You always know when it happens. Every blue moon a game developer releases a product that sets the entire industry on its ear, garnering both critical acclaim and runaway financial success. The sound of palms slapping against foreheads can be heard resonating throughout every competitor’s office almost in unison… the frustration of having not come up with that blockbuster idea first is sometimes quite overwhelming. After all the jaws are picked up off the floor and everyone settles down, one of two things usually happen: a decision is made to either press on with what they were doing, or try and cash in on the new craze this breakthrough title has caused by coming up with something similar (and invariably inferior). Guess which category the True Crime series falls under.
When Rockstar Games released Grand Theft Auto III and then Vice City a couple years later, it inspired a bunch of copycat games including a terrible title from Luxoflux and Activision called True Crime: Streets of L.A. With Rockstar releasing GTA: San Andreas in late 2004, it was a foregone conclusion that there would be more wannabe titles not too far behind. When Activision announced that True Crime would be returning to consoles and take place in New York this time, many felt that there was a good chance the title would be a great improvement over its predecessor. It isn’t. In fact, True Crime: New York City may just be one of the worst titles in recent memory, due to the developer’s decision to release a title that was clearly nowhere near finished, full of “showstopper” bugs, horrendous frame rates and laughable in-game physics. It’s really a wonder how a company could decide to unleash this dreck on the gaming community and hope to get away with it.
The basic storyline at work here is of the Cinemax at 3am variety, and only barely. Players control Marcus Reed, an officer of the NYPD that spent his youth as a gang member and now has a desire to clean the criminals and thugs (the types he actually represented in his youth) off the street. Being that he’s also the young buck in the NYPD’s organized crime division, our hero has a lot to prove and is quite the “eager beaver” when it comes to cracking skulls and drillin’ those punks full o’ lead. Yay. There are 4 major cases, and a player skilled at overcoming the multitude of bugs will find the actual case challenges and side quests to be a breeze. If you don’t quit playing in the first hour, you’re likely to finish the entire storyline within about eight or ten… provided you don’t run into the bug that makes it impossible to finish the game!
As one would expect from a GTA clone, players can shoot, bash, punch, kick, slam faces into hard objects, and “commandeer” vehicles throughout the streets of Manhattan. Just when you thought you could actually have some fun with the whole concept of trying to drive a motor vehicle through midtown Manhattan, True Crime brings you back to reality with a bump by delivering bizarre handling and driving physics that can either be too easy or too difficult to turn with and steer, depending on the moment. Cars feel as if they are on skis at times, and other times spin wildly out of control for no apparent reason. The game possesses the kind of problems that make astute gamers check their controllers for defects. Don’t bother in this case… it’s definitely the title, and the driving mechanics make playing the game almost as enjoyable as actually driving a real car through New York City.
There are plenty of guns to be found throughout New York, and the actual mechanics of firing them and hitting a target work reasonably well. Carl… er, Marcus, can learn new hand-to-hand fighting styles at local dojos, and can also use various types of grappling moves, UFC style.
Graphics are a mixed bag. While the city looks pretty accurate to its real-world counterparts (when they actually appear), there only seem to be a few character models for the people that inhabit the city, making the whole game take on a surreal, “last 15 minutes of the Matrix Revolutions” kind of feel to it. Expect to find groups of clones of the person you just saw around every corner. What makes matters worse is that you can never quite be sure if a solid object is going to stay solid, as walls, streets, and objects can be passed through at various intervals, Kitty Pryde style. Players will begin to realize what Miss Pryde was worried about… you can actually get stuck in a wall or under the pavement and have no recourse but to wait for death.
The “liquid pavement” bugs are nothing compared to that fiendish crash bug that waits to strike right before you’re going to commit the act that will bring a particular mission to a close. The whole game will freeze up with that all-too-familiar “CD mis-tracking” noise, leaving anyone who forgot to save their game completely out of luck. This title is a really shameful design at best, and a downright slap in the face to game buyers everywhere at worst. Completely ponderous, man.
The only saving grace for the whole game (and by no means does this make a reason to go out and buy it) is the music and ensemble cast of voice actors. Several of Hollywood’s cherished show up here, including Christopher Walken, Laurence Fishburne, Mariska Hargitay and Mickey Rourke. They do a fine job of delivering their lines believably, but the problem is they’re dealing with a garbage story in a game that will probably glitch out during one of their dialogues and end up making them sound like gibbering idiots. Recording artists like Redman, Danzig, Blue Oyster Cult and Grandmaster Flash round out an impressive-on-paper-only audio presentation.
This game is junk, period. Please, spare yourself the agony and stay far away from this title… enjoy a second play through of Vice City or San Andreas instead. The sheer number of fun-ruining bugs in this game is the stuff smashed controllers are made of, so don’t even bring yourself down to the level the developers take you for when they decided to release this thing.
When reading the final score here, realize that just getting a game made, pressed, boxed and in stores can earn you a 50% in this reviewer’s book.