True Crime: Streets of L.A. Review

True Crime: Streets of LA will seem instantly familiar to two groups of people: those who’ve played Grand Theft Auto 3 or Vice City, and those who live in Los Angeles. True Crime was definitely inspired by GTA3, as a major component of gameplay is driving and running through the streets of a living city filled with traffic and pedestrians. Instead of a fictional city like Liberty City, though, True Crime takes place in the very real city of Los Angeles. If you live in or are familiar with Los Angeles, you’ll be amazed at the detail that has gone into the recreation of the city. The streets, highways, landmarks, and many buildings have been faithfully created to the point that if you know your way around the real city then you can navigate through the game’s city the moment you start to play. Parts of the city have been condensed and “road construction” keeps you from going south of the 90 or up through the Sepulveda Pass, but it’s still a real treat for Los Angeles residents to be able to speed through the streets of their city without having to face the snarling traffic that is the norm for LA.

Another major difference between GTA3 and True Crime is that in True Crime you will be on the other side of the law. You play detective Nick Kang, another one of those tough wisecracking cops with a bit of an attitude that action movies and games love so much. The son of a storied LAPD officer who vanished mysteriously, you’ve been suspended from the force for using questionable tactics and violating various police codes of conduct. However, when some gangs start to make things difficult for the LAPD, you’re called back to duty and assigned to a special elite unit that could use a man just like you.

Just because you’re a cop, it doesn’t mean that you have to be a good cop. True Crime lets you take either a good cop or bad cop approach to solving crime, but it tracks your actions through a karma rating. Apprehending suspects by shooting out the tires on their cars, firing at the legs of fleeing criminals, and generally not hitting too many things with your car will generate good karma. Shooting suspects in the head and killing them, exploding cars by shooting at their gas tanks, killing bystanders, and causing mayhem and destruction while driving will create bad karma. You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have … your overall karma level. Being a bad cop will affect the ending that you will see after completing the game and will also have some effect on the way other cops react to you. If you let your karma get too negative, you may even find yourself pursued by a SWAT unit. However, occasionally resorting to the wrong way to do something won’t have that much of a negative impact on your game, so if you kill a few bystanders in the pursuit of justice it’s no big deal. There are no IAD investigations or civil rights trials in True Crime. It is also interesting that certain actions are not counted as bad. For example, you can stop and frisk anyone on the street without cause and arrest them if they are carrying a weapon or drugs. Also, you can carjack any vehicle in the name of the law without any intention of returning it (Nick will even joke that he’s “I’ll be your carjacker today”). Even running over a suspect with your car is as good a way to stop him as it is to tackle and cuff him as far as the game is concerned. No, True Crime won’t be winning any endorsements from the ACLU.

Gameplay in True Crime is mission-based, where completing a task will initiate the next cutscene to advance the storyline and reveal your next mission. Missions are both car and foot based. In the driving missions, you’ll need to accomplish goals such as reaching a specific destination within a time limit or tailing suspects. The other missions will pit you against one or more suspects in fights or gun battles as you attempt to bring them in (or take them out). True Crime departs from most games in that you do not have to complete the mission to continue on. After failure the game gives you the option of simply moving on to the next cutscene and mission. This can sometimes have negative consequences as far as the story is concerned, but they are minor in the grand scheme of things as you can still make it to the end of the game successfully even after failing multiple missions. Also, while on the subject of the storyline I should mention that it follows the standard action movie boilerplate, which will either please or disappoint you depending on your opinion of action cop flicks. It does deviate from the norm in one major way as you will encounter zombies at one point in the game. Why zombies? I have no idea, but there you have it.