Activision's True Crime: Streets of LA originally debuted at E3 2002. It looked promising, but it was difficult to tell if the game's three different gameplay styles--driving, shooting, and fighting--would be able to mesh together very well. Now the game is nearing the home stretch, and it's starting to come into focus quite nicely.
True Crime takes place in a 240-square-mile re-creation of Los Angeles. The streets and locations are all based on satellite shots and GPS data, and the result is a pretty accurate depiction of the city. The developers at Luxoflux have also gone over the data and dropped in gas stations based on their actual Los Angeles locations. In the game, gas stations are used for car repairs. The game also has a few licensed locations, including the LA Convention Center and the Staples Center, where the Los Angeles Lakers play basketball. A licensing team is also working on securing permission to add real businesses and locations to the city, but no deals of this nature have been announced at this time. The GameSpot staff is hoping to see some Del Taco restaurants in the game, but then again, we're also hoping to see some Del Taco locations in the San Francisco Bay Area, too.
There are three distinct parts to True Crime's gameplay. The driving takes place on the city streets, and here you, as plainclothes cop Nick Kang, will be able to roll around in your convertible, drive a motorcycle, or commandeer any other in the name of Johnny Law. You'll have access to a Vice City-like radar when you're driving, and it will direct you to various points of interest. You can also encounter random crimes while out on the streets, and depending on how the AI reacts to your presence, these encounters can end peacefully or in a gunfight. You can even break up muggings without even getting out of your car by casually popping a few caps into the perp's face.
The game's weapon mechanics are pretty neat. Aiming and targeting are handled by merely using the right analog stick and swinging the camera around. Nick can hold two guns at once, and you can even aim at two different thugs. The neat thing about the game's dual-weapon system is that the guns don't have to match. As you take out enemies, they'll drop weapons like submachine guns, assault rifles, pistols, and shotguns. You can wield these in tandem in almost any combination, giving you cool combos like a shotgun and a submachine gun, dual automatic pistols, and so on. You can break out Hong Kong action movie dives at any time, and you can even give them a bullet-time twist by holding down the jump button.
Even when you aren't packing a pistol, Nick Kang is still a dangerous dude. The game's hand-to-hand stuff works pretty well. Here you'll work with punch, kick, grapple, and jump buttons to execute a variety of attacks and combinations. Repeated attacks will cause enemies to get dizzy, letting you execute a slow-motion string of attacks on them as a sort of finisher. The grapple and throwing systems let you execute suplexes and a series of slams and tosses. You can even execute elbow drops on guys after you knock them down, which as you're all surely aware, automatically makes this game great.
The interesting part is how well all these game mechanics mesh together to form a mission-driven yet open-ended game. While you'll always have a destination, most sequences don't really rely too much on timing or speed, giving you ample time to just explore the city in search of random crimes. Solving random crimes earns you points, which can be spent to unlock practice arenas for shooting and fighting, which in turn lets you upgrade your attacks and accuracy with a weapon.
It's been a long road for Luxoflux, and there's still a lot of work to be done in balancing the game and ironing out the remaining bugs, but True Crime: Streets of LA has definitely improved by leaps and bounds since the last E3, and it should be something to keep an eye out for as it nears its fall release on the Xbox, GameCube, and PlayStation 2.