Retro Monday: “True Crime: Streets of LA”

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Title: “True Crime: Streets of LA

Developer: Luxoflux

Publisher: Activision

Released: November 2003

I was pretty stuck for what write about for this week thing. E3 sort of snuck up on me. I’m not that much of a fan of self-congratulatory events like E3. It’s why I never paid much attention to the Oscars or Golden Globes even when I was a film student. So while planning what E3 content would go up and be paid for I forgot about this. So along came Sunday. No game and no news to help me get something topical (again thanks to bloody E3). But while watching me weekly dose of “Yahtzee and Gabe Unabridged” (Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw’s pod-show) “True Crime: Streets of LA” was mentioned. I have that. It was ok. So why not. I’m running with it.

‘Streets of LA‘ was a 3D open world crime game made in the wake that “Grand Theft Auto 3”. So it was the first “GTA clone” to get released. But it had you play as Nick Kang, a cop that bends the rules but gets things done. And he’s played by Russell Wong, an actual actor. That as one of the interesting things about the game. Most of the characters are played by actual actors, and they don’t seems hammy or stiff or anything. The voice acting is really solid. Just look at Nick’s partner, Rosie Velasco played by Michelle “Fast And Furious” Rodriguez. The narrator/father figure George because dead father is played by Christopher (does a bad impression of an impression) Walken. The list of stars goes on. One of the lead bad guys, Russian Mafioso Rasputin “Rocky” Kuznetskov is Gary Oldman. Nick’s chief, Chief Wanda Parks, is C. C. H. Pounder. The bent-cop, Don Rafferty, is Michael Madsen. Snoop Dogg even turns up as an unlockable character. When I first played the game, I never realised how many pretty big stars where in the game. Mainly because I was 14 when it came out and most of the stuff they are really know for wasn’t made yet. The characters are actually well rounded. The game multiple paths so there is extra dialogue for each character.

On the multiple paths, there are three different endings. I think it was meant to be something like endings compared to efficiency but it ended up being the standard ‘good’, ‘bad’ and ‘average’ endings. The reason why I said endings based on ‘efficiency’ is that the ‘bad’ and ‘average’ paths are gotten by failing missions. It sort of means that if your bad at the game, you can still finish but you don’t get the whole story. Only in the ‘good’ ending, you face all the bad guys and get the whole story that spans the game, you father and a storyline that takes ideas from “Big Trouble In Little China” in a sudden, and sort of out of place, supernatural horror section. Even with the 3 endings, the story is really well put together with the theory of ‘the hierarchy of knowledge‘ in full effect. Although, there is a good cop/bad cop system but it is purely cosmetic. But at least it means that you can blast your way through a section ‘action star’ style or sneaky stealth style and still get a ‘good’ ending.

Between missions there is a ‘help civilians’ mini-missions which only act as a way change the cosmetic good cop/bad cop alignment but at least you only have to do them once. But between mission days (story sections) you can upgrade your fighting skills, Kang’s car,or handguns. You can only get the upgrade if you passed the section with a ‘good’ (efficient) ranking and you can only get one per section. So to get all the upgrades, you have to ‘good’ rank all the missions. It adds an RPG element without being to cumbersome and stops you from being too over-powered early on meanings they can concentrate on the plot and making a standardized difficulty level.

The game has quite a few mechanic. There is the normal GTA driving and Max Payne shooting mechanics (but the shooting has a slow-mo precision shooting add-on which is really useful) but it also has a one-on-one fighting mechanic. I was never good at it but it a pretty well rounded mechanic overall, having kicks, punches, combos, and grabs. All of them play a part in the game. For example, the last mission for each of the endings involve a speeding drive to the location, a shoot out, and finishing with beating the crap out of one of the two bad guys. This means that nothing seems out of place and nothing seems missing.

The last thing I will talk about is the map. A lot of talk, mostly because of E3, is going round about map size. The map of ‘Streets of LA’ is literally LA. A 240-square-mile (620 km2) chunk of LA was re-created to be the map. Most of it is husks of houses that you can’t have any action with what so ever but you can drive from Downtown and Chinatown to Santa Monica and Venice with no loading. The closest game I can think of that has a map like this is “The Getaway” (which re-creates central London) and “L.A. Noire” (which re-creates a more extensive LA).

Considering the game was the first ‘GTA clone‘ it really can stand on its own. It’s voice acting is solid and has a big name cast, the map is big and well designed, and the combat is smooth and flows from shooting to fighting. It’s a well polished ‘GTA clone’.

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