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LOSTATSEA.NET > FEATURES >

December 5, 2005
System: Xbox (tested), GameCube, Play Station, and Playstation 2
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Luxoflux
Rating: 6.5/10

Before I even noticed the disc on the inside of the game case, a relatively nondescript white piece of paper stood out in stark contrast to the green plastic and the murky booklet resting behind it.

Disclaimer

This game is not approved, endorsed, or connected in any way to the New York City Police Department ("NYPD").

The game is fictional and does not represent the views, policies or practices of the NYPD.


If this game were endorsed by the NYPD, or any police department, security force, or rent-a-cop outfit in America, it would immediately call into question the credibility and sanity of that organization. True Crime is a dark representation of police work, not so much of a noir as a rather thug-life world-view with a violent theme, set against the backdrop of a police investigation in the city of New York.

The Story So Far

Game play begins as you take on the identity of Marcus Reed, "an undercover cop on the mean streets of New York City." The story takes off by throwing you directly into the action as a bloodied Marcus arrives at a crackhouse in search of retribution after an attempted hit on his kingpin father, Isaiah "The King" Reed. As you take control you are allowed to mow down as many back-stabbing junkies as you can, along with their hapless leader, before Detective Terrence "Terry" Higgins, your surrogate father, arrives and agrees to cover up the mess.

Flash ahead four years to when young Marcus is a cop heading for the rank of Detective in the Organized Crime Unit, under the fine tutelage of Higgins, of course. After passing some rather rudimentary training sessions you are launched, with Higgins as your partner, into the seedy New York streets where, during your first investigation, Higgins is decimated in a large warehouse explosion while you sit helpless in the car.

The blockbuster storyline is a bit absurd to be sure, but overall the cut scenes and interactive flashback work to immerse the player into the storyline, and the in-game graphics engine is fantastic, making the cut scenes seem less intrusive and more a natural part of the storyline.

It also helps that there is some amazing voice-over work delivered for the dialogue, which at times stumbles and becomes clunky. Isaiah King is voiced by Laurence Fishburne, Terry Higgins by Mickey Rourke, and the one and only Christopher Walken takes the role of Special Agent Gabriel Whitting, whom you quickly agree to help in order to avenge the death of Higgins.

It is here, with the alliance between Whitting and Reed, that the game essentially begins. As Reed it is your job to uncover the mystery behind multiple drug cartels in the city with the help of Whitting, a raft of informants, and your father the kingpin, who runs his crime empire from a cushy prison cell.


I Get Around, Get Around, I Get Around

As Marcus, you have the freedom to move about New York however you'd like. The developers have done an admirable job creating a living, active city for players to traverse, and covering this huge area affords plenty opportunities to play. Though the locales and details begin to blend and there is some noticeable blandness to many of the structures, it True Crime's New York ultimately feels like a city in its sheer size and interactivity.

The methods of travel are by car, subway, or taxi, with each having it's own pluses and minuses. Cars offer the ability to travel wherever you'd like and are free, though the travel time can be a bit daunting and having to contend with traffic is no pleasure. Those inconveniences are balanced out by the fact that players can walk up to any vehicle in the game and take it, whether it be the junker puttering by, the crotch rocket on the line at the stoplight, or the souped-up street car that catches your eye. When it comes to the availability of cars, the world is your oyster. You can even take other police cars with the click of a button, although it must be noted that, for all the traffic on the mean streets of New York, there are an absurd amount of cops (try roughly four cruisers for every one civilian car).

The subway is relatively cheap and there are plenty of access points throughout the city, but they'll only get you so close to many of your desired locations, leaving you on foot or commandeering a car for parts of the journey not serviced by the underground trains.

Taxis are abundant as well, but cost a little more. They do, however, bring you virtually anywhere on the map, and have zero travel time.


Press This Button

The game-play mechanics should be familiar to connoisseurs of third-person actioneers, and are easily assimilated by newbies as well. Gunplay, melee, and driving all use the same buttons and are generally intuitive enough not to frustrate.

If you prefer free aim, just move the right analog stick. If your aim is atrocious, pull and hold the left trigger and the target lock lines up on a specific foe.

