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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
itself is divided into chapters, as Marcus seeks out disparate elements of a
larger conspiracy, scattered throughout four major crime rings in
They’re all pretty cliché
(Chinese Mafia, Italian Mob, Latino drug cartel) but the characters within
these organizations come off as real and not totally cookie-cutter.
Completing a story event reveals another lead,
if you successfully interrogate the key suspect, but failing the incredibly
easy interrogations doesn’t halt the story.
A number of underworld sources can clue you in on the next lead, not the
least of which is Marcus’ old man in prison.
Information doesn’t come cheap; you usually must perform an elicit task
for these criminals, and even if you don’t need the info they make it worth
your while in cash.
critical missions are also available. As
a plainclothes street detective, Marcus can infiltrate fight clubs and
drag-racing circuits, working his way up the ranks to bust the promoter. Everyday crimes appear frequently, and offer
an opportunity to gain career points, higher skill levels and ear an honest
paycheck. The system works much like the
free-roaming Spider Man games, but with more variety and challenge.
isn’t your friendly-neighborhood hero, if you don’t want him to be. His already cynical attitude is evident in
how he cuffs perps (for some reason, he has an infinite supply of handcuffs in
his pocket), and if you want him to be even meaner that’s up to you. Playing the corrupt cop is quite possible,
police brutality and all. Killing
unarmed suspects, extorting store clerks for protection money, planting evidence
on innocent civilians or getting rich on confiscated drugs will fill up your
bad cop meter, if you want to play that way.
law doesn’t mean you’re above the law, however; plow through a crowd of
pedestrians in your shiny V8 Coupe and your fellow officers will take you
down. Being bad has to be kept on the
low and dirty, to avoid the suspicions of the real good guys.
amount of things to do is impressive, as are the ways to do them. Gunplay can be overkill or precise; there is
a loose lock on mode and a precision aiming mode, that even lets you take
non-lethal disabling shots. Grabbing a
downed enemy’s gun or other weapon in a firefight gives the game a very
adaptive feel—running through a building, emptying guns and discarding them for
new ones Matrix style. Marcus can
purchase a hefty arsenal of melee and projectile weapons, including a beanbag
shotgun, tazer, sledgehammer, commando rifle and even caltrops. A wide array of police and civilian vehicles
are available at local dealerships, which can be repaired, upgraded and painted
at garages. For a final element of
customizability, Marcus can deck himself out with clothes from numerous shops
gameplay of True Crime: New York City is truly its saving grace, but the audio element could have
crippled the overall package had it not been good as well. Voice acting is spot-on, with accents and
proper inflections. Some high profile
talent was hired for TC NY, and the quality shines through in the final
product. Marcus Reed in particular does
an excellent job, and comes off with a pessimistic disposition and real-world
weariness. Sound effects are mostly
rehashed from other sources, but some original content has been snuck in to
liven things up. The music collection is
substantial, with hip-hop, metal, rock and alternative styles, and any track
can be selected from the main menu and played on the game’s car stereos. Of course, additional songs can be bought
from music shops in the city.
I have but
one warning: this game has some of the thickest swearing I’ve encountered in a
video game, to date. You can’t go thirty
seconds without hearing the F-word.
Three times. In a row. En short, not for kids, but it helps the
realism factor a degree.
New York City is one of those games that you grudgingly love, and wonder how
much better if could’ve been, had the developers taken time to buff it up. The crashes and choppiness will turn off the
casual player, but a determined gamer will really get into this one if they
take the time. There’s considerable
depth just below the rough, jagged exterior, and putting up with the many
glitches yields a worthwhile experience.
It’s kind of like eating crab; it’s a lot of effort to crack the shell
and dig out the meat, but the end result is undeniably delicious.
Luxoflux takes another stab at the True Crime license, with mixed results. The horrid framerate and numerous bugs make this game like tap dancing in a minefield, but the game itself is deep, with a quality narrative, superb voice acting and rich gameplay. If it had been optimized and playtested for a few more months, True Crime New York City couldâ€™ve been a real hit. As it is, this game frustrates newcomers with its problems, but a rewarding game is in store for persistent gamers who can overlook (or tolerate) the mechanical potholes.