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True Crime: New York City (PlayStation 2) artwork

True Crime: New York City (PlayStation 2) review

"What happens next is a scene fit for a John Woo movie, dropping you right back into Marcus’ sneakers and getting to the action. A massive gunfight that takes you down hallways, peeking around corners and scoring headshots, using theatre seats for cover and littering the floor with blood and shells. And the fat lady sings during the entire bullet ballet, cementing the scene’s cinematic feel."

Mother Teresa is no saint.

I’m not talking about the kind, sweet Mother Teresa you’re thinking about. I’m talking about the underground drug tycoon by the same name, a woman wrist-deep in New York City’s shadiest affairs. She runs a legitimate front, pretending to be a champion of the people and cleaning up the streets, but all it really boils down to is her eliminating the competition and looking good doing it.

She had a recent hitch, though. A detective named Marcus started sniffing where he shouldn’t be sniffing, looking for clues about his partner’s death. She managed to give him the run around long enough, tricked him into going after her enemies, but he eventually wised up and came her way.

She took care of him. Put him in a straightjacket and threw him in a padded cell with a bunch of psychos at the mental ward. Not the most direct way to deal with a problem, but funny as hell.

And now she’s at the opera with her bodyguards/hitmen, watching a fat lady sing in Italian and enjoying every second of it. At least, she was until someone in the balcony next to her started crunching on the popcorn and sipping up every last drop in his Big Gulp. Very annoying.

She gets up, walks over to the next balcony, pulls the curtain back, and…

“Excuse me sir, do you mind-”

It’s Marcus.


What happens next is a scene fit for a John Woo movie, dropping you right back into Marcus’ sneakers and getting to the action. A massive gunfight that takes you down hallways, peeking around corners and scoring headshots, using theatre seats for cover and littering the floor with blood and shells. And the fat lady sings during the entire bullet ballet, cementing the scene’s cinematic feel.

And if the singing gets annoying, just shoot her in the leg or something. That’ll shut her up.

It’s levels like the opera stage that really define True Crime: New York City. See, this is a game that’s trying to take the whole GTA-sandbox-free roaming concept and give it a fresh new coat, makes itself stand out from the rest of the crowd. It’s trying to make you feel like you’re playing a movie, not a game. And, for the most part, it succeeds. It’s got all the elements of a summer blockbuster.

Every blockbuster needs some star talent to push up the sales, and True Crime has that, bringing in the best list of voice talent I’ve ever encountered in a videogame. The coolest black man on the planet, Laurence Fishburne, plays drug kingpin Isaiah Reed, Marcus’ dad. The coolest white man on the planet, Christopher Walken, plays FBI agent Gabrielle Whitting, Marcus’ informant. The rest of the talent goes a bit farther down the A-list, but they’re all solid; the voices fit the characters and the characters fit the story.

Cutscenes are well-written and entertaining bits; fueled with enough action to keep you pumped and enough humor to keep you laughing. We’ve got blood, we’ve got suspense, we’ve got superstition, fear, and jealousy, but the game doesn’t hesitate to give out substance; at the core this is a story about a man trying to gain some redemption, make up for doing the wrong thing by trying the right thing.

Or maybe it’s just about getting revenge for your slain partner and shooting everyone in the way. Whichever works for you.

True Crime likes to see people get shot, just like any blockbuster should. Your main gun, the .45, gives you unlimited ammo, and you have a wide range of other noisemakers to choose from. Sniper rifles, good for taking the enemy out quick and clean. Flashbangs for stunning. And, of course, guns so powerful that they’re sure to illicit the following response:

“Holy shit! I shot that guy’s arm off…damn.”

You’ll be needing that firepower, too; firefights come often and hard. Turn a corner without checking and your health could get knocked down to half in about two seconds, bombarded with an assault rifles and shotguns and maybe even the occasional flamethrower.

