True Crime: NYC Hands-On Preview
By Ben Serviss

Luxoflux’s True Crime: Streets of LA may have under performed when it debuted back in 2003, but that’s never a good reason to throw in the development towel. The Activision subsidiary is back with a new crime tale set in New York City, and we at GamersHell had a chance to pull a few investigative capers with a preview build.

Expanding from the first game’s foundations, the minds behind True Crime: New York City decided to take the strengths of that first title and jettison the noted weaknesses in pursuit of maturing the overall series. No more dragons or crazy cults as seen in the previous release. This time around street cred is the rule. Streets of LA protagonist Nick Kang is nowhere to be found either, as New York City introduces a brand new city and story—similar to how the GTA sequels are constructed. In this True Crime story, you’ll take the role of Marcus Reed, a former thug-turned cop on a mission to clean up the city and seek revenge for his mentor’s murder. True Crime: NYC follows in the footsteps of its predecessor where production values are concerned, with 24 square miles of Manhattan reproduced via GPS, as well as top-tier voice talent by celebs including Laurence Fishbourne, Mickey Rourke, and a returning Christopher Walken. Hundreds of cars will be yours for the taking on New York’s mean streets, along with 80 licensed musical backing tracks from East Coast artists (sorry Xbox owners, no custom soundtracks).

Yet for all the polish and shine, the underlying game still needs work. Control was swimmy on the GameCube version, the framerate was dodgy at best, and a few collision issues made driving tougher than necessary. Granted, of all three console versions the Cube build needs the most work, with the PS2 and Xbox versions exhibiting few of the same headaches as Nintendo’s machine, so there’s good reason to believe these gripes will be gone by release day.

True Crime: NYC maintains the first game’s morality options, with plenty of opportunities to play good cop or bad boy. You can still frisk random passersby on the street, with the nefarious option of planting evidence on your detainees. Crimes can be busted peacefully or by smashing a few skulls; skewing your character to the corresponding moral bent. Evidence from drug, theft, and fraud cases can be turned in at the station or sold on the streets for profit, but should you stray too far from justice your Rogue Cop meter will max out, and fellow keepers of the peace will mow you down but quick.

You can still upgrade your hand-to-hand fighting moves and driving maneuvers by visiting the police station and dojos around the city, but in this iteration new skills are simply bought instead of earned through irritating mini-games. There are plenty of other shops and points of interest to visit, like a music store to purchase additional songs for the soundtrack, and handy subway terminals that instantaneously take you to a destination instead of wandering around Manhattan for hours. Interestingly, the developers boast over 2,000 interactive interiors that you can walk right into, including storefronts, launderettes, diners, and residences, with a nearly seamless transition between the inner and outer environs. Shops in rough areas may stay closed for most hours of the day, but more and more establishments will remain open as you gradually clean up the city and slow the spread of crime. So by fulfilling missions and random crimes you’ll actually see the city change for the better during the course of the game.

So how does the leading GTA-clone stack up this time? True Crime may have the firepower and flash to compete with Rockstar’s controversial game series, but it still lacks the subtle social commentary and underhanded feel. If anything, True Crime: NYC tries too hard to be mature and edgy, with profanity tossed around freely—and often out of context. Still, the sequel is well on the way to besting its predecessor with more options, a refocused style, and plenty of opportunities to protect (and disturb) the peace.