Luxoflux invites grown-up players back for another game of "good cop (or) bad cop" in this follow-up to 2003's L.A.-based action-adventure. As in the original True Crime, players take the role of an unorthodox law enforcement officer, and by their actions and in-game choices, determine the character's morality as they play through the story. In True Crime: New York City, the hero is a former gang member named Marcus Reed, who uses his hard-knocks schooling to powerful effect in the gritty underworld of the Big Apple. As in Streets of L.A., New York City missions play out in freely-roamed, GTA3-style environments, stocked with plenty to see and do even when Marcus isn't working towards a specific mission goal. Key characters are voiced by accomplished screen actors, including Christopher Walken, Laurence Fishburne, and Mickey Rourke, with Marcus Reed portrayed by Avery Waddell.
True Crime NYC is the sequel to True Crime: Streets of LA. It's also attempting a huge bite out of Grand Theft Auto's target audience. It's gritty, realistic (sort of), and meant to bring you right into the seedy underbelly of a New York crime drama. Does it do all this?
Nope, no, nada, sorry, but I digress. The rendering of New York City is incredible. A lot of detail and painstaking care went into making every street and alley look authentic. From Times Square to the depths of Harlem, everything is VERY close to reality. As a tour program this game excels, but I'm betting you're hoping for a lot more than a tour.
Before I get to what's wrong with this game, let me focus on what's right. It's a much shorter list. The graphics are quality, with features drawing from the latest in pixel shading, high polygon count character models and impressive motion capture, topped off with a gorgeous depiction of the big city that leaves a good taste in your mouth. You can spend a fair amount of time enjoying the scenery and getting lost in the mix. Another point for True Crime: the voice acting. They have spared no expense to obtain talent, Laurence Fishburne, Christopher Walken and many others top the list of grade-A voice acting for this game's gritty plot. When I first heard the voice of a mysterious officer bark out orders and explain my next mission in Christopher Walken's creepy cadence, I was very much caught in the moment. On a further note, the audio in this game is not lacking. Sound effects are crisp and believable for the most part, the soundtrack is as varied as you could ever hope for. Bouncing from White Zombie to De La Soul to The Ramones had me guessing that they wanted to avoid the rap-only crowd, though there is a large share of that too.
The plot, in case you're wondering, is you taking the role of Marcus Reed, a down and dirty gangster thug who has embraced the straight and narrow and become a police officer. Although he can still fight and play dirty, he's out to solve a few mysteries and clean up the town. This is mostly achieved by driving around (or by subway, or walking, but, unlike the real NYC, driving is preferable) and catching calls on the radio for random crimes. There is an interesting amount of variety in the crimes, but you soon reach the end of the cycle and bust your 34th counterfeit syndicate and your 23rd serial rapist and the regular missions soon get old. There is a larger plot to follow, however, and it is slightly more interesting. You follow a series of clues and leads to interrogate increasingly more important thugs. The interrogation mini-game is a fun little past-time to beat, or reason, information out of people. You're soon turned onto a mission that involves a mole from inside the precinct.
Ultimately, this plot has been done to death so many times on so many cop dramas that it's difficult to get engaged. This is just the beginning of where the game goes downhill. Obviously, high production values went into this game, but as is so often the case lately, they missed the mark in some very key areas. The controls for one. I have rarely seen a more convoluted control system for PC.
I'll be the first to admit that this was originally for console, but it seems that barely a token effort was made to translate the commands to a keyboard layout. My fingers got a workout hopping all over the keyboard for the numerous and poorly constructed commands. If you're thinking that a gamepad might fix all this, nix that idea too. My Logitech PS2 Styled PC gamepad looked like a perfect match for this game, alas it was barely configurable and did not coordinate to the multiple styles of game play, you could set it up for driving, but not running, or vice versa, but its limitations soon had me back on the keyboard.
After I had adapted to the controls somewhat, the physics had me somewhat at a loss. Keeping in mind that this is not a driving simulation, at its core, I don't expect much more than doughy arcade style driving. But nothing handled as I expected, the cars were sloppy, sometimes you lightly skidded off the front end of a fire truck, other times being brushed by a motorcycle had you recoiling and turning 360's while your perpetrator was getting further and further away. The fighting system was convoluted as well, with a light attack, a heavy attack, a grab attack that was also the way to frisk people, which is also the button to arrest people, plus the buttons to put away your gun, pull it back out, fire a warning shot, flash your badge, tackle someone, all while trying to keep the squirrelly camera centered behind you (which it rarely does well).
In the graphics department there were glitches, clipping into walls, as well as criminals falling through solid concrete and waiting in the ether for you to attempt, in vain, to arrest them. At one point I was forced to kill a non-lethal perp by shooting him in the foot, just to end the mission. Top this off with some frame lag and a whack targeting system, and you can sense my mounting frustration. You'll often find yourself tackling air, punching civilians and firing point blank at walls. There were also numerous points where the textures for multiple guns seems to be missing, and your Uzi,s or pistol would appear as a white textureless shape.
In a GTA-styled attempt to test the limits of my virtual city, I shot an arsonist, grabbed his flamethrower and took out 30 people before highjacking a public bus and driving over half the residents of the Lower East Side. I finished up with some cop killing. reckless driving and traffic accidents. I was being hunted by every cop in the city and identified as a rogue cop who was 'mentally unstable,' according to the radio. Assured of my own impending death, I ran to and fro waiting for the inevitable. Which never came. I made a break through the park and dived into the bay and swam around for 2-3 minutes. Upon returning to shore my 'criminal' rating had gone back down and I was back to being boy hero. Realism indeed. In another game glitch, I began a mission to follow a motorcycle courier on a bike of my own for an exciting chase, but after trying 20 times to follow him, he wrecked within two blocks almost every time. Finally I just tracked him down on foot after he fell and interrogated him, wondering why I even got on the motorcycle. It's this kind of unfinished and unpolished gameplay that brings this gaming experience to its knees. I couldn't bring myself to care about the characters, the city, the law; nothing in this game draws you in efficiently enough to make you want to finish it.
The controls need work, the engine needs work, the collision detection needs work, the AI needs serious work, all in all I wouldn't be surprised if you told me this was a beta. A brief look at the customer support page for Activision also shows that numerous glitches and problems were had by users of all consoles. Overall, a well-presented, high-budget flop. The world doesn't ever need another World War 2 game but developers keep making them, which I guess is the same reason they keep trying to capitalize on the awesome profits of Grand Theft Auto. But a bigger budget does not make a better game.
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