions not connected to the main story, some of which will, however, lead to the protagonist's death. The game utilizes digitized photorealistic images for its visuals.


  • חקירה משטרתית 4 - Hebrew spelling

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Credits (DOS version)

112 People (90 developers, 22 thanks) · View all

Producer \ Director
Designer \ Writer
Art Designer
Lead Programmer
Team Quality Control
Configuration Lead
Director of Technology
System Technologists
System Programmer
[ full credits ]



Average score: 74% (based on 20 ratings)


Average score: 3.3 out of 5 (based on 62 ratings with 8 reviews)

Fun, but challenging

The Good
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 Bad
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!).

DOS · by Condemned (71) · 2009

A bad game (but not due to its realism) that lamentably takes 'Police Quest' title

The Good
The first three PQs weren't brilliant games; however, they were very good adventures. Their general design was neat, and all of them had a good detective-cop story (well written and with an original realistic touch) together with a good implementation of Sierra's traditional adventures gameplay. They weren't perfect or stood out particularly on something, but resulted to be solid, enjoyable and interesting. With PQ4, many think it's completely dedicated to realism and simulation of homicide detective's activity, and they distinguish (whether for good or for ill) this characteristic as the big difference with the previous PQs. But, although it's evident the designers intended distance from light-realism of the three firsts and to get something more serious, finally I think didn't exist such a difference, and in general it keeps the typical deep of realism of the series, that is, accessible to any no-cop average human being. Nevertheless, unlike its predecessors, PQ4 ends committing several important errors, but one really unpardonable.

To beginning with, PQ4 leaves "the universe" created since PQ1, that is the story no longer develops in the fictional "Lytton" City, or features to Sonny Bonds. Now we work for LAPD (in Los Angeles City, obviously) as the detective of homicides John Carey, but this doesn't mean it is more "realistic": the "more" realism than PQ1-2-3 stops right here, in the city's name. Sadly, the new protagonist is no very good developed. Actually, he isn't developed at all. John Carey lacks personal life, emotions and personality, and barely the only thing we finish knowing is his name. Sonny Bonds wasn't a cold stone. One more thing that was lost in PQ4. The story focuses on the resolution of a series of murders by means of "more or less" real police procedures, and this includes (sometimes annoying) bureaucratic formalities. We go back and forth collecting evidence at crime scenes, picking up (crude) analysis at the morgue, and doing reports to our Chief, while wait phone calls with new data for the case. All very mechanical, lineal and monotonous. We can't (and it's not necessary) do any deductive analysis with the clues that we have, because we achieve nothing. We always have the impression whatever we do is not useful to advance in the case, but to advance through the game. And that is not the same. The plot keeps slightly interesting mainly because in all police story we always want to know who is the murderer. However, Sierra doesn't exert itself more than that. From the relationship with the rest of characters, to the exploration of the crime scene, all never is as attractive as it could have been. Only once (in a particular situation) I felt interest to investigate to a suspect, and I involve in a very tense and thrilling situation. But after that, boring formalities again. In general, conversations with witnesses, suspects and victims' relatives are convincing and enough. But the dialogue with our comrades is so scarce and useless that it seems we don't belong to LAPD. In fact, we haven't any partner at all in the case. We are alone. Something quite rare in almost every section of the real police. The Chief is the only one with who we have some work-related relationship, but we never can tell him anything, only he gives us some orders. Well, there're also a couple of bureaucrats at desks which don't even see us, and other cops (bureaucrats too) receiving evidences on the 4th floor of the station, whose interaction is "hello-take this evidence-see you".

We come to the gameplay. Here is where it commits a capital sin. But about that sin I'll talk in "the bad" section. The development is quite logical, although very rigid, following police procedures such as: go to a crime scene, collect evidences, talk to possible witnesses for gather (maybe) relevant data, come back to the station, submit evidence to analysis, go to the morgue for autopsy results, come back to the station, make the report to the Chief. All of this repeats some times during the game. Yes, from time to time we must go to ask at some suspect's house, or to visit other site, but in general almost nothing removes us from the monotonous routine. None of these activities requires imagination, investigation, or some mental challenge to us. In the middle there is a action sequence (tough and frustrating), and other ones at the police academy in order to practice aiming (easy and boring). I don't think someone enjoys this part of the game with so many good FPSs nowadays, although I doubt that someone had enjoyed it at that time (year '94). There are some tedious "realistic" features that were included, such as put our ID on every time we enter in the station, go up and down on the elevator in real time (!), and deliver the report to the Boss every day, which don't add nothing else but anger and boredom.

