Player One: Staff Member #716
Every now and then, I'll look back through some of me and Bork's past reviews-- mostly for a bit of nostalgia, but also to keep myself aware of some of our inadvertent writing tendencies. After reading about six old columns back to back, though, something occurred to me: there's a certain series of games that I like to talk about a lot. Like, no matter what the subject at hand actually is, I always seem to work in a reference to the wide-open environment or the on-foot-combined-with-vehicular gameplay of this other particular franchise that I won't name here. So my New Year's resolution for 2006 is to not always try to compare everything to those other games, henceforth to be known as the Game X series.
So of course we decide to review True Crime: New York City for January, a game whose premise is practically an evil twin of Game X, making it literally impossible to review without comparing the two. In Game X, you play as a car thief; in True Crime, you control an undercover cop who "commandeers" cars instead of stealing them. In Game X, you have a sprawling fictitious city to explore throughout the course of the game; in True Crime, you're given a pixel-perfect recreation of the entire island of Manhattan. I'm fairly convinced that the publishers of True Crime witnessed the runaway success of Game X and said, "We need to make a game just like that." And they tried.
But where Game X succeeds and True Crime fails, however, is in the integration of the driving game and on-foot portions. True Crime seems to regard the inclusion of cars to drive as just something to do between levels of a clunky, poorly-assembled, Max Payne knockoff of a third-person shooting game. It's almost as though the developers spent the majority of their time and effort polishing the driving experience, which has nearly no bearing on your progression though the game's story, while paying little attention to refining the actual on-foot missions which are the player's primary objective. Game X makes its driving and shooting feel like one game, whereas True Crime just includes both without understanding what made the formula work.
True Crime has its redeeming qualities, though-- getting to explore an exact recreation of Manhattan without having to obey traffic laws is pretty damn cool. Christopher Walken's performance as FBI Agent Whitting is pure gold. And the customizable soundtrack is a decent mix of a lot of different musical styles, with something for almost anybody. You can even find Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear The Reaper" in the playlist if you look hard enough. Kinda makes me wonder if Agent Whitting's gotta have more cowbell....
Player Two: Das Bork
That's true, Numbers. It is a lot like Grand Theft Auto! It's really difficult not to compare this game to GTA, but I could compare it instead to the first True Crime: Streets Of L.A. I like this game a lot better than the first one, basically because it's like the first game but improved with more features, better graphics, and better gameplay. I think the most impressive thing has to be the graphics. There is so much to look at, and the atmosphere and lighting are great. It makes you feel like you're actually in Manhattan.
I think the game falls a little short in repetitive gameplay. Although better than the last game, it still feels like I am doing the same mission over and over again, just with a different setting each time. The main driving force that gets you to play through the game is the moves, weapons, and special abilities you can unlock. I especially like the driving abilities, such as nitro boosters, driving sideways on two wheels, and a perfect ninety-degree turn skill-- all of which are very fun and handy to have, and are something I don't see very much of in games. But forget driving if you have to travel a long distance. Getting across the map really takes a long time, so I recommend taking the subway or a taxi. They will take you instantly to the place you want to go for a small fee.
There are some other gameplay things that bothered me. It may be because of my taste, but maybe you'll know what I mean when every time you try to get out of the car you hit the "Triangle" button instead of "L2".