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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Activision

 

Developer

Luxoflux

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q4 2003

 

 

- Big city to drive in

- Lots of varied gameplay

- Snoop Dogg is in it

- Great voice acting

 

 

- Terribly clichéd story

- So-so visuals

-Camera issues

- Bugs

- Hand-to-hand combat is a bit weak

- Enemies are blind, lethargic slugs in stealth missions

- Too much hip hop in the soundtrack

 

 

Review: True Crime: Streets of LA (Xbox)

Review: Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance (Gamecube)

Review: True Crime: Streets of LA (Gamecube)

 

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True Crime: Streets of L.A.

Score: 6.9/10

 

Waaaaaay back in times of yore when Omni and I were young bucks in high school we took a creative writing course.  One of the major projects for that class was to make a short film, so after a good deal of thought we decided to make a brief police drama.  It was a great little flick, jam-packed with more clichés than you can shake a stick at.  Never before had I seen so many uses of police story telling conventions in one piece of entertainment…and then I placed True Crime.

 

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Sitting through the narrative for this game it was very hard to tell if the story of Officer Nick Kang trying to uncover the goings on of a group of Russian mobsters and the Triads was a genuine, sincere effort to give gamers a police story, or a very clever self-parody of the whole genre.  Every plot to grace a cop show of old seems to pop its head in while making your way through True Crime.  First you have the tragic fall of Nick’s father years early, a very talented police officer who was disgraced when it came to light he may have been dirty, later dying and the truth remaining a mystery.  You also have Nick’s little brother who Nick is always looking out for, Nick’s father’s old partner looking out for the young cop, and Nick’s own loose cannon antics coupled with his CO’s attempts to keep him going by the book.  To top things off the game even throws in a fiery Latina partner to give a little bit of attitude.  There are just so many clichés in the game that it really starts to grind on your nerves as time passes.  Making matters worse is that the way the characters carry themselves in the game, as they take everything so damn seriously.  I want to believe that the story here is a self-parody of crime drama, but the problem comes in that most other games of a similar ilk are meant to be genuine, reflecting the generally piss poor writing abilities of game developers, as such what am I supposed to believe here?  That the people responsible for the story in True Crime have created a devilishly clever satire, or that they genuinely believed this was a sincere, heartfelt police story.

 

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That being said, while the story line in this game suffers, the gameplay is actually quite enjoyable.  At it’s core True Crime is very much like the recent Grand Theft Auto games, having players cruise around in a very large city completing missions necessitating hand-to-hand combat and a liberal dose of gunplay.  The twist here is that seeing as Kang is a cop his actions are dictated by a code of ethics through the Good Cop/Bad Cop system.  Sure he could go around like a trigger happy sheriff straight out of the Old West, but civilized 

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society tends to frown upon that sort of behavior resulting in Officer Kang losing karma points with the general public as his status drifts into the realm of being a Bad Cop.  However, if Kang tries to go by the book doing things like non-lethal take downs and trying to avoid shooting up half of L.A. he receives reward points that cause his standing to go up and he can become a Good Cop.  It’s a nice system that really forces players to think out how they plan to deal with criminals in the game.  Going in guns blazing can result in a high number of civilian casualties that can drive you well into Bad Cop territory resulting in getting one of the bad endings for the game, so thinking ahead, shooting at limps or going in fist-a-cuffs is often a more tactful solution.

 

With four different types of gameplay, players have a lot to sink their teeth into.  First off and most predominant in the game is driving.  True Crime features about 240 meticulously rendered square blocks of Los Angeles for players to drive through, often by means of commandeered vehicles, so there’s a lot of ground to cover in this game.  There are quite a number of vehicles, from sedans, to sports cars, to city buses that can be driven, giving players plenty of options for what they want to sit behind the wheel of.  While cruising the streets Nick has his police scanner on and can be notified of crimes in progress ranging from domestic disputes to street races to full-blown firefights that players can choose to intercede in if they like.  It always gives players something to do, helping to break up some of the monotony that can come when a mission requires you to drive half way across town to check out a certain location.

