The only word is "wow." Crime Life: Gang Wars is one of those rare games that is so mind-blowingly terrible that seeing it in action is enough to make you crazy. With Crime Life, several questions immediately come rushing to the front of your mind. How did this game get approved for release? Didn't anyone realize that it looks like a slightly filtered PlayStation game? Does Konami actually expect to turn a profit on something so terrible? But while the questions come easily, the answers are hard to come by. There's more detail to be found in this review, but really, the only thing you need to know about Crime Life: Gang Wars is that you shouldn't play it.
Crime Life: Gang Wars tells the story of a dude named Tre. Tre's a new member of the Outlawz, a once-powerful street gang that seems to have fallen on hard times, while its main rival, the Headhunterz, is flourishing. You can tell they're "from tha streetz" by the way they use a "z" instead of an "s" in their names. You'll take on the role of Tre and work on earning some rep in the neighborhood by getting in organized street fights, sticking up jewelry stores, shoplifting, and all types of ill business. While the list of options might sound appealing, one is barely different from the next, and the core of the game is a very awful beat-'em-up with a few practically meaningless squad commands that you can use to order your followers around. Sometimes rival gangs will pile up into a mess of swinging limbs and weapons that showcase the game's bad artificial intelligence and ugly animation. Sometimes you'll get to go one-on-one with a guy and witness firsthand the horror of the game's busted fighting system. Regardless of the situation, the gameplay is uniformly bad. You're given two attacks, a block, and a modifier button that lets you use a portion of an easy-to-fill adrenaline meter to bust out special attacks that do more damage. You can press two buttons together to execute a throw, which is funny-looking because the enemies fly away from you as though you were tossing an empty cardboard box. When you've beaten an enemy down to a sufficiently low level, a skull appears over his head. Pressing the space bar kills that enemy with a special fatality animation. Some of these are neck breaks, or if you're holding a machete, you pick the guy up over your head and poke the blade into him. Some of them are wrestling moves, like arm bars, which probably wouldn't kill a guy no matter how hard you yanked his arm back. The combo system is uninteresting, and the moves don't look good.
This is a mission-based game, and as you complete missions, you'll see cutscenes, both prerendered and in-engine, that attempt to move the story along. But you're never given any solid motivation to proceed. The ugly character models look even worse up close, and the prerendered cutscenes don't look much better. The leaders of the rival gang are played by five of the six members of D-12 (Eminem must have been busy recording voice-over for 50 Cent: Bulletproof that afternoon), but you'd be hard pressed to identify most of them, because there isn't much voice from them in the game, and the awful character models don't look anything like the real-life D-12.
The control in Crime Life was passable on the Xbox, but on the PC it's another part of the mess. The manual claims that you can just plug in a "Microsoft Common Controller," which is really just a fancy name for the Xbox 360 controller, and the game will automatically reconfigure itself to work with the pad and change all the in-game control references to show the buttons on your controller. That's not the case, though. While configuring the controller, we were unable to map functions to the analog triggers, even though the screen was showing a diagram of the Xbox 360 controller and showing us exactly which analog trigger to press. Even after mapping half the controller functions to the gamepad, the in-game controller messages still only referred to the mouse and keyboard controls. Speaking of mouse and keyboard, the game is playable with those controls, but just barely.
Crime Life looks like a PlayStation game running on some sort of emulator that bumps up the resolution and attempts to antialias the whole screen by making everything ridiculously blurry. The quality of the textures is very low, the animation is bad, and the character models are downright ridiculous. You'll even see some textures "swimming" back and forth in a couple of spots, just like in all those classic PS games you remember from 1995 and 1996. On top of that, the camera isn't so hot, so even if you can look past the game's visuals, you might not get a clean view of the action.
The soundtrack in Crime Life: Gang Wars reveals its European heritage. While you'll hear a track from D-12 on the title screen, the rest of the soundtrack is composed of a lot of bad foreign hip-hop. But you'll have to go looking for it, as the game doesn't play music most of the time, leaving you to bust out deadly arm bars in near silence. The speech is weak, and the rest of the sound effects aren't so hot, either.
From top to bottom, there's absolutely nothing to like about Crime Life: Gang Wars. It isn't even bad in an interesting or funny way. It's just garbage. We may never know how a game this bad made its way onto store shelves, but one thing is crystal clear: Don't play this game.