So, here we have it, no need for a review really. True Crime: New York City is nothing but another derivative cash cow riding gleefully on the back of Grand Theft Autoâ€™s success and infamy. Or is that initial judgment a little harsh and overly critical? Does True Crime, in fact, build on the exploits of its fairly successfulâ€”3 million units soldâ€”Streets of LA predecessor and strive to reach new ground? Does it merely pay respectful homage to GTAâ€™s free-roaming standards by creating original content and compelling narrative across established foundations of inspiration? Letâ€™s take a closer look and see which side of the quality fence True Crime: New York City ultimately finds itself.
Players assume the role of Marcus Reed, a disgruntled street thug who finds himself working for the NYPDâ€™s Organized Crime Division after the collapse of his fatherâ€™s criminal empire and subsequent embitterment from â€˜supposedâ€™ friends during the handover of power to Marcus. In order to escape resultant prosecution from the authorities, Marcus joins the ranks of NYPDâ€™s finest and, after serving a successful trial period on the streets, heâ€™s drafted into the OCD to work alongside â€˜Terryâ€™, a long-time friend of Reedâ€™s father. However, Terry is soon killed in the field and, subsequently, Marcus is approached by the CIA, who fully uncover Terryâ€™s ongoing investigations, and assign Marcus with the task of finishing his work while also cleaning the crime from New Yorkâ€™s streets.
Most notably, in terms of aesthetic and plotline, True Crime: New York City is considerably more gritty and tangible than the Streets of LA original. Whereas Streets of LA felt somewhat cobbled together and portrayed a defined sense of tongue-in-cheekâ€”as well as knee-in-faceâ€”True Crime: NYC offers a much more serious and layered story as well as a driven and intriguing cast of characters. To give some gravitas to that statement, players need look no further than cinematic deity Christopher Walken, who turns in a great performance as Gabriel Whitting, the CIA agent with whom Marcus is in contact.
Gameplay mission structure in True Crime: NYC is much more regimented compared to the branching formula utilized in Streets of LA. Missions pertaining to the gameâ€™s central storyline are all fairly run of the mill, and include assignments such as delivering set characters from one place to another, taking down gangs of thugs, and even interrogating suspects. Yet, itâ€™s the gameâ€™s side missions and random instances of crime that offer up more of a genuine attraction to the player. Informants cough up nuggets of directive information concerning crimes and then routine player task completion sees sizeable cash rewards. There are also street-racing events and seedy fight clubs to further entertain away from the narrative, though both can descend into the realms of repetition before too long. Separate from the gameâ€™s plotline, cleaning the streets of crime is certainly prime candidate for â€˜most attractive facetâ€™ in True Crime: NYC and, interestingly, crime itself has a direct bearing on the overall appearance of the game. Whereas progressive crime prevention and thug quashing quickly garners career points, paychecks, and valuable NYPD promotion for Marcus, it also improves the look and feel of the city. Should players choose to let isolated crimes go unpunished then areas of the city quickly decay in standards where its inhabitants are concerned. Also, the â€˜good cop/bad copâ€™ performance element from Streets of LA returns and sees unwarranted civilian deaths and general corruption on the part of the player (planting evidence, etc.) affect Marcus Reedâ€™s reputation within the forceâ€”to the extent that the NYPD will take him down should things reach critical mass. Amassed negative action from Reed also passes down into city life itself, and promotes the outbreak of further street crime.
Graphically, developers Luxoflux have asserted themselves ambitiously for the True Crime: NYC sequel by creating an admirable in-game interpretation of the actual city. That said, navigation can be somewhat time consuming, which was also a downside in Streets of LA. However, to help counter the scale, the game cleverly includes access to New Yorkâ€™s public transportation system, so hopping in a cab or jumping on the subway serve as loading segues to desired locations rather than players actually hotfooting it â€˜slowlyâ€™ across town. The in-game New York also exudes a genuine sense of atmosphere and life that proves vitally important to the illusion, with paper trash freely blowing down streets alongside busy traffic and bustling pedestrians. The free-roaming lure so prevalent in GTAâ€™s history certainly rears its head here, too, perhaps even more so because Marcus can explore most city buildings. Admittedly, the majority offer up nothing out of the ordinary, being mundane apartments and the like, but thereâ€™s plenty of variety in terms of â€˜player improvementâ€™ shops. Again, a borrowed mechanic from GTA, but players can still look forward to purchasing a selection of cars, clothing, hairstyles, music, and masses of destructive firearms (which can be conveniently stored in the trunk of your car) as they cash their NYPD paycheck and forge ahead in the game.
Game sound is acceptable in terms of big city ambience, and the vast array of weaponry available to Marcus offers up decent enough aural representationâ€”and certainly achieves a meaty status while dual wielding. The music soundtrack is also varied enough in taste to transcend Streets of LAâ€™s predominantly west coast rap structure. However, itâ€™s the voice talent in True Crime: NYC that â€˜almostâ€™ succeeds in hiding the somewhat uninspired gameplay. Christopher Walken, Mickey Rouke, and Laurence Fishburne all provide masses of class and experience and certainly bolster the gameâ€™s presentation well beyond certain â€˜otherâ€™ genre examples.
While at this juncture nothing in True Crime: New York City amounts to ruinous execution, the simple truth of the matter is that beyond its slick presentation, impressive voice cast, and improved atmosphere, the game is riddled with gameplay bullet holes. Indeed, players will suffer a bug-addled in-game experience that absolutely destroys any possible chance of the title realizing its potential. For example (and this is a long list), traffic, pedestrian, and thug A.I. are â€˜criminallyâ€™ bad, with enemies standing without care while being turned into ventilated gouda, civilians abruptly disappearing from city streets, and cars popping in seemingly from another dimension. All of which means the insane amount of development work invested in the illusion of a completely playable New York is instantly ruined. Furthermore, there are glaring framerate issues throughout the game, but perhaps most damaging while driving at speed, to the point where players will find themselves crashing into objects not even drawn in yet. And, if that werenâ€™t enough to put off curious consumers (and it likely is), there are also several instances of cutscene failure, terribly overcooked collision detection, destructive mission deviation by NPCs, game disc errors, camera issues, and aiming glitches. How quickly a promising product can implodeâ€”and it all smacks of bad management.
And how quickly an assessment review assuming the neutral role of Switzerland can take up willing arms and lay a blitzkrieg of destruction on a truly disappointing release. Let it be said here that True Crime: New York City had all the makings of a decent free-roaming, character-driven adventure. Resplendent with the meaty fist fighting and frantic gunplay laid down by Streets of LA, the sequelâ€™s environmental and narrative structures were crying out for the successful integration of the ONE mechanic that makes or breaks ANY videogame in todayâ€™s market: gameplay. The fact that a host of disgracefully basic errors ruin any chance True Crime: New York City had of becoming what it should have been should serve as a lesson for publishers Activision: seeing a product through to its proper conclusionâ€”even if that means delaysâ€”translates better in the long term than consumers reaching elsewhere, and remembering your name, because the final product is so much of a letdown. As consumers, purists and fanatics, we will almost always settle for slightly underplayed graphics, subdued sound, and no-name actors. Gameplay is everything!