The graphic part is also a aspect that changed to the realism in PQ4. The word "realism" always seems to suggest that something is "better"; well, this graphics prove that is not correct. Both settings and characters are photo-realistic, that is photographs of real things. "Hey, that sounds very well…but then, which is the problem?" perhaps you wonder, and the answer is: PQ4's graphics are very pixelated; and super-pixelated real things look horrible. But the worst of this is some object that we "must" to examine are completely unrecognizable. Our desk is a random bunch of all-color square points, and there, in theory, we must find a sheet of paper for the Chief. Also, I challenge you to find our office's computer (which we must use) in the station… The audio in general is acceptable. The midi music remarks tragic, tense and relaxing moments with quite success. But definitely, the songs of Larry (Laffer!) games inside the lift win the main award. Going up and down 800 times an elevator might have been something enough to damn entire industry of videogames, but thanks to that genial idea, I only damn this game.

So far, despite all debilities I mentioned above, PQ4 keeps certain attractive like police story, and it might be considered as a tolerable adventure. But the review doesn't finish yet…

The Bad
Although we don't need much cleverness to advance in the game, in some occasions we encounter some "puzzles" which challenge not to mind, but to patience. These "bothers" (it's better name them like this) are absolutely impossible to guess (guaranteed it!), blocking us inexplicably and without a logic reason. For example, at one point, I couldn't do anything: I went to a walkthrough which said that I should meet with a dog (!) at a crime scene. The problem was that the dog didn't appear! I thought it was a game bug. I read in detail the solution and I realized I hadn't bought glue at a mini-mart which I had visited a few days before. What for? I wondered. Anyway, I drove my car to buy that glue, and surprise!, the dog appears at the proper site. Thus I could continue the adventure. There are a couple more of "bothers" during the game, as to buy a drumstick (yes, a drumstick), enough to make us doubt about whether we must play it with a "realistic" approach or with a "Sam & Max" one. Besides, this causes we'll never be able to completely involve in its serious and realistic atmosphere. If you think the previous glue has at least a coherent and logic use later in the game, you are wrong. The glue, combined with other crazy objects, constitutes a portion of a puzzle at the end of the game, which might have easily emerged from design sketches of "Day of the Tentacle". This puzzle is as unnecessary as ridiculous, and thanks to it, PQ4 wins finally the title "absolutely forgettable game".

The Bottom Line
Sierra crucifies the reputation of PQ saga with this installment. Due to try (without success) the ambitious idea of make it more realistic than its predecessors, it achieves a tasteless and without personality story, with an extremely weak gameplay which sometimes touches ridiculousness. If you are looking for graphic adventures with the words "realism", "homicide" and "detectives", my recommendation extends to PQ3, and if you are looking for some more rich and complex, play the excellent "Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Rose Tattoo". And to think that two years before PQ4, Sierra produced one of the best adventure ever... what a crazy world!

DOS · by jorgeabe (13) · 2007

Ahead of Its Time

The Good
Daryl F. Gates' Police Quest: Open Season (herein after referred to as, “Police Quest 4") is a point n' click graphic adventure game very much ahead of its time. It attempts to provide an interactive and realistic experience as to what a police detective actually does during a murder investigation. This is years before, "Grand Theft Auto" would attempt a similar interactive and realistic experience, albeit from the point of view of a criminal. For its day, the storyline is pretty daring and features impressive voice acting, sound effects, music, graphics.

The Bad
Police Quest 4 abandons the central character and the fictional city from the previous games. Many of the game's puzzles can be incredible frustrating, albeit for different reasons. Some puzzles are entirely logical, but do require a basic understanding of professional police procedures. These "procedure" based puzzles add to the realism of the game, but may disappoint gamers expecting Hollywoodized law enforcement. Other puzzles are so illogical and bizarre, that you can only solve them by trial and error repetition or cheating. Finally, something must be said about the game's storyline, as it may turn some gamers off. Police Quest 4 offers a pretty realistic depiction of the diverse people, ideas, behaviors, conflicts and places of the area, during the early 1990's. This includes a window into race, ethnicity and class conflict. It includes profanity and a gritty crime drama, where even children are not safe. It includes the murder of your partner, the wife and child he leaves behind, and his ties to the transgender community. It includes such characters as a successful rap artist, a violent Neo Nazis and a friendly, but probably stoned, hippie. While the realistic, colorful and otherwise gritty content does not go beyond what one might see or hear on a television episode of, "Law and Order", “Criminal Minds” or “CSI”, it may make some people uncomfortable. Personally, I liked the game's risqué realism but it tends to fade away too soon. For example, the playable character has almost no personal life that we know of and the game never offers the range of freedom that became famous (or infamous) with the "Grand Theft Auto Games".

The Bottom Line
Police Quest 4 does offer a high degree of interactive, gritty and thought provoking realism within the limits of an early 1990s, CD-ROM, point n' click, graphic adventure game. Puzzles are heavy on the police procedures or heavy on being painfully absurd. It breaks away from the characters and locations of the previous Police Quest titles and really tries to reflect the range of different people, places, conflicts, idea, identities, life-styles and behaviors that exist. In many ways it is a forerunner to later games such as "Grand Theft Auto" and, with some revisions, a new version of the game could become very successful.

