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Robbing people with a six-gun;

I fought the law and the law won
Sonny Curtis and the Crickets[1], "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 Namers, 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 of I Fought the Law and The Law Won include:

  • This is the standard of most crime-based Wide Open Sandbox games. In some, like 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. (The most recent entry, GTA4, cuts out these advanced responses, however, and thus falls squarely into this trope.)
  • 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.
  • Saints Row is a particularly noticeable example, partially due to your extremely high capacity for carnage. One Achievement basically invites you to stick it out while The Law throws helicopter after helicopter at you, until you've shot down 50 of them. Where are they GETTING all those birds?!?
  • Red Dead Redemption provides a partial example. If you're inside a city, you can expect sheriffs to come at you in endless waves if you commit any major crimes, but out in the wilderness, you can ride around mostly unmolested -- unless you've got a high enough bounty to attract the U.S. Marshalls, in which case they'll track you down every now and then to ruin your day.
    • Actually, even in Blackwater, which is the biggest town in the game, there is only a finite amount of police to come after you. After about 100 killed police officers, no more will spawn for a while. So, you just haven't been fighting the law hard enough!
  • Just Cause and its sequel avert this trope, if only by the letter, since you're simply too big a threat to provoke a police-response - instead, you're dealing with The Army from start to finish. Of course, THEY still seem to have a literally infinite supply of Jeeps and attack-helicopters to throw at you, no matter how many airfields you've blown up, so the spirit of the trope is still well-preserved.
  • 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 armored like tanks, and about as well armed. Even the toughest units available to you are still infantry, and they don't stand a chance against The Law's armored vehicles...
  • Eve Online: but only for some peculiar and seriously confusing values of criminal.
  • 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.)
  • 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 Albions 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).
  • World of Warcraft has guards in neutral zones where players from different sides aren't supposed to kill each other. If one player attacks another, the guards kill the instigator. People have found numerous ways around this, but Blizzard tends to block a few more methods with each upgrade.
  • 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.
  • 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 the space-sim Dark Star 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...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sort-of example 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.
  • 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 to attempt to recruit the bastards...
    • You wanna recruit em? BWAH HAH HAH HAH HAAAAAH! They have a base recruitment rate of -39.8%, yes, that's a negative sign, they have a negative base recruitment rate. The maximum bonus recruitment rate one can get is 40% by being level 100 with a friend bow. So best case scenario, you get .2 percent chance of recruiting them, granted 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). I don't have exact numbers for the second game, but I'm pretty sure that it similarly requires ideal conditions just to have a stupid low chance of recruitment. 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 are terribly good.
  • 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 same minigame begins from a mounted minigun to blast them with, and any police remaining after the time expires can be easily mopped up.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Committing crimes in villages in the Fable series is likely to attach the attention of the local bobbies. Generally if you only murder a few people you can either pay them off or bake some pies to repay your debt (seriously) but if you resist arrest expect wave after wave of foolhardly coppers to attack you. You can actually kill more people than are in the whole village if you really want to. Leaving the area will make them stop chasing you but you'll have to wait a while to go back, once you do the police remember you have committed a crime but generally just let you off.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Cops in Turok 3 are unkillable by the player, and will ventilate you if you attack them or try to cross a police checkpoint.
  • 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 notority 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. This can still be countered by bribing heralds and taking down wanted posters of yourself.
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