True Crime: Streets of L.A.

Platform(s): GameCube, PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Luxoflux
Release Date: Nov. 3, 2003 (US), Nov. 7, 2003 (EU)


PC Review - 'True Crime: Streets of L.A.'

by Mark Crump on May 23, 2004 @ 1:46 a.m. PDT

Inspired by Hong Kong action films, the game lets players assume the role of tough-as-nails detective Nick Kang, bent on settling a personal vendetta with the L.A. underworld. As Kang, players will be able to dispense their own personal brand of justice through automotive combat, a variety of rib cracking martial arts moves and the business end of dual 45s.

Genre: Action
Developer: Luxoflux
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: May 11, 2004

Buy 'TRUE CRIME: Streets of LA':
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At first glance it would be easy to simply dismiss True Crime: Streets of LA as a Grand Theft Auto rip off and move on to another game. To do so, in all honesty, is a disservice to both games. True Crime lacks the open-ended feel of GTA by having heavily scripted missions, yet the story and production are head and shoulders above GTA’s.

I’d be lying, though, if I told you the plot to True Crime was going win awards for originality; it’s strictly B-movie fare. You play Nick Kang, a cop whose father died on the job, forcing you to grow up a street kid – with an attitude to match. As the game begins you’re on suspension and visit the shooting range to brush up on your skills. You’re approached by the Police Chief to handle a case that apparently more, shall we say, tamer cops can’t handle. She’s started a new unit called E.O.D and you’re to report to the headquarters, stat. Once you arrive you’re introduced to your new partner, Rosie, whom you promptly insult by calling her your secretary. Get the idea that this game isn’t going to win any Political Sensitivity awards? Along the way, you find out what happened to your pops as you complete any of the three possible endings. I’ll go into more detail on this later, but as you progress through the game you can earn either good-cop or bad-cop points, which then determines which ending you get.

While the plot is predictable, it did do an excellent job at grabbing hold of me and was a big impetus to my finishing the game. This is largely due to the excellent voice work, which is usually the bane of most game’s existence. Your character is voiced by Russel Wong, the first character you meet – George, the old-timer who runs the shooting gallery, and not so coincidentally worked with your dad – is voiced superbly by Christopher Walken, Gary Oldman plays 2 characters in his usual chameleon manner and Ron “Hellboy” Perlman also makes an appearance. The cut-scenes are composed with a cinematic eye and the lip-synching is fairly close to being spot on. Combined with the previously mentioned voice-overs, the cut scenes were my favorite parts and are well worth finishing off the alternate endings just to watch.

True Crime does a commendable job in rendering some 200 square miles of downtown Los Angeles accurately. I just returned from E3, and was able to spot some notable landmarks like the Staples Center and the Convention Center, as well as the parking lot I had to change a flat tire in. I wasn’t able to find the parking lot we actually used to park in, though. The freeways seem to be accurate, although LA’s legendary rush hour traffic is missing.

The game has both single and multiplayer modes. The single-player game has four core game types: driving, shooting, sneaking and melee. The driving mode is closest to Grand Theft Auto, where you drive around the city either getting to, or solving, your next mission; performing a mission as part of an episode; or solving random street crimes. The shooting portion has you going against the enemy in a gun battle; the sneaking part is a Splinter Cell rip off, where you need to sneak your way past some NPC’s or quietly disable them with a judo chop – I’m for real on that one folks – or a 3-shot tranquilizer gun that mysteriously appears before the mission starts and disappears after you have completed it; and the melee portion has you using martial arts to defeat the enemy. You’ll be using any one of these modes as you go through the games eight episodes – less depending on which ending the game steers you towards. Each episode is about seven missions long, none of which are at all lengthy; it’s quite possible to finish your first ending off in several nights of casual play.

