True Crime: New York City

Review

posted 2/7/2006 by Sean Colleli
other articles by Sean Colleli
One Page Platforms: GC

GTA ripoffs are slowly and steadily creeping into the game market, trying to cash in on the “sand box” gameplay dynamic of go anywhere, do anything.  The title to come the closest in style and presentation was Luxoflux’s True Crime: Streets of LA.  The third-person shooter boasted a fairly faithful recreation of Los Angeles and a large stock of things to do, but it was a little too big for its own good and lacked significant polish.  With two years to improve the experience, Luxoflux has tried again, this time in the Big Rotten Apple.  The sequel to LA, True Crime: New York City, fixes a lot of the old problems but unfortunately not nearly enough.

Considering the set abilities of current consoles, the graphical presentation is impressive.  It isn’t noticeably better than LA, but with the massive environment and sheer number of NPCs on the screen at once, the visual atmosphere is sufficient.  Many of the textures are downright smeary when examined up close, but again, it’s all for the sake of the whole.  The gritty, crime-ridden world of Manhattan is believable, excessively detailed and very big.  It takes several minutes to drive from one edge of the island to the other, and you really get a sense of scale as you pass building after building. 

This moderate-but-lackluster environment would be passable, if not for one huge detriment: the framerate.  In some places, it is truly unforgivable.  Just racing down the streets you’ll encounter nauseating chop, and in the action-filled missions it gets almost unplayable.  The inaccuracy of skipping frames caused me to wreck on several occasions or make a mistake that I could normally avoid. 

In a shootout or fistfight, framerate can mean the difference between life and death, and it’s just as finicky in combat as it is everywhere else.  With massive games like GTA San Andreas running on the antiquated PS2 hardware, this kind of slowdown on the more powerful GameCube (in a smaller world, no less) is inexcusable.

After becoming accustomed to a framerate in the 15 fps area, I expected to find some solid play mechanics.  After all, Perfect Dark on the N64 had its chop issues, but it delivered the goods.  Disappointingly, True crime stumbles here as well, but not because the gameplay is broken in any way—it just trips over an ample supply of bugs.  Doors refuse to open; the camera gets stuck everywhere, even in the character’s head; rooms go black for no reason; collision detection is hit-or-miss; and quite often, the game crashes arbitrarily.  Just to make sure, I took a hard look at my GameCube and determined that no, I was not playing on a Mac.

Certainly not the two-year cleanup I expected from a sequel.  Luxoflux did tweak a few things, such as the directional attacks in hand-to-hand combat, but the bad far outweighs the good here.  It’s a wonder that True Crime: New York City escaped play testing to sneak onto store shelves. 

For the first hour of playing this game, I began to mutter scores like “2.3 out of 10,” but luckily I stuck around.  For players who brave the bugs and stutters, there is a meaty experience waiting with a solid story and likeable gameplay.  The main protagonist, Marcus Reed, definitely has more depth than LA’s wooden hero, Nick Kang.  The initial impression I got from Reed was a stereotypical African American gang-banger, and I found this disheartening and disappointing, but as the story progresses Marcus is revealed as a real person.  He isn’t anti-hero #457; he has his own unique attitude and style, and his checkered past really filters down into his personality. 

His father (voiced by Lawrence Fishburne) is an ex-crime boss, locked away in a federal prison for over fifteen years.  Marcus has dealt with the fallout and repercussions of being a crime prince his whole lift, and his harder edge is reflected in how he handles crime.  He works for the good guys, but he isn’t nice about it.  In fact, the player gets to decide exactly how nice, as the good cop/bad cop system returns from True Crime: Streets of LA.  Although the light/dark dynamic isn’t as prominent or integral as it was in the first game, it still factors into the ending to the story, so replaying True Crime: New York City is a feasible possibility.

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