A very satisfying experience.

True Crime: Streets of LA came into the gaming world, attempting to ride the success of the 3D Grand Theft Auto games, while at the same time, trying to produce its own unique experience. On the surface, it looks very much like Grand Theft Auto, and parts of it do play similarily, but there's enough new and interesting material to hold the attention of anyone who's willing to look beyond the surface.

True Crime has a story straight out of a cop movie. Nick Kang, a loose cannon cop who gets the job done his way, is both feared and respected by his peers and his superiors alike. His father, also a member of the LAPD, disappeared mysteriously when he was a young child. While solving a simple arson case involving several Triad thugs extorting local businesses, Kang's case careens out of control, eventually involving the FBI, Russian Mafia and North Korean military. It's satisfyingly cheesy, and the story holds some merit because of narration done by Christopher Walken.

The sound in the game is amazing. The voice acting, while hackneyed and cliched, helps to set the mood of the game. The main character is as talkative as Duke Nukem, with dozens of one-liners. The game's soundtrack consists mainly of rap, with a few select rock songs. It's a shame you can't change or select songs - they're picked at random when you enter a car, and the same ones always play on select missions.

The graphics are impressive, especially for a GameCube title. A large portion of LA is modeled accurately (streetwise.. it'd be fairly hard to get every building in accurately) and the game runs with almost no slowdown - it's only noticeable after you've been playing for a few hours without stopping. LA looks nice, clean and appealing. Character models are nicely detailed, although the game seems to use 5 or 6 default models, and makes them look different with separate skins. Indoor environments break up nicely, and there are plenty of explosive objects in shootout levels. Gameplay is broken up into 5 portions: fighting, driving, shooting, stealth and free roaming. Fighting consists of mashing the three attack buttons and hoping to land hits. Use high kicks for when enemies block low, and vice versa. Throw in a few button combinations as a finishing move. You can learn new moves at training centers, but you can beat the game by mashing the buttons. As for driving, the controls are fairly responsive. Different cars have different handling. Better cars have very good handling, while lesser cars, such as your default one, handle like crap. You can earn better cars and a variety of useful driving maneuvers. The shooting component of True Crime is pretty fun - Nick carries a pair of upgradeable pistols, Chow Yun Fat style, and can wield any weapons in pairs, as well as do Max Payne style slow motion dives. Out of all the upgradeable skills available in this game, I'd say the gun upgrades are the most crucial for completing the game successfully. The stealth component is well done, but could've been fleshed out a bit more. Lastly, there's the free roaming component. Here you can drive around a very static, kind of boring LA solving street crimes.

All of this is tied together with a good cop/bad cop styled RPG system. By being a good cop (solving missions to completion, not killing suspects) you earn points, which are converted to badges to be used at training centers. Being a bad cop not only nets you a negative score, but prevents you from training to get the skills you'll need to tackle later challenges, as well as giving a less than stellar ending. Yes, True Crime has three branching story paths with branching missions paths and three completely different endings, as well as three alternate ones that have the protagonist dying.

In terms of replayability, you can always go back and tackle old missions, or play the alternate story paths and alternate missions. The free roaming ability provides lots of value, but eventually crimes overlap and it gets boring. There's an unlockable secret mode, but all it is is solving street crimes as Snoop Dogg. You have 1 hour as Snoop Dogg, and you start with a point balance of zero, and see how high you can get it in 1 hour. Snoop Dogg has his own taunts and his own car, but it's not worth the effort it takes to unlock this mode.

Overall, I'd definitely recommend this game to anyone who is a fan of the new action sandbox genre, or a die hard fan of cop movies who also happens to love video games.