True Crime: Streets of LA Hands-On Impressions

The PC version of Activision's driving/fighting/shooting game is nearly finished, and we get a final chance to check it out in development.

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Producer Todd Jefferson details the new features in the PC version of True Crime. Click on "stream" for a closer look.

Activision is nearing completion of the PC version of True Crime: Streets of LA, and we recently had the opportunity to check out the game at an event in San Francisco. For those unfamiliar with the console versions of the game, True Crime is a driving/fighting/shooting action game that could almost be the virtual equivalent of a Hollywood summer blockbuster. You play as Detective Nick Kang, a "loose cannon" of the LAPD, battling both the Russian mob and the Chinese triad gangs. You'll battle dozens of gangsters, engaging in fierce martial arts combat along with plenty of gunplay. You'll also be able to drive the streets and avenues of Los Angeles in wild chase scenes, trying to avoid hitting civilians and other innocent bystanders.

Activision says that it doesn't consider the PC version of True Crime to be a simple port, as the game has been modified extensively for the PC. The console gamepad controls have been translated to the familiar WASD interface, and the mouse is used to look and shoot. You can fire by clicking on the left mouse button, and if you hold down that same mouse button you'll get a precision firing mode. In that mode, the camera will zoom to a closer view of your weapon, and a big crosshair will appear onscreen, allowing you to target specific body parts on your enemies.

Officer Dick from the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series is one of the new characters you can use.
Officer Dick from the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series is one of the new characters you can use.

Precision fire is important because you'll be graded upon how you react in certain situations. If an opponent rushes at you without a gun and you shoot him in the head, it will have a negative effect on your "karma" rating. If you hurt too many civilians, you'll receive a decrease in karma, and if your karma level gets too low, you'll be deemed a "bad cop" and the good guys will dispatch the SWAT team after you, resulting in a wild car chase as they try to hunt you down. You can restore your karma by completing missions, arresting crooks, and busting random acts of crime.

When driving around the city, a map in the top right corner will give you the layout of streets in the neighboring vicinity as well as an indicator of where you need to drive. Part of the game involves racing through the streets of Los Angeles at breakneck speeds, trying to avoid traffic and pedestrians. The driving portion of the game seems very forgiving; you can ram your car into buildings and keep on going, while hitting a tree results in falling lumber, and slamming into another car is no big deal. The graphics have been enhanced for the PC, mainly in terms of supporting higher resolutions, which makes the game look sharper than the console versions. The textures look a bit better, and the draw distance also looks like it's been improved.

Multiplayer is the biggest feature that's exclusive to the PC version. The game supports up to four players in five different modes, including deathmatch, street racing, and battle master and dojo master (both are essentially "last-man-standing" modes in which the last surviving player wins--either with or without guns). You can choose your appearance from any of the characters that appear in the single-player game, as well as from a number of new skins based on "Activision all-star" characters, such as Pitfall Harry, Officer Dick from the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series, Jeanette from Vampire: the Masquerade - Bloodlines, Rikimaru from Tenchu, a soldier from Call of Duty, and a character known only as "Sandwich Man," who is dressed up in, of all things, a sandwich suit.

Multiplayer will let you and other players run rampant over Los Angeles.
Multiplayer will let you and other players run rampant over Los Angeles.

The massive soundtrack from the console versions of the game has been beefed up with more than 30 new songs from such rock groups as Alice in Chains, Queensryche, and the Distillers. The idea was to inject more rock and roll to a soundtrack that was originally dominated by rap and hip-hop artists.

Other than a few minor issues, such as some final optimization to smooth out the frame rate, True Crime for the PC seems to be shaping up fairly well. Activision is clearly trying to include enough new content to differentiate the game from the original console versions. True Crime should ship next month.

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