When gamers first started reading about True Crime: Streets of L.A., there was one obvious comparison that they all could make: Grand Theft Auto. But is it Grand Theft Auto on a grander scale, or simply a cheap rip off? Neither, actually. Since its release a few months ago, gamers found True Crime to be an enjoyable action game, but no where near the scope or depth as Grand Theft Auto. But until recently, one group of avid action gamers were left out of the mix: the PC gamers. Now, PC gamers can finally point and click their way to glory? but does this port hold up, or was it finished just a little too quickly? Let’s take a look and find out for ourselves!
First, some basic background info for you PC gamers who may not have even heard of True Crime before. The greatest strength of True Crime is definitely its story. While Grand Theft Auto gave us a completely open world that could react to (nearly) our every whimsy, True Crime instead gives us quite a large world where specific occurrences will continue to drive its story. In other words, Grand Theft Auto let us run free, while True Crime only does so to a point. This is not a bad thing, though. Instead of wondering “what the hell am I supposed to do next,” True Crime will do its best to lay down specific goals for you to accomplish. Again, this is to drive the story, which is the strongest part of the game. While this may not sound nearly as fun and exciting as the open-ended nature of Grand Theft Auto, what you do in one mission affects all the other missions right up to the end of the game. Consistency is definitely the high point of True Crime.
The player is cast into the role of detective Nick Kang, a stereotypical tough guy, “hot shot” type of cop with a serious attitude problem. You’ve seen it in movies, you’ve seen it in other games, and you’ll see it again here, folks. One of the best features of True Crime is the ability to go from driving to operating on foot with the press of a button. While on foot, Nick can shoot, fight, flash his badge (not that many criminals will give a damn), and roust suspects by firing some rounds into the air. Driving is just as fun as running around on foot is. You can definitely make use of some of your racing skills from other video games you’ve happened to play, but the game makes such things as aiming very simple while driving, so you can concentrate on having fun and shooting stuff. You use precision aiming while firing at people or even at other vehicles while driving. Of course, you won’t exactly be a crack shot at the beginning of your adventure, so there are training centers (open 24/7) for Nick to drop by at. Whilst there, you can improve your diving techniques, fighting and firing abilities, and the best part, you can add more functionality and offensive maneuvers to Nick’s arsenal.
Simply tap the left mouse button to fire from the hip (useful to simply fire off a quick shot) or hold down the button for a focused aim that will cause time to slow to a crawl, allowing you to target things such as car tires, or a perp who’s decided to use someone else as a human shield. While steering with the mouse feels a bit sluggish, you can get higher responsiveness by using the WASD keys for turning, etc. Driving is pretty tight for the most part, but anything more than a tap of the right mouse button (emergency brake) can ruin a well-timed tight turn, so it will take a bit of getting used to.
The initial levels are simple enough, but if you don’t take the time to upgrade your wide array of skills, you’ll begin to notice you’re barely passing the later missions. A rather strong word of advice: Take advantage of all of the 24/7 training centers around Los Angeles! You don’t need the complications you’ll face by barely beating mini-bosses, and racing to locations with barely 5 seconds to spare! Learn your skills; YOU WILL NEED THEM!
The good cop/bad cop system is also rather unique; you can be a rabid vigilante, or the proverbial knight in shining armor. Certain areas do require a certain “good cop” rating to pass, so keep that in mind. Be a “bad cop” if you want to, but it’s the “good cop” path that will earn you the good endings of the game.
The multiplayer mode is one area of the game that really should have been worked on a bit more before the game shipped. There are 5 distinct modes of play, but the mode that comes most recommended is The Beat, in which you work with your fellow officers (the other players, not A.I.) to solve random crimes. This mode is very fun because you can just go after the other players if you so desire, shooting up their car? and of course, their silly, fragile, do-gooding little body. In multiplayer, you will find that there are plenty of character models to choose from, a customized license plate, and cars that behave as they should – the bus is quite a beast? to go up against and to drive.
The controls for the console versions of True Crime were decent enough, but the PC version, while implementing keyboard and mouse support well enough, completely lacks support for a gamepad. One problem is mapping all of the special moves. You may press ?E’ to grab someone, but then you have to move all over the keyboard to finish off the special combo. There just isn’t a good way to organize the keys so the special combos are easy to pull off. However you feel about game pads (and consequently, perhaps, console controllers), you must admit that there are times when having a rather small (small these days being 10) number of buttons to work with. At least everything is easy to map out and work with.
The awkward camera that ruled the console versions of the game is back in the PC version, and the graphics themselves also suffer. True, this is a console port, but there is no reason why poor graphics should be an issue in nearly every console-to-PC port in existence. You’re working with more powerful hardware, people! Spend some time polishing your game!! While on one hand, you’ll never see a loading screen as you cruise the well-done streets of L.A. On the other hand, the camera will get caught behind walls and is sometimes more your adversary than any criminal currently on-screen. Texture popping also rears its ugly head, particularly with fences and walls de-stealthing right in front of you, making a nice alleyway shortcut? well, rather expensive for you and your car.
There are also quite a few odd physics glitches: smoke pouring out of a car that totally disappears depending on your viewing angle; invulnerable hedgerows; cars shooting into the air upon impacting with stationary objects; the inability to fire through windows/windshields (c’mon, it’s glass; lemme break it!); etc. But it’s not all bad: the cut-scenes are very well done, as is the lip-synching and voice acting that accompany them; and the faces are highly detailed.
But the list of bad continues. As mentioned, the faces are very detailed, but the bodies of the character models, however, are quite average. The clipping problems come up far too often to be ignored, and the camera of course “helps” the clipping by sometimes going behind a tree or wall so that you can’t see any of the action whatsoever. Also, this is L.A.: there are dozens of NPC models in the game, but you can only see a handful or so of them at any given time. The same goes with traffic. One definite plus for True Crime is the well-represented streets of L.A. Let’s just say that anyone who knows their way around Los Angeles will have a very easy time getting around this game; the streets are that realistic.
The audio portion is decent, though there is noticeable compression during dialogue. And while the SFX are decent, they play second fiddle to the voice acting. Adding Christopher Walken’s voice to the mix didn’t hurt, either!
In closing, I think any GTA fans, as well as action gaming fans in general, will like this game. It’s not Grand Theft Auto, but again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The PC version does suffer from stereotypical console-to-PC port issues – and this is always the case, but it shouldn’t be – but is still very enjoyable. Being able to choose actions that will affect the entire course of the game is nice, but you will have to get past the problems with this version of the game. My advice: buy it, only if you don’t have an Xbox or PS2. Otherwise, I’d hold off.