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True Crime: Streets of LA PC Review

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| Action in Gaming | Posted: Jun 9, 2004 4:00 am

Welcome to the world of True Crime: Streets of LA, where crime and violence is part of every day life. As L.A's most unorthodox officer in the force, Nick Kang, the player controlled character, is forced into a journey that will place him against some of the world's most notorious crime gangs, including the Chinese Triad, and the Russian Mafia. Using nothing but his natural skills, some nasty weapons and a reputation for getting it done, Nick takes the gamer on a fight for survival, revealing the past and an evolving 'crime of the century' while he's at it. What entails is a PC gaming experience that can be described as unique, although not without its share of problems.

One of the great features straight off the bat with True Crime is its unique story mode (which is actually the only default mode in the game). The story itself is fairly generic, however it is how the game delivers the story to you that I quite like. Say you come across a mission which you can't finish at a point in time due to its difficulty, well that is no problem in this game, as no mission has to be done more than once if you choose not to. Of course, this method means you don't truly finish the game at all, and problems do occur where the story is all over the place when you do go back to finish previous missions that stem into new ones, however it is a refreshing change to see a game focus on the relationship between the actual ingame events and the story, not forcing gamers down one specific track. Probably the best thing about this is once you've decided to leave a mission, you can load up any other previous mission and perhaps refine your skills and abilities before trying it again, as all progress is saved across the board, so whilst the game is reasonably challenging, it is hard to get stuck as you practically have complete control on what you do next.

When it comes to ingame action, True Crime proves to be quite enjoyable. First of all, the huge replica of L.A. is amazing, and whilst I can't comment on realistic features first hand being in another country, from what I understand most known landmarks are featured including famous buildings, the Hollywood walk of fame and much more. All up, you have 240 square miles of virtual L.A.on your hands, which is more than enough to occupy most gamers for a considerable amount time.

There are a few basic styles of play in True Crime, and these are stealth, driving, hand to hand combat and all out gun assaults. These are not all voluntary choices, rather, the game will put you in a situation involving one of the above mentioned to which you then must master. Stealth seems to be only featured during a few story-mode missions and unfortunately it is very basic, all that is required is to make your way through a section without being seen, however it takes much more patience than skill, as each enemy has a set routine which only usually takes a few seconds to figure out, the only hard part comes from having to do this successfully 10 or so times in a row to complete the mission. Fighting mode turns the game into something slightly similar to the likes of Enter The Matrix, where most basic buttons take on a new role for various moves. Other than that, driving and shooting styles of play are self explanatory, and are generally used at your command.

The only glaring issue with the gameplay seems to be the computer A.I. Whilst on occasions it can be quite cunning; fighting is usually pretty tough and gun fights are never very easy either, when it comes to driving the A.I. falls a little short. When you have to get away from someone in a chase style mission, all you have to do to lose them is drive off the road, perhaps through a park or a lot, and they will take the long way around leaving you with an easy clear path to success. Throughout the game other general A.I. quirks do show up in various forms, for example in one level involving indoor office gun fights enemies would spawn right in front of my eyes out of nowhere, so it is certainly one aspect that remains reasonably low in quality during a considerable portion of the game.

To keep the variation going in True Crime beyond the basic story mode, players can move by choice around L.A completing random crimes that may occur in any mission that does not feature a time limit. These are brought to your attention via an audio text message down the bottom left of your screen, and can vary greatly in task. For example, one may ask you to retrieve Jay Leno's stolen classic car with as little damage as possible, whilst another may ask you to simply break up a domestic street fight. The tasks vary in difficulty and do wonders for True Crime's replay value, as they require different techniques to complete properly. A poorly completed crime could end with you losing a "cop" rating and shield points, with crimes completed better (i.e. without unnecessary deaths) adding to your "cop" rating and points.

The cop rating is like an index of your performance, as being a good cop is harder than simply killing any criminal in sight, you must use non lethal takedowns which usually involves health damaging fist fights, and quick accuracy with neutralizing shots. Along with the cop rating comes the point system, which grants you a shield for every 100 points you accumulate. These shields can then be spent in one of the thirty training shops around L.A., upgrading either your fighting, your guns or your driving. This upgrade system is a great way to give the game more depth and character, as not only do you learn new moves, but you can also unlock new weapons and addons, as well as new cars and driving maneuvers. These are not vital for finishing the game, so they can be ignored, however without them the game can get very hard later on, so it is advised to complete any you come across, or even do them all before sitting down and seriously attempting the missions.

One problem which affects much of the gameplay, primarily when on foot, is the camera placement. Often when in fist or gun fights it will become almost impossible to even see your targets due to bad camera placements, most noticeable during hand to hand combat. When the game enters the fight mode indoors, the camera doesn't follow you, it simply pivots from the one spot somewhere in the center of the room with you as the subject, so if someone runs away a few feet to the right, despite the fact your character is looking at the person, you can't see anything but yourself, so you're forced to blindly move forward, hoping not to run directly into someone's foot or baseball bat. Similar issues also apply when freely walking around town, if you're near a building or another object, instead of the camera using that as a boundary it can't cross into, it simply goes through it, giving you a nice view of the inside of a building when someone 10 feet away is shooting at you. Unfortunately this is not a minor issue, the camera placement in True Crime can be terrible at times and it does detract from the gameplay, after all, you can only play what you can see.

However, probably the most disappointing aspect of True Crime is its control system. It is never usually easy for a console game to come on the PC and master the complex control system that is the mouse and keyboard, however True Crime goes beyond making its control system complex, it is poorly designed to say the least. Besides the fact some button placements are questionable (for example, TAB enters and exits vehicles), I simply could not setup a control pad with True Crime due to the fact they don't seem to be supported at all, which is very weird for a console port. What this does is create dependency on the keyboard, which is a digital control mechanism not designed for smooth movement and control in videogames, particularly when driving. Whilst mouse control is available for driving, this only gave somewhat limited analog steering control when compared to, say, the analog stick on a control pad and just didn't feel right to use. All could have been well if control pads were supported, but this doesn't appear to be the case, and with PC control pads now becoming more popular as more console ports hit the market, I simply do not understand why support was not included.

Visually speaking True Crime is not what I would call an example of PC graphic splendor, it is clear that this title was not specifically designed for high end PC's but rather its console counterpart, however with that said the graphics are still very solid. Rather than perfection using high quality hardware features, True Crime relies on detail and depth in its graphics, everything from the varied player animations to the environments seems to have received considerable attention. Basically, the technical aspects of True Crime's graphics probably won't "wow" people, but the vast and varied detail is good enough to set it apart from most other titles in its genre..

PC gamers may find True Crime: Streets of LA to be a refreshing change to what typically was a genre dominated by the GTA. Don't get me wrong, I like GTA just as much as the next avid PC gamer, however True Crime seems to have a different, perhaps more down to earth approach that really works well. To say True Crime is better than GTA is to say left is better than right, it really comes down to personal preference and how you prioritise features. I feel GTA offers more polish and class, whilst True Crime seems to offer more depth and variety. Unfortunately, True Crime is far from perfect itself, the controls are particularly awkward and some gameplay aspects do need considerable work, however any PC gamer looking for some fresh action based in one of the world's greatest cities should give True Crime a serious consideration, thanks to features like the upgradeable and unlockable items and skills, as well as a progressively non-linear storyline, the experience is quite unique, it is just unfortunate that so many minor problems had to add up otherwise it would have been highly recommended.

 

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