capsule review

True Crime: Streets of L.A.

Taking its cues from the popular (though sadly Mac-incompatible) video game Grand Theft Auto, Aspyr’s True Crime: Streets of LA lets you explore what it’s like to walk on the bad side.

In the game, Russian and Chinese gangs are threatening to take over the streets of Los Angeles. As Nick Kang—a renegade undercover cop with a penchant for kung fu—you must find out what’s going on and put an end to it. But whether you do this by following the rules or by shooting first and taking names later is entirely up to you.

The game features 240 square miles of Los Angeles, re-created with impressive detail—except perhaps for the absence of traffic and smog.

Everything you do as Nick Kang affects his rating as a good cop or a bad cop. That rating in turn determines how the True Crime story line branches. If Kang uses deadly force and causes mayhem on the streets during high-speed chases, his bad-cop rating will increase. If he uses his badge and sends a warning shot when apprehending a perp, he’ll earn brownie points. Shooting on sight will send Kang’s rating into the red.

You can help Kang earn extra points—and let him flex his skills—by having him answer unrelated calls from police dispatch while driving around town. The crimes range from humorous (two rival sushi chefs in a knife fight) to serious (a pimp beating a hooker in the street).

Really, though, it’s easier to let Kang be the bad guy he obviously wants to be. He’s rude, treats his coworkers like dirt, and is generally a very unlikable character. Nick Kang isn’t an antihero—he’s just a jerk. It’s tough to care about what happens to him.

Kang has a wide variety of martial-arts and cop moves at his disposal, but learning your way around the keyboard to master them is more difficult than it should be. (Despite the game’s console roots, it doesn’t support game controllers, which would make fighting easier.) Hand-to-hand combat—though fun at first—grows tiresome quickly; it’s rarely more challenging than just button mashing until your opponent drops.

The game does offer some good fun with destructible environments. While beating up bad guys in restaurants, warehouses, and other locations, you’ll lay waste to tables, chairs, boxes, and other objects. It also features an impressive soundtrack chock-full of commercial hip-hop, hard rock, and metal, and voice acting from an A-list cast.

Unfortunately, the actual script leaves a lot to be desired. Nick Kang’s dialogue is rife with trite one-liners. Also, the game takes a weird turn midway through, with some supernatural mishmash that doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the plot.

Internet and LAN-based online play helps extend the game beyond the single-player story. However, you’re limited to challenging other Mac players.

By the way, True Crime really deserves its Mature rating—the game is filled with sex, violence, and strong language.

The Bottom Line

It’s no Grand Theft Auto, but if you like third-person shooters and are looking for a game that lets you explore your thug side, True Crime: Streets of LA might fit the bill.

A lot of the combat in True Crime: Streets of LA is hand-to-hand.
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