Reviewed: December 24, 2005
Released: November 16, 2005
Ever since the Grand Theft Auto series took off, plenty of game developers have been trying to copy its recipe for success. Not surprisingly, many have been nothing more than knockoffs, but that doesnít mean that all of the gun toting, shady, king of the streets, Iíll-beat-up-as-many-innocent-pedestrians-as-I see-fit games are mere clones of GTA.
When True Crime: Streets of L.A. came out, it did pretty well, keeping many gamers and reviewers, for the most part, happy. So how does the much-anticipated True Crime: New York City fare in this genre? Well, letís just say Iíll be beating up pixilated pedestrians elsewhere when I feel the urge.
True Crime: New York City is the kind of clichťd story of Marcus Reed, a gangster turned cop. Reed has apparently killed more people than Al Capone, judging by the bloodbath we see him engage in during the opening sequence. Still, despite having a rap sheet that should be about a mile long, Reed joins the NYPD, only to witness his lifelong mentor get killed. Naturally, he isnít going to take this lying down, so he hits the streets of New York to track down his mentorís murderer.
Of course, heís a cop that doesnít play by the rules (do they ever in these stories?), and ends up doing a bit of his own investigating on the murder case, all while attempting to do his duty as a cop, and clean up the streets of New York. Players can choose to be the ďgoodĒ cop (and by ďgood,Ē I mean not a ruthless killer), or the bad cop, depending upon the actions you take.
Despite all of its other faults, TCNYC does have a decent, although clichťd story. There arenít any big surprises if youíre familiar with these types of tales, but it does a decent job of telling it anyway. If youíre into crime stories, then perhaps youíll enjoy TCNYC, bad controls and all.
I chose to be the good cop. Usually, Iím a sucker for anti-heroes, even villains, but how often do we get to be the good guy in games like these? By being the good cop, you must turn evidence and contraband you encounter through your investigations into the police station, instead of going to pawn shops and extorting cash, or writing false traffic tickets. Also, while youíre at it, it helps to try to not mow people down on the sidewalk when driving, or shoot unarmed people and other cops. Sounds easy, right?
Well, itís not. Through no fault of my own, I soon became a bad cop. I was turned to the dark side by shoddy, unresponsive controls with a confusing layout, and a car that refused to not drive like it was going 90 MPH on black ice. When you are out responding to the usual crime on the streets in TCNYC, you may either drive a selected car from the precinctís garage, or abuse your authority by commandeering car after car. Supposedly, each car handles a bit differently, although it didnít really matter if I was in an armored truck or sports car, for I still had little control over my driving, and careened wildly down the street, smashing into other vehicles and human beings. You may take a taxi or other means of public transportation, but whereís the fun in that?
The rest of the controls in TCNYC arenít much better, Iím afraid. Most commands take a two button combo, and itís easy to forget what command does what, considering that they are not repeated after the first training mission and are even left out of the instruction booklet in some cases, like the all important handcuffing command. Tackling people hardly ever works either. Time after time, no matter how close I was to my target, I would watch helplessly as Marcus would dive forward gracefully, only to tumble gently into a somersault, and slide away from the assailant empty handed. He also had a considerable amount of trouble figuring out how doors work, and how to stand up from a crouched position.
With poor controls, itís hard to have fun with a game. Itís even harder when the game is a clone of a better game. The point of view, the mini-map, the scenery, and just about everything in TCNYC, is so reminiscent of GTA that it left me wondering why anyone would want to play True Crime in place of it. It does basically everything GTA does, only not as well.
While some people might enjoy the aspect of being a good guy and not just a criminal, it really ought to be easier to not have to resort to criminal activity. When you are out in your civilian clothes, you must first flash your badge, or shoot your gun up in the air and yell, ďNew York police!Ē or else other cops will shoot at you. This happened a lot, considering I too often pushed the wrong button combo and ended up lurking around crouched with my gun in my hand as the boys in blue used me for target practice until one of my legs was blown clean off of my body.
After this happens several times, itís hard not to pistol whip any cops you see while you are out on the streets. And thus, I became a bad cop rather quickly. When a game wonít even let you do what it says it will let you do, thereís definitely a problem.
TCNYC looks pretty nice up close. Character designs are realistic and expressive, which isnít always easy to do when all of the graphics are rendered in game. When the camera pans out and displays the whole scenery however, things start to look pretty shoddy. There is a definite problem with the frame rate, as the scenery looks jumpy and blocky from further away. Why is that? On the GameCube, Iíve seen some very impressive graphics of the same realistic nature as TCNYC. Resident Evil 4 and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory come to mind. There really is no reason to release an already not very good game with not very good graphics, especially when they were looking so nice up close. It just feels like a half-hearted attempt.
The weather and light effects arenít helpful to the problem with the graphics either. When snow falls, it looks very unnatural. Rain isnít much better. And I was kind of confused as to why I could see right through Marcusí head and see his teeth when looking at him up close. Why not just make his brain visible too, while youíre at it, eh Activision?
Far and away, the sound of TCNYC is the gameís strongest area. Voice acting is superb. Lines sound as though they come right out of a movie. Nothing from the main characters sounds forced or unnatural. Voices are suited to each character perfectly, with individual personalities kept in mind. It makes me wonder why the developers didnít concentrate more efforts on delivering the same amount of quality on the rest of the game.
The music is also pretty good, since, like in GTA, you can switch between radio stations in the car and listen to real music. The Wu-Tang Clan, Danzig, A Tribe Called Quest, White Zombie, and The Ramones are just some of the artists you can listen to while cruising the streets of New York. Oddly enough, these songs are edited. In a game that loves to use four letter words as much as possible, I find this confusing.
Still, the sound isnít perfect. For example, while itís cool that pedestrians respond to you as you pass by them or run into them, they donít really respond in the most realistic fashion. For example, when you run around with your gun out, people obviously freak out a bit, but even when you donít, they more or less act the same way. It just doesnít make sense to constantly hear people yelling, ďHoly Shit!Ē or, ďWhat the hell?!Ē in screechy, panicky voices whether Iím shooting an armed crack head, or buying a hot dog from a vendor. Itís annoying too.
Along with the main story and crime solving on the side, thereís also a considerable amount of customization as far as how you decide to play the game. The ability to acquire new cars and outfits helps too, still, there isnít a whole lot to do when compared to the king of the hill GTA games. Play through the storyline, solve street crime along the way, explore the city, and there you have your game. Itís got enough to last longer than, say, a platform title, but nothing too impressive, all things considered.
True Crime New York City is, overall, not a very good game. It tries, but usually it fails. The game feels kind of half assed, to be perfectly blunt. There are better games out there, and when youíre paying $49.99, itís probably best to go for those better games instead.