DOS · by ETJB (428) · 2010

[ View all 8 player reviews ]


Subject By Date
Is dude's name really part of the game's title? Pseudo_Intellectual (66248) Jan 28, 2013


CD version

Daryl F. Gates Police Quest: Open Season was re-released in a CD version with new music, full speech (done by different actors than those who played the characters), numerous removed bugs, and many changes to the graphics. The cursors were re-designed and their size decreased, all objects in the inventory were re-drawn or re-photographed in a higher resolution, and many backgrounds and objects in background were re-shot in higher resolution (and thus higher quality) again. A short promo film on the game's making is included on the CD. There also two arcade games which can be accessed at 'The Short Stop' bar by clicking on the arcade games (an Asteroids clone and dune buggy game are available).

Though the CD version of the game is vastly expanded, it's also censored in one place - in the floppy version, Dennis Walker - the Nazi ruffian - is listening to music with Hitler's speech clearly audible in the background. This sample is present in the game's resource file RESOURCE.SFX. In the CD version, only the music is audible, and the file RESOURCE.SFX contains no trace of Hitler's speech anymore.


All the locations in the game are real, though some names are fictitious. Chief Gates wanted to keep the game as realistic as possible and insisted on using actual LA locations. Some of those were only available to the police and it was only thanks to Chief Gates' connections that the designers were able to photograph them. The Short Stop bar, featured in the game, is not only real, but infamous for a number of public disturbances involving police officers that occurred there. As the LAPD Chief, Daryl Gates disliked the bar for this reason so strongly that when he appeared there with the Sierra crew to take photos, the bar's owner thought they came to shut the place down.


It seems that the matchbox - not easy to find and not having any practical use in the game - may have been a trigger for some Easter Eggs, judging by certain messages that the game stores in the memory. For instance, there is a clear suggestion present in the memory to try and use the matchbox to light Mitchell Thurman's cellar *after* it's already lit. Doing so in the game displays an obscene message.


Both versions of the game have bugs which allow the player to gain more points than he's supposed to. In the floppy version, Carey can call Varaz multiple times and score points. In the CD version, this bug is removed, but another one is present - in some situations, the "flamethrower" can be constructed an infinite number of times, and every time the player scores points.


  • The game has two cameos by Chief Daryl Gates - he's on one of the top floors of Parker Center, and at the very ending of the game, as he speaks and gives the Medal of Valor to Detective John Carey.
  • All the texts in the game are encrypted and can only be read by dumping memory contents while playing the game, at its various stages. This also reveals some interesting notes left by the programmers - such as a funny habit of referring to John Carey's character as to "ego" (Editor's Note: This is because all of the "actors" in Sierra graphic adventures were called "ego"s in the game interpreter.). Some seemingly critical comments regarding the LA Mayor from the game can also be seen - and Chief Gates, the game's designer, left his post mostly because of heavy clashes with the LA mayor at the time.
  • The names of the characters' sprites, visible in memory dumps, seem to indicate that Mitchell Thurman's final victim - the unconscious woman, unbilled in the credits - was played by the game's producer, Tammy Dargan.
  • In addition, there seems to be yet another developer cameo in the game. Dumping the contents of memory while playing the last hours of the game reveals that the unfortunate "Mr Head", who can be found in Mitchell Thurman's refrigerator (and whose - headless - corpse is probably stacked in Mitchell's bathroom), is apparently played by someone called Dave. Since "Mr Head" is unbilled, this is most likely a macabre cameo by the game's programmer Dave Artis.
  • The "Red Dogs" entry in the gang database is apparently a reference to Sierra developers ("hanging out behind fast food restaurants, hiding somewhere in the Sierra Nevada mountains...") or perhaps their friends (the "gang leader" is named "Billy D." - and Billy D. is credited as playing the character of Dennis Walker in the game)
  • Try looking up the registration plate "1ADAM12" in the DMV database on the Homicide Squad server - this is probably a reference to the old TV series. (The server itself is named "Sonny" - probably a reference to Sonny Bonds)


Both versions had depictions or references that were on the more "mature" side of the gaming industry. If you try and touch a female police officer too many times, your character will be fired from engaging in sexual harassment. If you touch the Neo Nazi thug, he will call you a "mother-loving faggot." The West Hollywood record store owner sounds like a stereotypical stoner and some of the records in the store, next to a transgender nightclub, are often associated with gay men. The issue of gender identity is raised in the game, both through cross-dressing of the serial killer and through the implication that your best-friend/former police partner was transgender.

Information also contributed by Edward Brown and Rambutaan


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Related Sites +

  • PQ4 Hints
    These hints, written by Diana Griffiths, will help you with the puzzles in the game.

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  • MobyGames ID: 149
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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Andy Roark.

Macintosh added by Tomas Pettersson.

Additional contributors: PCGamer77, Jaromir Krol, William Shawn McDonie, Jeanne, Alaka, Crawly, Patrick Bregger.

Game added May 29, 1999. Last modified January 29, 2024.