True Crime: Streets of LA impressions

Activision gives us a demo of its upcoming action adventure game for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox.

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True Crime: Streets of LA
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Activision stopped by today and gave us a look at the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of True Crime: Streets of LA. The upcoming multiplatform third-person action game is being developed by Luxoflux, the Southern California developer best known for the Vigilante 8 franchise. The game draws from a variety of film and game genres and aims to offer a playable cinematic experience. The roughly 60-percent-complete builds of the game we saw gave us a taste of what to expect from the game.

You'll assume the role of Nick Kang, a detective whose overly enthusiastic approach to his role in law enforcement has resulted in his dismissal from the LAPD. Fortunately, he's tapped by an old friend to help a newly created division that's splintered off from the LAPD's Asian task force, the Elite Operations Division. Your primary goal in the game will be to take down a Chinese Triad and Russian Mafia cartel that's up to no good in Los Angeles. Kang's role in the new organization is a good fit, due to the EOD's morally flexible approach toward accomplishing its goals.

Nick's quest for justice will span 100 different missions that are set throughout the city of Los Angeles and feature a broad range of gameplay. You'll find yourself behind the wheel of a car in missions that focus on tailing suspects from a distance, trying to disable a suspect's car, or simply driving to a set location. You'll also engage in hand-to-hand combat or gunfights with assorted foes in traditional third-person action sequences and test your sneaking skills in stealth sequences that will require you to take out enemies quietly and without alerting their cohorts.

The most unique aspect of the game's story is the way it will unfold. Rather than require you to restart missions you weren't able to accomplish, True Crime's story will change according to your performance. For example, if you are unable to complete a mission, the story will branch out to take that into account. We were shown a sequence in which Nick wasn't able to properly avoid everyone in a room, which resulted in him being taken out back and beat up by thugs, essentially switching the gameplay focus from stealth to standard hand-to-hand combat. In terms of presentation, the game will tell its tale using real-time cutscenes that feature a very cinematic presentation.

While True Crime's gameplay structure follows the time-honored mission-based conventions most other action games do, there's quite a bit more to the game than that. Although you'll have to work through 100 missions in the game's main story, you'll also have the opportunity to stop random crimes. You'll actually come across 100 random crimes in all as you're playing through the main game. While you can choose to let the LAPD deal with the random crimes that crop up in your game, it's actually a good idea to help out, due to the game's point system. As you go through the game, you'll earn points that you can use to gain access to dojos, shooting ranges, and driving simulators throughout the city. Once inside the various buildings, you'll be able to participate in tests of skill that will reward you with upgrades, items, and new moves for Nick. For example, if you train at a shooting range, you'll gain an ability called "precision shooting" that will let you target your enemies better and take them out more efficiently. You'll also be able to upgrade your cars in the game, either by earning new cars or commandeering civilian vehicles in the name of police business.

Graphically, True Crime is looking quite sharp. The game features a generous polygon budget and an impressive attention to detail. Luxoflux has actually re-created 300 square miles of Los Angeles, including more than 100 landmark buildings throughout the city, using GPS data, satellite photos, and reference photos taken around town. The various characters in the game are nicely modeled and look quite good, and True Crime makes extensive use of motion capture for basic character animation and combat. The attention to detail pays off nicely during fights that showcase nine motion-captured martial arts and a number of pro wrestling moves. Aside from the impressive re-creation of Los Angeles you'll find 32 unique indoor environments in the game that can all be deformed quite a bit during a fight. The same detailed damage model is used for the game's cars, which will feature a host of different breakable parts on them. Of the two versions we saw, the Xbox version looked smoother and a bit sharper than the PlayStation 2 version. To be fair, the PlayStation 2 version wasn't much of a slouch in the graphics department, offering a solid amount of detail and some cool filtering effects that were reminiscent of some effects we've seen on the Xbox.

Luxoflux is aiming to ensure that each version of the game takes the best advantage of the console its on. As a result, the Xbox game is slated to run at 60 frames per second, and it will feature bump mapping, enhanced lighting, Dolby 5.1 sound support, HDTV resolutions, widescreen support, and the ability to import your own music into the game. The PlayStation 2 and GameCube versions are slated to offer Dolby Pro Logic II support and unique graphical enhancements based on what each console has to offer.

Judging from what we've seen so far, the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions are coming along fine. The core game content is an interesting mix of gameplay elements that seems to be executed well, and the graphics in both versions are shaping up nicely. Overall, True Crime: Streets of LA is an ambitious game that is looking very promising. The game is currently slated to ship for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox in the spring of 2003. Check out new shots of the PlayStation 2 game here and the Xbox game here.

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