True Crime: New York City First Look

Activision stops by to show off the latest entry in its True Crime series.

True Crime: New York City is the follow-up to Luxoflux's True Crime: Streets of LA, a third-person action game that cast you in the role of cop Nick Kang in the City of Angels. Activision stopped by to give us a look at a work-in-progress version of the upcoming sequel to give us an idea of what to expect from its change of venue. It seems as though True Crime: New York City is aiming to be more than just a cookie-cutter sequel. The game takes the somewhat risky approach of leaving many of the elements of the original game behind and offers you a new slice of life from a city in need of a good cop. Though a number of the core gameplay and design elements return, True Crime: Streets of New York is an original game that sets out to improve on the franchise's promising debut.

The story reveals that the game is taking an approach similar to that of the long-standing role-playing game franchise Final Fantasy, whose various entries aren't directly related. Though you'll once again be playing as a cop out to do good, TC:NYC, features an original narrative that puts a unique spin on the formula in the first game. This time out you'll play as Marcus Reed, the son of a local kingpin, who has joined the New York Police Department. Though you might expect this to be a pretty shocking career move for someone with Marcus' background, life threw a curveball at him in his youth, since Isiah Reed, Marcus' father, was arrested during the lad's formative years.

Always looking out for his boy, Isiah left Marcus in the care of Terry Higgins, a family friend who happened to work in law enforcement. Without his father to show him the perks of being a kingpin, young Marcus followed Terry's lead and wound up in the NYPD. Unfortunately, the day Marcus joins the force Terry is murdered, which sends the young officer on a hunt to discover the murderer. Unfortunately, because New York is a big and complicated place, Marcus discovers he'll have to come up against the five major cartels in the city to find out why Terry was murdered. But, as is often the case when you roll with as much baggage as Marcus does, the investigation brings all kinds of trouble to light that will require some fixing and soul searching.

Rookie cop Marcus Reed will battle several crime cartels to find his foster father's killer.

The new story is matched by True Crime: NYC's gameplay, which borrows some core mechanics from the first game but ends up offering a unique experience that developer Luxoflux hopes will improve on the original True Crime. The third-person control scheme and many of the mechanics are back and will familiar to fans of the series. Combat has been expanded to offer some varied fighting styles, including brawling, kung fu, Thai boxing, wushu, and karate. The number of weapons you'll be able to use has been beefed up to a total of 58, which breaks down to 35 firearms (which offer the obligatory dual-wielding option) and 23 melee weapons.

An element that isn't returning is the branching system. Whereas the original True Crime kept moving you through its story, regardless of whether or not you succeeded in certain encounters, TC:NYC does away with the system. Rather than sending you on an express train through the game, letting you bypass sections of the adventure, TC:NYC will keep you in the game and simply bring you up to speed on key information you might miss from informants you'll encounter. The new non-player characters ensure you won't get a free pass through the game. Cars will also feature some new tweaks, such as the ability to use your siren on the vehicle you wind up "borrowing" from the locals. As before, an onscreen map will help those who aren't New York natives find their way around town.

Escape From New York

Also returning in this game are the random crimes that will require your attention. However, this time out they'll have a greater impact on your experience. Here's the gist: As you go about your business, you'll be alerted to crimes in progress, which you'll have the option to stop. Unlike in the first game, if you choose not to bring some law down on the folks, the city will begin to go downhill, which will be reflected in the environment by trash, vandalized buildings, and general urban decay.

If you don't carry out your duties as a cop, the city of New York will begin to visibly decay before your eyes.

One new mechanic we expect you'll have some fun with is the ability to play the game as either a bad cop or a good cop. If you choose to stick to the straight and narrow and do things by the book, you'll find that Marcus will have a nice, stable life of comfortable living. However, if you choose to steal evidence, pawn items on the black market, and generally have some criminal fun, you'll find yourself with a heck of a lot more disposable cash, and you'll be able to live large. Yes, it's not the morally sound choice, but when you see the kind of primo loot you can get your hands on, it's likely to be pretty fun.

The game's visuals are shaping up well. The city of New York is brought to virtual life with an impressive attention to detail (and 25 square miles of GPS-accurate data). You'll be able to explore the massive city by car, if you're in the mood for a leisurely drive, or by subway, for an instant leap to another part of the city. Besides sightseeing from whatever set of wheels you happen upon, you'll be able hoof it and explore a number of the buildings you see. In addition to apartment buildings, nightclubs, and the like, you'll find music shops and stores where you can spend your cash on slick new threads and accessories. The level of detail we've seen is an improvement over the original True Crime, thanks to the bulked-up graphics engine and the new environment. Though the work-in-progress version we saw had some inconsistencies in its frame rate, there weren't as many as you might expect given how busy the screen can get.

As in Streets of LA, the new True Crime features a slavishly accurate recreation of its city setting.

True Crime's audio is turning out to be a moody mix of tunes, voice, and effects that help the unique world come to life. The music we've heard so far draws generously on hip-hop and R&B, which fits the action well. The voice work brings an appealing grittiness, along with a healthy dose of profanity, to the M-rated game. Finally, the sound effects for the various weapons you'll be wielding offer a satisfying kick as you run around lighting fools up.

Based on what we've seen so far, New York City looks like a solid and slightly risky sequel to the original True Crime, and the direction it's currently headed in seems promising. The issues that bothered players about the original TC are being dealt with, though only time will tell if the solutions work completely (but what we've seen certainly gives us hope). True Crime: New York City is currently slated to hit this fall for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox. Look for more on the game in the coming weeks.

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