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Publisher: Aspyr Media    Genre: Action
Min OS X: 10.2.8    CPU: G4 @ 867 MHz    RAM: 256 MB    Hard Disk: 2000 MB    DVD-ROM    Graphics: 32 MB VRAM

True Crime: Streets of L.A.
July 22, 2005 | Alex Nonnemacher

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True Crime: Streets of L.A., recently ported by Aspyr, has a lot to live up to. Never mind that it came to the Mac (and the PC) later than the consoles; this game boasts a lot of "me too" features that require it to distinguish itself from those games to which it is invariably compared. True Crime offers a huge, open map, varied game play, and the means by which to choose your fate. How does it stack up to some legendary games into whose company True Crime has thrust itself? Read on.

Fellas, you're gonna want that cow bell
In True Crime: Streets of L.A., you play as Nick Kang, a cop ostensibly driven by the murder of his father. This is, at least, the red herring delivered in the game's exposition by none other than Christopher Walken. As you jack cars, bust perps, and progress through the game's story chapter by chapter, that dark motivation looms further and further in your rear-view mirror.

After all, Nick is a glib fellow; he sings the "Cops" theme song ("Bad boys, bad boys, watcha gonna do...") when bumping fenders with uniformed 5-0 cruisers during police chases, quips his appreciation for his victims' compliance in vacating their mini-vans when he boosts their rides in the name of law enforcement, and wonders aloud how pedestrians didn't seem him coming as he blows a red light.

True Crime follows a trite, badly worn plot. Nick, the loose cannon, joins the ranks of the Elite Operations Division at the reluctant invitation of Wanda Parks, E.O.D.'s seasoned Chief of Detectives. Wanda rolls her eyes while putting up with Nick's bluster because he's the best cop in the City of Angels. Before you can say "hack," loose cannon Nick and his recalcitrant new partner, Rosie Velasquez, trade quips to the tune of Lethal Weapon.

To its credit, True Crime offers varied styles of play. You begin each chapter with a polished, graphically pleasing cut scene to explain the chapter's theme (never mind the plot, mind you). You are then cut loose in your ride to either rendezvous with the next mission of the chapter, the location of which is marked on a map with a green arrow or circle, or explore the city freely. As you drive, police dispatch reports on crimes to which you may respond (or ignore). Although the choice is yours to intercede, doing so is the main vehicle by which you earn points. Every 100 points earns you a shield (police badge), and each badge is your ticket to attempt an upgrade to your skills.

Nick can spend his shields learning new hand-to-hand combat moves, enhancing his firearm prowess (for example, reloading more quickly), or honing his driving skills. As you drive through L.A., you will notice blue icons that mark the training facilities. Unfortunately, even though you might choose different firing ranges, you upgrade your skills one at a time; each firing range on the map offers the same upgrade until you earn that skill.

As mentioned above, Nick spends shields to attempt upgrades. This means that you are offered a challenge, and if you fail the challenge, you lose the shield and Nick remains as he was. The game autosaves when you enter a gym, driving course, or shooting range, so you can't reload after failing a challenge with your shields returned to you.

Points can be lost, too, lest you think there are no consequences for your actions. Running over pedestrians will cost you points, and you can quickly lose points right past zero into the negative. It's easy to be cavalier early in the game and earn yourself a negative rating, and then decide to climb back out of the hole you dug when you need shields to improve Nick's skills, so beware. When your health meter bottoms out while you're working the street, you also lose points. You don't die, but rather wake up where you fell, ostensibly later on (the sun never sets in L.A.), minus some points.

In addition to earning points and then shields, your style of policing affects your Good Cop/Bad Cop rating. Whether you play it straight or let your cannons loose is up to you. You can drive carefully enough not to run over pedestrians while chasing after speeders or thieves, and you can hold your fire until the lemmings on the sidewalk are out of the way before you start shooting the tires out on the van full of stolen goods. You can roll up on some suspects, identify yourself as an officer of the law, and slap on the cuffs. You can fire shots to neutralize, rather than kill, or engage in a fistfight rather than draw your weapon. All of these will keep your score on the right side of zero.

Or you can fire at will and careen through crosswalks, regardless of the safety of those you have sworn to protect. Taking down innocent people will cause you to both lose points and earn you a negative cop rating. Similarly, dispensing justice using your firearm to hammer home headshots hurts your good cop rating. Depending upon how low you go, you open yourself up to aggression from street dwellers itching for a fight, and increase the likelihood that people will scatter when you exit your vehicle to conduct a frisk or two.


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