The four main buttons enable Marcus to throw a beating and 'cuff perps, the other trigger discharges the firearm (naughty!), and the D-pad switches fighting styles and weapons. It's an easy system to learn, and after the beginning tutorial and your first ten minutes on the streets, you should be a pro.


Plenty To Do

The game is divided into separate parts, all taking place along a linear storyline. The main objective is the major investigation into the drug cartels, but as you complete parts of this storyline, you have the opportunity to clean the city up along the way.

Police dispatch continually relays notices of random crimes throughout the city, which land conveniently in your immediate vicinity, and you have the option to intervene or pass up these crimes. They range from carjacking and domestic disputes to more humorous interactions like a rowdy band destroying a hotel room or - and this is one of my personal favorites - "Militant vegans vandalizing local vegetarian restaurant for serving meat." Serves those carnivore bastards right!

Your commanding officer will also set you to task on more in-depth investigations which send you to check out a street racing epidemic and infiltrate a fight club ring. Your cover affords you no outs, so you either race or beat your way to the top, winning money along the way, with the option to arrest the promoters as well.

It's easy to get sidetracked solving these smaller crimes, but it's also a great touch adding the realism of police duties to the main storyline. You're not just a character, you're a police officer and it's your job to clean this damn city up.


Interrogate This

An interesting, yet flawed aspect of the game is the interrogation system. After each leg of your major investigation, you'll have to interrogate the last man standing, a process that is rather easy to achieve. There's a vertical bar with a stationary sweet spot in the center, and a small horizontal bar that moves up and down depending on your actions. You have the option to gun threat or strike your suspect, and to reason or demand with them. Depending on your approach, the moving bar will rise rapidly or slowly up or down, the goal being to have it fall on the sweet spot three times. All things considered, it's a very easy task to achieve. Should you manage to muck it up (you should be ashamed), don't fret - you can restart the mission or perform a special mission for an informant that will help you along the main storyline and get you back on track.


Upgrades

True Crime offers the player a variety of upgradeable features to help Marcus along his way. They're easy to find, and essentially easy to obtain as well (all it take is a little scratch and a high rank).

You can get new firearms at the police station, and can find street firearms at local gun shops as well. You can also upgrade your gunplay too, buying new features such as an improved zoom or a slow-motion gun dive. The police station also provides new cars and new driving maneuvers (a 90-degree turn, for instance), but the city has car dealers too, offering some variety. If you want to Bruce Lee your way through your missions, just visit one of the many dojos in New York and you can learn new fighting techniques and new melee weapons skills.


Serpico or Callahan...hmmm

Not to say that Dirty Harry was a bad cop, but I digress. Players have the option to be a good cop or a malicious, filth-ridden, maniacal officer who essentially operates as a serial killer with a badge.

If you play the game by the book, arrest criminals, turn in evidence, and don't kill innocents, you earn good cop points, and your rank increases.

If you play the game like I did - run over pedestrians, kill other cops, shoot innocents, and plant evidence - you earn (and I mean earn - it takes a lot of effort be this evil, but it is terribly cathartic) bad cop points.

When all is said and done the good cop/bad cop divergence really doesn't affect game play too much, but it should be noted that too much debauchery can land you back in your blue uniform, forced to solve three crimes using an honest cop's methods. Considering the healthy doses of carnage that a bad cop can delve out, that seems like a pretty lenient punishment, making the dark side of the force that much more enticing.


In conclusion...

Pluses: Graphics engine is impressive, Plenty to do, Great voice acting, Easy-to-learn controls, Too much fun to kill indiscriminately.

Minuses: Game crashes quite a bit, Tasks become redundant, Story might be too linear for fans of this genre, Could have done with a bit more detail and variety in locales, Too much fun to kill indiscriminately.

End Result: True Crime: New York City is a fine game, despite its flaws, and should keep the kids happy for days. With a great cast and good graphics, responsive controls, and a lot of ground to cover, players can meander their way through New York and solve crimes or commit them, and at the end of the day, who doesn't love that sort of freedom?

SEE ALSO: www.truecrime.com

--
David Spain
Based in Chicago, Illinois, David Spain is a contributing writer for LAS magazine.

See other articles by David Spain.

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