True Crime: Streets of LA
Game Info
Platform(s)
PS2, GC, Xbox
Publisher
Activision
Developer
Luxoflux
Genre
Action
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood and Gore, Mature Sexual Themes, Strong Language,
 
Grade
The Good

• Great implementation of fighting, gunplay and driving
• Branching story
• Driving around solving crimes is pretty fun
• Great voice cast and impressive soundtrack

The Bad

• Lots of loading
• Some clipping and camera issues
• Hip Hop heavy soundtrack not for everyone

 
Grade
B+

I'll go ahead and make this statement as I can already hear the complaints from actual LA citizens - the traffic in True Crime: Streets of LA is not intended to mimic real traffic in Los Angeles. Seriously, how much fun would it be to try and chase down criminals in the gridlock of rush hour traffic? Now that I've gotten that out of the way...

The story behind True Crime is played up like a cop movie, where players take on the role of Nick Kang, the son of a former police officer who disappeared when Nick was but a child. As a police officer, Nick was unconventional and excessive, which led to him being suspended from the force, but because of his methods, he's given a shot at the E.O.D. (Elite Operations Division) to help deal with the Triads and Russian gangs. As a character, Nick is brash, rude and makes tons of quips, which quickly remind me of similar characters performed by the likes of Mel Gibson (Lethal Weapon) and Bruce Willis (Die Hard). It's a shame that Nick doesn't have the endearing charm of either those characters, though.

While the idea of free-roaming action titles is not completely new in the world of gaming (initial comparisons to Grand Theft Auto and The Getaway are not unwarranted), where True Crime excels is in trying to make the separate elements deeper while at the same time viable. True Crime sports some solid game engines when it comes to driving, hand-to-hand fighting and even gunplay and the player can switch between these modes during the heat of the game. The game is broken up into chapters that are further segmented into a series of missions. While the mission progression is pretty linear, with a few variances here and there, often players will be allowed to roam freely in the city, where they can choose to visit 24/7 Centers or even deal with random crimes.

When driving around the city, players will get APB calls to help in a wide variety of calls, including breaking up street fights, shoot-outs, muggings and even putting a stop to illegal street racing. While you don't have to invest the time and effort, it is suggested as you earn points toward badges. These badges are required in allowing the player to use the various 24/7 centers around town. Each center focuses on a certain skill and once successfully completed, will unlock new driving, shooting or fighting skills. You might think this isn't all that important until you actually unlock a few and realize how much these extra skills add to the gameplay. Being able to hit people behind you, throw additional combos or kick them while they're down makes fighting all the more fun and easy.

Of course, the points you earn for the badges have other uses - if you die, the game subtracts some points and you get to move on. You also lose points when you kill innocent pedestrians. Along with the badge points is a Good Cop/Bad Cop meter that tallies up your good activities compared to your bad activities. And, the worse you get, the more likely that the general populace and the police will want you dead.

Hand-to-hand fighting, while not as deep as a fighting game (say Virtua Fighter 4), is pretty good, especially once you unlock many of the skills. You'll face off enemies throwing either high, low or medium attacks. Both Nick and the enemy have a stamina meter next to the person's head icon that tell you how many hits you have to land to daze the enemy. Once dazed, you can use a grapple or button combo to perform a brutal attack. Gunplay often proves to be a pretty large element, especially depending on how criminals react to your presence. The default controls allow you to shoot with the R1 button and reload with R2. Nick can also pick up dropped weapons by tapping a button while walking over them. If you hold down the R1 button, you can go into aim mode, which allows players to shoot specific body parts to either immobilize the enemy or take out criminals who are holding civilians hostage. Shooting while driving is handled similarly, though you won't have to worry about reloading. The vehicle controls are your standard lot, with break/reverse, gas and handbrake for hard turns.

Where all these separate parts work well is that they seem to incorporate pretty well together. Using the D-Pad, players can switch from hand-to-hand to gunplay to standard movement on the fly. Also at your disposal is the ability to frisk pedestrians on the street, flash your badge, fire a warning shoot and even handcuff someone when they've been defeated or give up. Throw in the fact that the control scheme is completely customizable and action buffs should get more than their fill from True Crime. Imagine driving to the scene of a crime only to find yourself chasing down a car, shooting at it to get the driver to pull over. Once he does, you jump out and find yourself in a firefight. Your enemy runs to another nearby car and the chase is on once again. Or if you find yourself in the middle of a fist-fight, you may have to chase someone down and tackle them to keep them from getting away.

Another one of the nicer ideas implemented is the branching story concept, in which players can see the game told differently depending on whether they succeed or fail at missions. Of course, you can go back and replay failed missions and even play alternative scenarios as the story dictates. With multiple endings dependent on your performance, you can spend some time seeing all the story that the game has to offer.

Visually, True Crime presents an impressive package on the whole. The living city that Luxoflux has created is impressive. While I can not vouch for the accuracy of this digital version of Los Angeles, I will say that's quite an impressive feat to be able to drive around such a convincing environment, littered with cars and pedestrians. Speaking of the vehicles, I'm impressed with how good the vehicles look, especially when they start to take on damage. Windows get cracked and even display places where bullets have blasted through. Interior locations, while not as impressive as the cityscape of LA, still look good as you either fight, shoot or sneak your way around. One of the nicer touches is the fact that so much of the interior locations can be busted up, which makes for some nice effects during these sequences. Probably the weakest aspect of the graphics are the character models, which look a little unpolished and have some collision detection issues, especially in the interior locations. But, even that isn't much of hindrance in the scope of things. I will say that I wish there had a larger range of pedestrian character models available.

Audio-wise, True Crime is sharply implemented. With a sharp voice cast that includes such greats as Christopher Walken, Gary Oldman and Ron Perlman, the story sequences come across as great segues between missions. The in-game comments and quips from Nick and local citizenry likewise adds to the game. Sound effects are crisp and varied, giving the handful of weapons and wide range of cars appropriate weight and timber. One of the best parts about True Crime's audio portion is the massive soundtrack, which not only includes licensed tracks from Megadeth, Parliament and Ice T but a ton of new tracks from acts like Snoop Dogg and Coolio. While the soundtrack itself is largely hip hop, the overall tone it sets works well with the game's concept. If you aren't a fan of the genre, you can always turn the volume down. Also included is the ability to customize what tracks are played, allowing players to ditch songs they don't like.

Of course, with such a title as this, there are things that could use some work. First and foremost, there is just way too much loading, so much so that it breaks up the flow of the story. While there is next to no loading while you drive around, once you go into a building or move onto the next mission or story sequence, expect a healthy wait. I would have to also comment that the game seems to have needed just a little more time as there are just some sloppy issues concerning clipping and the in-game camera in interior locations. Also, the game tends to be a little on the short side if you just work your way straight through the story without much time spent roaming.

I have to give credit to Luxoflux for really trying to encompass enough elements to really give True Crime a great bit of depth. While some of the elements are a little rough, the whole package is a fine effort that should appeal to action fans. If you're the kind of person who likes to drive around and bust (or kill) criminals, True Crime will be a worthy investment in time.

- - Kinderfeld

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