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Streets of L.A.
game: Streets of L.A.
three star
posted by: GF! Back Catalogue 10/2004 => 1995
date posted: 12:00 AM Wed Jan 21st, 2004
last revision: 12:00 AM Wed Jan 21st, 2004

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By Eric Qualls

True Crime: Streets of LA is a great example of a game being greater than the sum of its parts. The driving, fighting, and shooting sections in the game are only average at best, and the story is rather lame, but it is the combination of all of these aspects along with an absolutely huge city to explore that make True Crime an enjoyable experience. True Crime does as much to make you feel like a police officer as GTA did to turn you into a criminal, and it is an interesting change of pace to play the role of the good guys. It isn't the greatest free roaming action game on the planet, but the overall experience is surprisingly enjoyable and well worth checking out.

The story in True Crime follows a Los Angeles police officer named Nick Kang, a loose cannon cop on the edge who does what he wants when he wants. At least, that is the line the game constantly crams down your throat from the moment it loads. It is up to Nick to discover the reasons behind two rival gangs suddenly working together, and along the way he'll uncover some of LA's darkest secrets as well as learn the truth about his long lost father. Pretty typical action movie stuff, and not terribly well written, but it does its job. There are several different endings and depending on your success in each mission, the story will change slightly, so it is fun to be able to test out some what if? scenarios before you knuckle down and beat each mission the right way?. One of the missions does go all crazy and features the walking dead, but the story isn't all that good before that so I say have fun blasting zombies.

The gameplay is similar to the last two GTA games, but rather than being one seamless experience, the gameplay is broken up into three different types. The driving aspect of the game isn't all that extraordinary because, despite the fact that you have some 240 square miles of accurately modeled Los Angeles to explore, there really isn't anything to see or do. You can drive to different places and get training to improve your driving, shooting, and fighting skills, but there isn't much else to do. The handling of the cars is stiff and navigating the narrow side streets is more trouble than it has any right to be. Also, stealing cars isn't as much fun in this game because there are so very few actually out on the road that more often than not you'll have to run back to the car you just jumped out of two blocks back because all of the other cars have disappeared. The traffic also seems to continue on no matter what might be in the way so expect to get run over at least once every time you step out of your car onto the street. The driving pretty much sucks and the city is too big for its own good.

Shooting makes up the second gameplay type, and it is just as unimpressive as the driving. You have pistols with unlimited ammo at your disposal in every mission, but you can also pick up new weapons along the way. You automatically lock on to enemies and most of the gunfights in the game boil down to nothing more than smashing the fire button as quickly as possible. There is a precise aiming mode that allows you to make more accurate shots, but the control is too spastic and aiming and even entering the mode itself is far too slow to be of any real use.

Most of the combat in the game is done with hand-to-hand fighting rather than guns, but the fighting isn't put together any better than the driving or gunplay. You have grapples, low kicks, high kicks, and punches, and you can also form combos and use throws. The problem with the fighting is that it isn't all that interesting, and all you really do is just smash buttons and hope to land more hits than your opponent does. You can earn new throws and attacks as you play through the game, but they don't help to make the combat any less tedious and repetitive. One neat thing about the fight sequences is that the environments are completely destructible, and it is fun to be able to throw your opponents through tables and chairs and anything else you can find.

One interesting thing that True Crime does is that when you aren't already in a mission, you are given the opportunity to be a normal cop and go on patrol. You get calls in on the radio and then you have to drive to the location and try and resolve the situation. You can fire a warning shot or flash your badge to try and solve the problem peacefully, but you can also choose to use more violent means if you want to. A little meter in the bottom right corner of the screen keeps track of your good cop / bad cop? ratio at all times, and when you kill suspects instead of arresting them or run over people on the streets as you drive your rating will go down. At certain points the story will change depending on whether you are good or bad. Also, there is a civil unrest meter that is sort of like GTA's six star system in that the more bad things you do the more heat will be on you. It takes a lot of bad stuff to make the meter rise, and at first the public will start to react differently towards you until finally the police have to come in to stop your rampage. This whole good versus bad scenario and the fact that everything you do has an impact on the story is easily the best part about True Crime.

So lets add everything up. The driving, shooting, and fighting elements of the game are only average at best. The story is lame and incredibly short, but the branching missions and multiple endings make the game a bit more exciting and fun. And, finally, the cop simulator aspect of the game is surprisingly enjoyable and the good cop / bad cop aspect that governs your actions really spices everything up. What we have here is a game where the different parts are little more than mediocre and would be downright crappy on their own, but when they are all added together the resulting game provides a satisfying enough experience that the problems with it can be forgiven. It is sort of hard to put into words, really, but for all of the frustration that you have to put up with it is hard to put this game down and when you finish it you can't help but look back on it as being something special.

Graphically, True Crime is impressive. The city of Los Angeles looks absolutely amazing and it is possible to drive around and find landmarks just where you expect them to be, right down to the convention center where E3 is held each year. All of the neighborhoods and commercial sectors and everything else are all varied and look great. The car models look very good and, even though they aren't officially licensed, it is easy to tell what each car was supposed to look like. The character models are equally as impressive. They look like real living breathing people instead of the stiff cardboard cutouts that some games try to fool you with.

The sound is also very good, but you'll like it more or less depending on your taste in music. The soundtrack features fifty-licensed hip hop and rap tracks, and this can either be a blessing or a curse. I have to admit that I am not a big fan of the soundtrack, but the game was fun enough that I put up with it and I expect that will be the case for a lot of people. The real stars of the audio portion of the game are the voice actors that brought the characters to life. Christopher Walken as an older police officer and the narrator of the story in particular did an awesome job, but almost all of the lines in the game were delivered in a believable way that really immerses you into the game. The only real problem with the audio is Nick Kang. He is constantly spouting one-liners, both original and ripped straight out of popular movies, but he comes across as an annoying jerk instead of a loose cannon cop on the edge? like the game wants you to think.

Overall, True Crime: Streets of LA is a game that is an enjoyable experience that is truly greater than the sum of its parts. It doesn't really do anything particularly well, but the gameplay is tied together by a good cop / bad cop system that takes a mediocre game and turns it into something good. Also, playing the role of the good guys is a nice change and actually having to go out onto the streets and do some normal police work really immerses you into the characters as well as the city of Los Angeles. The production values in the game are very high and the game looks gorgeous and sounds amazing. True Crime is less than ten hours long, however, and even though it features a huge city it isn't really all that much fun to explore, so it is hard to recommend it for a purchase. It is enjoyable while it lasts, but give True Crime: Streets of LA a rental and save a few bucks.