STAFF REVIEW of True Crime: Streets Of L.A. (Xbox)

Tuesday, November 18, 2003.
by kitt

True Crime: Streets Of L.A. Box art True Crimes: Streets of L.A. was a highly anticipated game due to the fact Grand Theft Auto (GTA) was nowhere on the radar screen for some time and fans everywhere were looking for there fill of GTA style gameplay for the Xbox, some even considered this a GTA killer? Did it live up to all the hype? Not really.

Don?t get me wrong, this is a fun, entertaining game, what more could you ask for, but the truth of the matter is that this game contains flaws that prevent it from being truly great. As you can already see I am jumping right into the GTA comparisons, but for good reason. Both are gritty, open-ended games where the story unfolds on the streets, running, fighting, driving and shooting. Both games are similar, anyone who says otherwise has to have their head checked or is just trying to justify the purchase of one over the other.

I promise to keep the comparisons to a minimum; because this game offers enough unique experiences and has enough going for it that it doesn?t deserve to live in the shadow of GTA. I honestly believe both games can live harmoniously in the same video game collection, and that fans of GTA would benefit the most from True Crimes.

With True Crimes you can definitely expect an L.A. experience; a hard-core West Coast rap soundtrack, all the locales, crime and enough mature content to make even Andrew Dice Clay blush. The game play is deep, but in the end the game seemed rushed and lacked the polish it so dearly deserved.

By far the best element of this game is the massive L.A. environment. From Hollywood to Venice, it?s all here, landmarks and all. Jump on the highway and away you go. Watch as the neighborhoods change from ghettos to million dollar mansions. Even though some of the buildings look similar after awhile, especially in some neighborhoods, this game still has lots of detail. Hats off to the developers who took the time to re-create this city. If you?re planning a trip or moving to L.A., forget the Atlas, just play this game, you?ll soon learn your way.

As Nick Kang, a ?tough as nails? cop, recently suspended and just recruited into the Elite Operations Division, you battle gangs, complete missions and unravel the story of your missing father (also a cop). One of the most noticeable aspects of True Crimes is the developed storyline, but even though it is more developed and engrossing then say that of GTA?s it is not necessarily good or original. Frankly I think of a bad made-for-TV cop action flick when I play True Crimes. The characters are dull and not at all interesting. I cared very little about the main plot, and found more satisfaction running over innocent pedestrians rather then progressing the story.

Talking about running over pedestrians, driving along with running, shooting and fighting are the other elements of this game. As I mentioned before, the gameplay is deep; there is no doubt about that. This is a mission-based game where you have to get yourself from point A to point B with a few stops on the way. One way to get around is to take any car you wish, a hummer, a bus, it?s really up to you. Even though the driving physics are not the most realistic this is one of the most enjoyable parts of the game. You can drive over anything you wish and watch as the environment reacts around you. Shoot from your car and even catch some air (this game even tracks air time). On the negative side, the traffic is unrealistically non-existent and the controls are set up in such a way that I constantly found myself diving out of the car.

Once you?re on foot, stop a crook by flashing your badge, shoot in the air or chase him down and tackle him, then finally slap on the cuffs. If this doesn?t work, hell, just pull out your gat and cap his ass. Shooting is another fun element of the game, because you can basically shoot anything or anyone and the ammo is unlimited. You can also duck behind a car if engaged in a gun battle. I wasn?t impressed with the variety of weapons I encountered and less impressed with the accuracy. To counter the accuracy dilemma, this game offers a precision aiming feature. At the click of a button, you?re in a close-up fps type mode where you can aim for the knees or between the eyes. I often found this mode very frustrating, because once you are in precision aiming mode everything turns into slow motion including the speed at which you can move your crosshairs. Once you figure out where you?re aiming and move your cross hairs, the perp is gone or you?re being shot to death. Oh and of course there is the Matrix/Max Payne style slow motion feature available while diving and shooting which seems to be standard fare in most games likes this.

