|True Crime: Streets of L.A.|
March 7, 2005 | Nat Panek
A rogue cop with attitude to spare and “questionable” methods prowls the Los Angeles streets, searching for the truth behind the murder of his father, also a cop. Sound familiar? Probably because plots of this type have unfolded across movie screens for decades, and are now making their way to smaller screens like the one attached to your computer. True Crime: Streets of L.A., which is nearing its Macintosh debut from Aspyr Media, puts you in the middle of this very story, along with all the usual elements: the sneering gangland kingpins, the uptight partner who won’t take your guff, the grandfatherly old sarge down at the precinct house who knew your father. Throw in some fast cars and a lot of guns. Even if you’ve never seen it before, True Crime will feel very familiar.
As the game opens, your character, Nick Kang, has been assigned to the Elite Operations Division of the L.A. police force. Since Kang was booted from the regular force, we must assume that sarcastic comments and pistol-whipping are better tolerated at the EOD. Kang is paired up with a partner, Rosie Velasco, whom he immediately mistakes for a secretary, so they certainly get off to a great start. All this is the prelude to the main storyline of the game, in which you will fight your way past the Russian mob, Asian triads, and petty ruffians on your way to solving the mystery of your murdered father.
There have already been the inevitable comparisons between True Crime and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, so let’s get them out of the way now. Like GTA, True Crime features a third-person free-form play style that encourages exploration. The world (or at least much of Los Angeles) is your oyster, and you are free to drive or run around as you please, either getting into trouble or putting a stop to it. Also like GTA, gameplay is divided up between car chases, foot chases, firefights and hand-to-hand combat.
Unlike GTA however, your character is not a thug but a cop (albeit a rather thuggish cop). And obviously, your goal here is not to control vast swaths of gang territory, but to track down your dad’s killer. Fans of mayhem should not despair, though; along the way there will be ample opportunity to mix it up with criminals in a very satisfying and immediate fashion. Judge, jury, and, if you so choose, executioner: that’s Nick Kang in a nutshell. Between the story-related missions that are doled out by your commander, calls will come in over your police radio alerting you to various bad goings-on in the vicinity. If you choose to, you can actually do some protecting and serving by breaking up muggings, chasing down thieves, foiling kidnappings, and putting a stop to those dangerous street races that the kids like to have. The first time I played the game, it didn’t take me long to realize that there’s no way you’ll be able to respond to every call successfully every time. Like real life crime, it’s always happening, and no one cop can put a stop to it. Eventually, you’ll learn to get on with the missions, and answer the radio calls whenever you feel like a diversion or change of pace.
If your car gets too badly banged up, don’t worry; almost every vehicle around you is yours for the taking. It’s a thin line between commandeering and carjacking, but you do have a badge to flash. Anyway, there’s a wide variety of vehicles available on the street, each with its own driving characteristics, but only a few will have the speed and handling you need to do your thing. That said, it’s still fun to toss a driver out on his ass and tool around in a city bus for a while. And there’s plenty of space in which to tool around. The subtitle “Streets of L.A.” is more accurate than you might expect – the designers at Luxoflux have precisely recreated some 240 square miles of Los Angeles topography, highways, parks, landmarks and all. Almost any street you could find on an L.A. road map you can also find within the game.