True Crime: New York City Review
By Shawn Oaks |
The original True Crime: Streets of L.A. was something of an ambitious game. It managed to pull off some of this ambition quite well, like almost perfectly mapping the layout of the entirety of Los Angeles for you to drive through, but some other aspects that may have sounded good on paper didn't quite come through in the end. The gunplay was a little wonky to use, the hand-to-hand combat was decent but didn't control all that well, the move upgrades were cool but rather annoying to obtain, and the game's characters honestly weren't nearly as intriguing as others in competing titles.
For the follow-up, True Crime: New York City, Luxoflux went back to the drawing board. While it kept some of the previous title's gameplay elements intact, it pushed those into the background and made them easier and more responsive to use. It also went back to the storyboard for the setting and characters, essentially making NYC a chapter of sorts in the True Crime universe rather than a true sequel (pun intended), hence the lack of a 2 in the title.
While Luxoflux did manage to put together a strong sequel for the PS2 and Xbox, the PC porting duties were left to Aspyr. Unfortunately, it seems the company did little more than get the game up and running on the PC and didn't bother to fine-tune a few of the controls for the system, or even simply change out some more console-oriented text. In other words, the backbone to the game is just as strong as the console versions, but the PC port unfortunately feels thrown together.
The game revolves around your character Marcus, whose father, Isaiah, was a major crime lord. Disgruntled thugs put a hit on Marcus and his father, attempting to kill them and take over the empire. The only problem is that both of them live and Marcus wants instant revenge. This sets up the start of the game, where you overtake their hideout and slaughter everyone in sight. Immediately cut to five years later, where you've been saved and cleared of implications by a family friend, you've joined the police force and your father is behind bars. After the mysteriously suspicious death of the same man that turned you straight and set you up with a job on the straight side of the law, you aim to find out exactly what happened to him, and along the way bust up a few drug rings, money laundering schemes and more. And hey, what New York crime story doesn't involve the mob?
The game's storyline and presentation is much better and more involving this time around than last. The characters are much more realistic, with very believable reasons behind all of their actions, good or bad. The cutscene presentation is generally pretty good, and the voice acting ranges anywhere from good to excellent. With a cast that includes Laurence Fishburne, Mickey Rourke, Christopher Walken (whose short segments are exceptionally good) and more, how could they go wrong?
At times, it can be a little confusing as to why you might have to go find an insane asylum or meet up with an Asian drug cartel in the middle of dealing with an entirely different group, but this could have just been me missing a quick reference to something. Aside from a few small "why?" missions, everything is tied together well, presented well and is generally intriguing for the most part.
One of the best parts of True Crime: New York City is how well your general duties as a cop are tied into the game, working very well alongside your own personal investigations. There are a ton of random crime scenes that happen throughout the city, like somebody going crazy on a bus or a group of bums fighting over a piece of bread or something, and all of those work well enough. The coolest parts are the more involving and major side missions, though.
You'll be given orders to look into a couple major underground criminal activities, like illegal street racing or fight arenas. For each one of these, you'll need to get yourself introduced into the scene and then work through a series of fights or races. While these generally work as expected, and are reasonable fun in their own right, the way that your boss presents them to you and commends you on your constant progress through them makes it feel like you're actually doing your job as a policeman, rather than just busting random street crimes because they're there. It helps tie in your general job duties really well in a way that doesn't feel contrived or forced.