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True Crime: Streets of LA Review

publisher: Activision
developer: Activision
genre: Action

PIII 800, 128MB RAM, 3.3GB HDD, 32MB video card
ESRB rating: M

release date: May 11, 04
» All About True Crime: Streets of LA on ActionTrip

It's a true crime the way some people drive these days.

The developers at Luxoflux may not be familiar to some of you. Their work encompassed mostly lesser known games such as Star Wars: Demolition, Vigilante 8, and Shrek 2. True Crime: Streets of LA, on the other hand, is the company's first big success that still holds a respectable place in the world of console action games. After their joint triumph, Luxoflux and Activision seized the opportunity to dish out a PC version of the game, delivering the exact same content, but with a few gameplay extras and some minor visual enhancements. We set out to determine if True Crime does PC gaming any justice.

Your role in the game is that of a detective named Nick Kang, your typical badass cop with an attitude problem. Nick Kang is a tough, street-wise character that occasionally uses slightly unorthodox methods to achieve his goals. He can resort to police brutality at any time, so I guess you can call him Tommy Vercetti with a badge. (With a slightly smaller vehicular homicide count. - Six) Anyhow, your objectives throughout the game are simple - roam through the streets of LA, nab as many thugs as you can. That is if you're not following the main storyline. Of course, the good thing about the whole experience is that you have several ways to achieve your missions or finish the game, as True Crime offers several alternate endings. The story itself isn't that bad. Granted, it's nothing that you haven't seen exploited to death in Hollywood action movies, but it offers enough twists to keep you interested in finding out what'll happen next. On the other hand, the game's admirable cast (i.e. Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, Michael Madsen, and others) seemed to have been wasted mostly on relatively unauthentic, poorly written dialogue, which lessens the impact of the relatively engaging plot structure.

While the story itself is the same in the PC version as it was in the console iterations, there are certain technical facets of this port that are only available to PC gamers. Like sharper visuals in higher resolutions for example. Even so, the graphics still appear outdated and unworthy of today's PC standards. Certain visual improvements are noticeable (if you look hard enough), such as enhanced particle effects, solid damage model, improved draw distance, and so on, but it all adds up to nothing more than a modest makeover. The textures are forgettable and evidently show that this is a cross-platform title. Furthermore, for some weird reason, almost all indoor sections are gloomy and rather unoriginal in terms of design. The good news is though, that there's a high level of interactivity, allowing players to smash, move, or use almost any object they see in the surroundings. Also, character animation is solid and every city district seems like a truthful representation of LA ... from what I've seen on the postcards that is.

The standard WASD/mouse control scheme doesn't exactly work as intuitively as it should. The dodgy vehicle controls can make for some hairy situations that can cause problems for novice gamers. The physics just seem way off. The cars are moving way too fast, even ridiculously fast, and are very hard to control. Driving just feels very awkward. Well, it does at first. After spending some time with the game, you get the hang of it, but on the whole, vehicle controls don't feel as natural as they do in Vice City.

The idea with the ungodly fast vehicles was obviously to make the game feel more like an arcade racer in driving mode, so I guess the whole point of this was not to make a GTA: Vice City clone in that sense. In theory this sounds like a fine idea (make True Crime more of a racer a-la Midnight Club 2), but in praxis, the messed up vehicle controls turn what should've been a fun feature into one that gets modestly fun only after long hours of play time.

Besides the vehicle controls, another example of a relatively shoddy porting job is the camera movement. Using the camera is one of the most bothersome aspects of the game, especially when Nick is on foot. When you engage in hand-to-hand combat you aren't allowed to move the camera around and that can be a real problem when you fight multiple opponents that keep coming from all sides. Another frequent occurrence is when a building or an object gets in the way of the action. These problems make fighting or gunning down opponents very difficult.

On the upside, however, True Crime: Streets of LA does have some enjoyable aspects that can make it a fun single-player experience. For one, players are offered a chance to do almost anything they please while in the shoes of a police officer. The action mostly consists of intense shootouts and car chases, but there's also an opportunity to arrest or search virtually every single passerby. The way you solve crimes greatly influences your reputation as a cop. Using excessive violence and various extreme measure results in negative karma points that could eventually lead to some unpleasant situations. Being a bad cop often causes your colleagues to look on you with contempt, and if you really exaggerate in your aggressive ways an entire SWAT team will be sent after you. (Sound familiar? - Ed) As opposed to being a merciless cop, you can always do things the right way, thereby gaining good karma points. The way you complete key assignments and the way you conduct yourself generally on the streets also determines the course of the storyline. Well, actually, it determines the ending, which is not a huge leap in open-ended design, but it's sufficient enough to make that side of the game fun.

Besides the main campaign, True Crime offers randomly generated missions that are supposed to give a greater illusion of non-linearity and give player something to do besides work on illuminating the plot. While this single-player structure does have its fun moments, the random crime-busting missions sadly lack more depth. Each random task serves as a training mission and allows your character to improve combat skills. But, these available side-missions are often repetitive. Basically, it's all about dealing out justice to small-time criminals. The concept rarely varies; you usually have to put a stop to illegal street races, domestic crimes, drunk driving, and so on. The game allows you to finish tasks in various ways. The only thing is that most missions lack a more in-depth structure. The ones I played were okay, but mostly revolved around mindless action and nothing more. Also, melee combat (which includes kicks, punches, etc.) seemed a bit redundant when you can use firearms at any time to complete your tasks. For some reason, Nick was given an infinite ammo supply, so it's safe to assume many of you will turn to shooting instead of punching and kicking. This is a damn shame, since the game's combat model is not half bad. There are plenty of moves and combos to unlock and unleash on the perps.

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6.7   Above Average 

Main campaign and alternate endings, hand-to-hand combat, solid AI - plus, the PC-exclusive content, including additional soundtracks;

Disappointing multiplayer, dated visuals, too short, control issues, repetitive side-missions lack more depth; tacky dialogue might ward off certain gamers.


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