Earlier, I mentioned the good/bad-cop points and how they affect the ending of the game. Unfortunately, these points aren’t necessarily earned by your choices throughout the game, a-la Knights of the Old Republic, but rather as a function of how much you suck at the game. During the driving portion of the game if you strike and kill a pedestrian, use excessive force while busting someone, or just plain bust the wrong person, you will incur a bad-cop point. Really get in the red and the city will riot and the SWAT team will get called in to bring you down. In Knights of the Old Republic, my journey down the Dark Side was the result of calculated decisions, but in True Crime I became a Mark Furhman simply because I couldn’t drive – leaving me to describe the “evil” ending as the “you simply suck at this game” ending. The other game modes also suffer from their own idiosyncrasies as well. The shooting portion has all of the depth of a “shoot the ducks” game at the State Fair and the melee portion feels like you are playing “whack-a-mole”. The individual missions are heavily scripted and reek of the “kill the player off so he learns how to finish it” syndrome. This is especially apparent in the sneaking missions where the enemies are always in the same place and repeat attempts are just about getting the timing down. Most of the melee missions have you going against three or four opponents and then a boss. The game gives you some tips for making the melee fights easier, usually which attacks work well against your opponents’ various stances, but I can tell you that advice is pure bunk – alternately mashing the “punch” and “kick” buttons very quickly got me through most of the fights the first time. Also, it took a huge suspension of disbelief to make me think I would go from a gunfight to melee combat and back to a gunfight over the course of say, 20 minutes – you can bet hard-earned money I’d use the gun every time, especially if I have unlimited ammo like I do in this game.

In addition to the main story, you can cruise the streets waiting for the police dispatch to notify you of a crime in the area. Once you bust the perps, you’ll be awarded shields, which you can spend at the various training centers to upgrade your driving, shooting and brawling skills. These skills will make completing the game easier, as well as reducing the likelihood you’ll mow down a civilian with your auto, but they aren’t required to actually complete the game. You’ll need to be careful solving the crimes, as frequently I would do these side missions to get good-cop points, but would end up going farther into the red trying to finish them off.

All this makes the individual missions seem like they aren’t a lot of fun, but that’s not entirely the case. If you are looking for a deep engaging storyline with missions that test your wits at every turn, move along - there’s nothing to see here. On the other hand, if you are looking for a decent action game to pass some time, you may find True Crime to your liking. While I wasn’t overly thrilled with some of the missions, the cut-scenes and story progression kept me interested. Sure, the plot isn’t original, but it is well acted and I’m a sucker for a corny line or twenty tossed in for good measure. It is also possible to unlock Jeannete from the upcoming Vampire: Bloodlines game, Officer Dick from Tony Hawk’s Underground, and Rikimaru from Tenchu as you finish the game.

The multiplayer component consists of five game-types as well: The Beat, where you find out who the top cop is by solving crimes in the city – the player or team with the most points wins; The Chase, where one player is the suspect and needs to evade the other players, who control the cops; Dojo Master, a martial arts free-for-all; Battlemaster, and arena-based shoot-em-up; and Street Racing, which lets you chose either a preset course or the host can create their own course.. The multiplayer game allows for 2-4 players per game and uses Gamespy as its hosting service and right now the multiplayer game suffers from only one real problem: not many people are playing it. The nights I tried it only one or two people were hosting servers, but that’s not a complete knock since I’m writing this game only one-two days after the game actually arrived in stores. The multiplayer games I played in were stable, but since they are hosted by individual players as opposed to a dedicated server, your mileage my vary depending on their Internet connection.

The graphics are decent, but are obvious console ports with their somewhat dated textures. The game still looks good, was easy on the eyes – not something I can always say about console games – and does an excellent job at conveying the atmosphere it’s going for. The sound work is likewise excellent, and keeps the movie feel going by making the sound effects sound as if Foley artists did the work – the punches land with movie quality effects. One addition to the PC version is additional soundtracks, which give the game more of a heavy metal feel than the console version with music by Alice In Chains, Queensryche and Megadeth. All in all there are over 30 songs in the library.

The controls fall under the hands easily, using he standard WASD keys for movement and the numeric keypad for the brawling commands. The game does not natively support a gamepad, which you may find odd for a console port, but that’s because Activision wanted the game to play more like a PC game than a console game. They were largely successful at that, but I still wish there was support for those who have gamepads, as the driving portion of the game seems like it would benefit from a gamepad. The camera angle is fixed, which can cause some wonkiness with the controls and clipping planes – you’ll get some walls interfering with your view, as well as sometimes looking inside NPC’s heads.

True Crime does have its share of faults, and at times was either un-fun or completely implausible, but the story and excellent production values fueled my desire to see the game through to completion. It’s not a long game – I was able to finish one of the endings in 3 nights of casual play – but there is a lot of replay value with the alternate endings, random crime generator and the multiplayer action. It’s not often you get to play a game that has as many well-known and talented actors appearing in it, and their performances are worth getting the game alone.

Score: 8.0/10

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