Fighting is another element of gameplay you can expect from True Crimes. Prior to playing this game I was looking forward to the martial arts style of fighting this game said it had to offer. Finally I thought, a more intelligent fighting system, more moves then the standard fare of basic kicks and punches. This is all true, but when it came down to actually playing the game, fighting turned into button mashing, with the odd block here and there. Dispense of your opponents with ease because the difficulty levels of the fighting challenges are very, very low. On top of all this, a poorly fixed camera during fighting doesn?t allow you to see opponents off the screen.

The main missions are interesting and some are truly unique. Where else can you kick the crap out of a stripper after she has given you a lap dance? There are stealth missions, hostage situations, and gun battles just to name a few. One feature of the game that is truly enjoyable is the number of random side mission you can choose to tackle on your way to the next main mission. Dispatch will notify you of the crime in progress taking place near by. These crimes might include domestic disputes, car jackings, and bank robberies. Breaking up a street brawl might lead to a chase down the street and then into a car chase because the perp might jump into a car if you?re not quick enough. At first they are fun and unique but can soon get repetitive.

This game is not GTA because you?re a cop, a good guy; that is if you want to be a good cop? True Crimes tracks your actions via a good/bad cop meter on the screen, which can ultimately lead to a different ending in the story based on its position. Drive over a group of school children and that meter goes down into bad cop territory or choose to shoot a perp. in the leg rather the head and the meter goes up into good cop territory. This is a great feature and adds to the challenge of the game. It also allows you to develop your character and create a different game every time you play. If you get too out of control, watch out, or you?ll have the SWAT team all over your ass. But be warned, achieving good cop status is not as easy as it sounds. While chasing down a crook on wheels, mowing down pedestrians unintentionally is a given and doesn?t help the good cop score.

In True Crimes the story doesn?t end if you fail a mission, it just heads down a different path. How many times have you become bored with a game simply because you have had to play the same mission over and over to move on? Well this game set out to solve all of that. This was one of the most anticipated features of the game and one of the biggest disappointments. If you fail a mission you are given the option to continue with the story or you can choose to replay the same mission, which really defeats the purpose. The biggest problem is the option to continue, because how many people are going to admit to defeat and choose the path of the loser when they can just do the level over? The player should be forced down a certain path as a repercussion of failure.

As you have already read, there is lots to do and lots to see, plus there?s more. Stations throughout the city allow you to upgrade and unlock new skills. There?s the ability to save your favorite vehicles and an auto-save feature at your convenience.

The graphics are good, but not impressive. The character models are decent, but movement is choppy. You are given more freedom with the camera compared to GTA, but during some scenarios the camera is fixed disabling your perspective. The graphics are what you would expect out of a multi-platform game, Playstation 2 graphics at best. True Crime models 240 square miles of LA with a pretty high level of detail and the environments react with every crash and explosion. I did find a lot of vehicle and street character replication. I couldn?t even keep track of the same blonde in a black dress suit that keep appearing. The cut scenes are standard and the lip-syncing during them is absolutely a pain to watch.

The sounds effects were generally well done and the soundtrack couldn?t have been a better fit. If you?re not a fan of the L.A. rap scene then you?re out of luck, because this game has a whole lot of it (50 tracks in all), with your custom soundtrack thrown in as a nice bonus.

The sounds effects while running were by far the worst. The whole game it sounds like you?re character is running through snow. The vehicle sounds effect weren?t any better.

The voice acting was great, but I wouldn?t expect anything less with a list of celebs providing their vocals including Christopher Walken, serving as a narrator.

If you like cheesy, unintelligent humour, then this is the perfect game for you. The developers have found the perfect formula to kill the mood of this game. For example, during an intense gun fight against a Russian gang, Nick, the main character, will spit out some of the worst one-liners to ever come out of a video game console.

The graphics need work and the fighting system needs an overhaul and don't forget to make the challengers a little tougher to beat. Also curb the cheesy one-liners. Some camera angles need work and improve the speed of the game during precision aiming mode.

Overall: 7.8 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.6 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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