True Crime: New York City

Review

posted 2/7/2006 by Sean Colleli
other articles by Sean Colleli
One Page Platforms: GC
The story itself is divided into chapters, as Marcus seeks out disparate elements of a larger conspiracy, scattered throughout four major crime rings in Manhattan.  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.

Less 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. 

But Marcus 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. 

Being the 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.

The sheer 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 around Manhattan.

The 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.

True Crime: 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. 




C
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 could’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.


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