True Crime: Streets of L.A.|
By: Ramon Vargas on December 8, 2003
Activision's True Crime: Streets of L.A. (developed by Luxoflux) casts players into the boots of hardened street detective Nick Kang, complete with dual pistols and a seedy past. A package with a city of angels containing streets crawling with shady criminals, crimes to investigate, and a story line involving an investigation that clashes with a Triad/Russian mob collaboration, Luxoflux develops an entertaining take on the B-action movie.
The game opens by delivering an exposition explaining Nick Kang’s involvement in the "Elite Operations Detectives" division in the LAPD. Fresh from a suspension, the loose cannon detective enters a shooting range to hone his firing prowess with twin .38 caliber revolvers. Upon completing the game’s armed combat tutorial by destroying 10 targets, the Chief convinces Nick Kang to incorporate himself into the EOD—Nick keeps his issued pistols and is launched into a full-blown criminal drama (after butting heads with his attractive female partner).
The gameplay boils down to 3 basic components: driving, running, and combat. The driving mechanics are simple enough, drawing largely from the established and efficient Grand Theft Auto III model. The city basically provides a city-wide range of cars to select from (although Nick begins with an issued car as well); Nick has been given the authority to comandeer cars belonging to citizens for the purpose of "protecting and serving," but the game’s lenient collision damage provides the cars a sturdier durability to bring the "GTA car stealing" aspect down to a minimum.
The missions boil down to a variety of prototypes. Some missions are as simple as getting from point A to point B, while others demand tailing a suspect furtively—sometimes Nick will find himself sneaking into a warehouse, knocking off unsuspecting guards silently, and others will have him downing armed suspects amidst a blazing exchange of bullets. Regardless, the missions are broken up into 9 "episodes" with an average of about 7 mission each—missions tend to be pithy, hence reducing the game’s playing life. Each episode will take you about 45 minutes to run through exploring the alternate intro’s and alternate mission map.
In between missions, Nick is given the opportunity to "walk the beat"; that is, while he is getting from location to location, as a unit he may be called to respond to solve a crime such as busting up a street fight, arresting drug pushers, or pursuing kidnap/murder suspects. The combat system is an absolute joy, allowing Nick to bust out various kick and punch combos. Unarmed take downs and precise shots (by pressing and holding the R2 fire button) allow Nick to acquire "Good Cop Points" and Badge Points. Good Cop Points allow you to achieve the best possible ending to the game, while Badge Points serve as currency for skill improvement at 24/7 "upgrade shops" (shooting, driving, fighting, etc) or car repairs.
In between episodes, bonus missions allow you to walk a beat to provide the opportunity of gaining badge points or selecting an upgrade of your choice—Nick can acquire new handguns and cars amongst other upgrades.
The enjoyable gameplay does not make leaps and bounds; it derives much from the crime simulation Grand Theft Auto III, but it provides one the opportunity to allow Nick to follow an honorable road of protecting and serving or to follow his loose cannon instincts in his quest to disrupt the Triad and Russian ties of crime.
The game's graphics render an accurate depiction of the City of Angels (except for the sparse traffic on the streets, sacrificed in favor of frame rate)--the cars are aesthetically beautiful as well. Nick Kang looks stylish in his brown jacket, and the rest of the models were created pretty well. The game incorporates a bullet time effect when Nick is driving, and the characters one takes down in this mode suffer realistic falls and bullet recoil damage—graphics are a definite improvement over its genre cousin, Grand Theft Auto III.
True Crime: Streets of L.A. showcases a star-studded soundtrack to add flavor to the experience; Cali rappers West Side Connection (including Ice Cube), Warren G., and Bizzy Bone all jump into the mix to bring players a chockfull of street rhapsodies to enliven things. Snoop Dogg and the hip-hop act N.E.R.D. also crank out cuts to kick the chase scenes into a higher gear. Famed actors such as Michelle Rodriguez and Christopher Walken bestow respectable voice talent upon the characters of the game.
True Crime: Streets of L.A. provides an interesting twist on the gameplay module created by Grand Theft Auto III—the game lets you choose what path (good or bad) you want Nick Kang to take while he works to disrupt the Triad/Russian connection. Its individual components add up to an enjoyable experience, however the pithy missions hinder the game’s replayability; the alternate mission introductions and bonus missions with the beat crimes Nick can solve work to juice out a little more out of the game.