 

Besides driving there is also a beat ‘em up element in the game.  There isn’t much to it, as players pretty much just wail on a perp until he or she is dizzy, at which point Nick can lay on a high-powered special attack which differs depending on the button combination players enter.  It’s a little too stripped down, this type of fighting, and it would have been nice to see some special moves included before a bad guy becomes unconscious also.  Another mode is the shooter aspect of True Crime.  At times this can be a fast and furious free for all where Nick has to run around and gun down the enemy before they pump him full of holes, but often times discretion is encouraged.  If Nick does a non-lethal take down by shooting for the elbows or knees of an opponent he can stay in good standing with the population, and it also happens makes hostages being used as human shields quite happy Nick took this approach also.  The problem with these non-lethal takedowns is that the precision shooting necessary can be difficult with the controls.  It can be difficult to aim the crosshairs just right, often locking onto a hostage instead of the bad guy slowing down the whole process terribly.  Lastly we have the seemingly obligatory stealth missions that are being crammed into every game in existence these days.  This is a mixed bag in True Crime, on the one hand it works as one would expect, staying out of the line of side of bad guys and trying to keep quiet.  On the other, the enemies must be blind and have horrible reflexes because you can get really close to them and they’ll be looking right at you without being aware of Nick’s presence.  Even then, they move horribly slow to do anything making it easy to knock them unconscious and get away Scott free.  One big problem in stealth missions though is that the camera is often just terrible.  It will swing around and lock onto things frequently, causing extreme disorientation and often causing Nick to walk into an ambush and have to redo the mission.

 

Not so terrible, though, is the gigantic amount of unlockables in the game.  As players progress they will be able to gain new finishing moves for Nick in hand-to-hand combat, new shooting techniques, and even new cars.  Easily the most fun of all of the things that can be unlocked in True Crime is the ability to play as Snoop Dogg.  A number of dog bones have been strewn about the city in very difficult to find areas.  If players discover them all, they can play as the West Coast rapper.  The only down side to all of this is that the bones are damn hard to find.  If you thought it was difficult to find all of the packages in Grand Theft Auto III, this game could really do a number on you trying to track down those bones.

 

Another thing in True Crime that can do a number on you is the title’s soundtrack, at least if you’re not particularly fond of hip hop.  While there are quite a number of rock tracks on the game too, a vast majority of the game is spent driving the streets of L.A., and while this is happening the selectable music tracks playing in the background are all hip hop.  It can get very annoying if you’re not a fan of the genre.  On the plus side for the game’s audio experience, the voice acting in True Crime is top notch with a number of high profile actors lending the voices to the game.

 

However, from a visual standpoint, True Crime isn’t something terribly exceptional.  The level of detail on the characters is middle of the road, and there just isn’t a lot of sharp crispness to the whole visual experience.  Also, I came across instances of slowdown while fighting large groups of enemies at once which really put a damper on the action.  Probably the biggest problem though is the aforementioned camera issues in stealth mode, though.  It really is a shame that after nearly ten years of working with 3D worlds games still suffer from this sort of problem.

 

The one other area that True Crime suffers in on the PS2 is in terms of bugs, and there are quite a few here.  For one, collision detection can be very sketchy.  A few times I was fighting hand-to-hand with a perp on the street and somehow the two of us passed right through the solid wall of a building, then couldn’t go back to the street.  There were also a few instances where my car crashed horribly and got stuck halfway through a wall, after which the engine kept running full speed and the controller vibrated violently ultimately causing me to have to restart my PS2.  Also, I came across an instance where suddenly I couldn’t enter any cars in the game and had to run everywhere.  I was able to fix the problem again by resetting the PS2, but this kind of crap shouldn’t be showing up in a game.  It’s a huge inconvenience and quite frustrating.

 

But what we’re left with in True Crime is a pretty good idea that just needs more polish.  Seeing as the game has “Streets of L.A.” tacked on it, it seems a safe bet that we’ll see many more True Crime games over the years.  If so, hopefully we’ll see a better story, more reliable cameras, a more robust beat ‘em up mode, and not so much hip hop.  As it stands, True Crime: Streets of L.A. isn’t a bad game, however it isn’t terribly spectacular either.  It’s unrefined, but still a reasonably fun title, more worthwhile to rent or track down in the bargain bin one day.

 

Mr. Nash

(January 16, 2004)

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