Not a problem, though. Marcus comes equipped with every clichéd gunfight move invented. The peek-around-the-corner-and-shoot move. The duck-and-jump-out-from-behind-crates-with-guns-blazing attack. And, of course, the classic leap-through-air-while-the-world-goes-slowmo-and-shoot-everyone-before-you-land technique. You can even zoom in for precision aiming and be worry free; the game slows down time while you pick your targets, letting you make sweet headshots without taking them yourself.

Let’s not forget the obligatory fight scenes, either. Of course, situations will come up where Marcus loses his gun. Of course, there will be times when a katana just so happens to be lying near by. And of course, this will lead into a duel to the death with a rapper-turned-samurai, even though there’s absolutely nothing to suggest Marcus has ever held a sword in his entire life.

Reality is overrated.

The fight system’s no Tekken or Guilty Gear or Soul Calibur, but it works; simplicity makes the whole experience all the smoother. Grabs and punches, both light and heavy, blocking for defense and a wild swing attack that knocks the enemies flat on their back…nothing too fancy; Marcus is a meat and potatoes fighter. It shows. If the main moveset bores you, it’s just a simple matter of going to a dojo, learning the necessary skills, and coming out with the requested style engrained in your brain. You don’t NEED it, but if you WANT it…it’s there.

No self-respecting popcorn cruncher is complete without chase scenes, and True Crime has more than enough to go around. Bad guys don’t have any problem with turning tail and adding carjacking to their list of crimes, so you’ve got to act accordingly, use your badge to commandeer whatever vehicle happens to be passing by. Hell, there doesn’t even have to be a person in it; Marcus lives in a weird version of New York City, where no one locks their doors and everyone keeps their keys in the ignition.

You’ll be racing through the streets, dodging traffic, shooting out the window and ramming head-on whenever you get the chance, leaving a trail of totaled cars and injured pedestrians behind you, a paramedic’s nightmare. And just when that gets tiring, just when you’re tired of chasing down joyriders and deranged movie stars, the game gives you a machine gun, takes the wheel, lets you stand up through the roof of a limo, and asks you to just shoot down every enemy that comes close to your car. On the rails.

True Crime: New York City has the cinematic experience on lock.

The lack of reality has some downsides, though. True Crime creates a magnificent replica of New York City; detailed, vast, alive. But the people who walk around it have no sense whatsoever.

Now, I’ve never been to New York City. Until I turned seven, I believed New York City was a mythical place that only existed on TV (I also believed that if I worked out really hard, bullets would bounce of me. Dumb kid) But, despite my ignorance, I do know one thing: If you go to Central Park in the middle of the night and it’s pouring down rain, you will not see hundreds of people walking about randomly.

Doesn’t matter the time, doesn’t matter the place, doesn’t matter the situation, there’s always a horde of people walking around New York City. They’re not going anywhere in particular…just strolling along. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem, but oftentimes you’ll be called to the scene of a crime in the middle of the street, a crime that can only be solved with a well-placed round of lead. Chances are, a civilian will get hit in the crossfire. Do that enough, and you become a bad cop. That means the good cops have full rights to shoot you on sight. And since the good cops have enough firepower to destroy an armored car in a matter of seconds…well…you’re screwed.

You’ve got to keep in mind, too: this is a movie, not a DVD. No branching story paths. Two endings, depending on how far you cross the line, putting the good cop/bad cop thing into play. The alternate endings might be enough for some, but True Crime: New York City’s predecessor is True Crime: Streets of LA, and Streets of LA had all that and then some; the branching paths were one of the best things about the game. If you didn’t play the first one it’s no big loss, but as a guy who has, I must ask the question: Why take out something so good?

I’m just picking nits here, though; True Crime: New York City is a stellar game, one of the year’s best. It’s got style, it’s got action, it’s got drama. You’ll be entertained and you’ll have fun. Not much more you can ask for.

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Staff review by Zack Little (November 23, 2005)

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