True Crime: New York City ReviewCain Dornan
Being able to choose your path as either a good cop or bad cop in a large sprawling, completely free-roaming city is certainly an interest concept on paper. In 2003 Activision and developer Luxoflux first introduced this concept in a GTA-inspired True Crime: Streets of LA, which, despite its somewhat new concept that differed from a large majority of other titles available at the time, suffered from numerous frustrating problems that prevented the game from being as good as we expected it to be. Determined to create the game that we had first foreseen, the developer has now created the second title in the True Crime series. While the developer has managed to create a gritty and accurate take on New York City, the game continues to suffer from countless problems that its predecessor also contained.
True Crime: New York City follows the happenings of Marcus Reed; a trigger happy gangster-turned-cop who joins the Organized Crime Division of the NYC Police Department after murdering countless gangsters who had interfered with his fathers business. A friend within the police force, who has known Marcus almost all his life, offers him the opportunity to escape conviction of the gangsters murders if he vows to join the police force and help battle the ever-growing crime rate that is terrifying the citizens. Marcus obliges and, two years later, is finishing the final training course, which essential forms the training mode that attempts to teach you the controls that are needed to combat crime.
The game offers a mixture of both police and personal profit-based missions. The police missions usually involve locating a specific criminal within an organization and interrogating him. He will then usually inform you of other members involved in the organization who are of a higher rank than what he is. This process is then repeated as you search for the next thug, however, the game does offer slight gameplay alterations with each criminal hunting process. At times you may need to simply storm through a warehouse with your guns blazing, whilst at other times it is wiser to take it slow and used stealth to venture through a high-security building. When you grow tired of hunting thugs you can participate in some more shadier missions, which come from the likes of your father, who is locked away in a rather cozy jail cell and still manages to run his underground business, or a crazed taxi driver who needs you to run errands to make him cash. You can also participate in regular illegal street races. All missions that do not involve working for the police force reward you with hefty sums of cash, with the option available to reject a mission if you have no interest in doing it.
You are also free to roam the streets and do as you wish. Whilst you are not involved in a mission, you are regularly informed of nearby crimes that are occurring through the radio dispatcher, who occasionally offers a somewhat humorous view on what is happening. A vast variety of different crimes are available, which range from crazed ex-workers attacking their colleagues at gunpoint through to prostitutes bashing their pimp and vehicle chases for various reasons. Each offer the ability to further improve your police rank and good cop, bad cop rating, which determines the opinions that fellow policeman and citizens have for you.
Money is not quite a necessity in True Crime, taking much of a more optional stance than in similar games. Money is earned by performing well at your police duties, with your salary and the appropriate pay increase being dealt from the police station. Money can also be earned by accepting bribes from criminals in exchange for letting them go free, robbing shopkeepers or selling any evidence that you find to pawnbrokers, rather than handing in at the police station. Any money that you earn is then used to purchase new vehicles for your personal use, new weapons and new driving maneuver. You can go through the entire game without these, however, they do make the game slightly easier and allow you to reach 100% completion, which yields some small bonuses.
The first immediate problem with True Crime: New York City is the controls, which prove to be a true struggle throughout the entire game. The controls remain almost identical to those found in the first True Crime title, which is certainly not a good thing, preventing the accurate execution of the countless different activities that you participate in. The fighting mechanics are horrible and the driving aspects far from enjoyable, with even simple tasks that involve pushing a single button often requiring twenty seconds of pure frustration in order to finally perform. One such example is the handcuffing of criminals, which is supposed to involve nothing more than standing over the criminal once they are lying on the ground and pressing the appropriate button. For whatever reason, far too often you are required to repeatedly move around the character before the action finally works, as Marcus will often not perform the action when you first issue the command.
The fighting and gun firing controls are also far from pleasing, with the inaccuracy of the controls clearly shining whenever you are involved in a fistfight. Although the game does offer a lock-on targeting system, which can be used by pulling the right trigger button, its a far too common occurrence that you accidentally attack an innocent civilian, causing them to become angry and begin attacking you. The next thing you know, you have a group of angry elderly people after your blood, with the only way to rid them being to incapacitate them. Unfortunately, this may garner the attention of nearby police officers, who will then begin shooting at you and cause a bigger mess that eventually results in you being demoted, with the only way to re-gain your position being to walk the beat and resolve a set number of crimes.
Another problem is the over-use of swearing, especially whilst driving around the city. Pedestrians and fellow motorists will regularly abuse you with obscene language, using a vast variety of words so often that it is initially surprising, but soon becomes annoying. Whilst the inclusion of occasional swearing whilst dealing with thugs is appropriate given the basing of the game, the regularity that it is used whilst on the streets is simply too much, often making you want to turn of the sound after spending your first five minutes on the streets.
True Crime: New York Citys visuals are far from eye-candy splendor, but they do manage to get the job done. Character detail can occasionally be a bit blurry and lack detail, with many in-door environments suffering from the same problem. Its quite different once outdoors, though, as the large and accurate re-creation of New York City has been successfully transformed into a living, breathing city, filled with countless pedestrians lining the sidewalks and the ever-famous traffic jams filling the roads. The games graphics are also plagued with a variety of problem, which include poor collision detection that results in objects disappearing once you go into contact with them and city areas not loading correctly. The overall gritty feeling of the city is great, when you arent dealing with graphical bugs, with the addition of graffiti and rubbish filling the streets when the crime rate in the area is high.
The game offers a solid library of officially licensed tracks from a collection of bands that combine to form the games soundtrack. While not everyone will be a fan of the hip-hop and rap filled soundtrack, the tracks on offer mix suitably into the game. Activision has also sourced a number of Hollywood actors to voice the games characters, with the likes of Gabriel Whitting, Christopher Walken, Laurence Fishburne and Mickey Rourke, amongst others, contributing to the solid voice over work.
While it is evident that developer Luxoflux did aim to present gamers with a gritty, enjoyable and true-to-life rendition of being a rogue cop in New York City, countless problems prevent the game from being enjoyed to its maximum. Disappointingly, many of the problems that plague this sequel were also evident in the previous game, proving that either the developer is too lazy to solve these problems or simply does not have the know-how to do so. Yes, the game is definitely an improvement over the original, but there are still too many problems with it. Fans of the previous game will likely enjoy Luxofluxs second offering, however, those who did not enjoy True Crime: Streets of LA will find it hard to enjoy True Crime: New York City.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.