The second installment of Activision's True Crime series, True Crime: New York City, came across my desk last week. Even though my very limited amount of video game time had been dominated by the new NBA 2K6 and the new Brothers In Arms (which subsequently forced me to Netflix the entire Band Of Brothers DVD collection), I decided to give this new game a shot (no pun intended). I played the first True Crime game (Streets Of LA) back in the day and dug it, so of course I expected this game to be more of the same. Indeed, in many ways NYC mirrors the Streets Of LA - especially in both game play and graphics quality. But the landscapes of NYC truly come to life in this game. The entire island of Manhattan has been mapped out and digitally regenerated for this game. Chinatown, the Lower East Side, Times Square, Hell's Kitchen, etc. are all brought to life with incredible clarity. I even drove by Cornerstone's NYC office on 23rd St, you know, just to launch a couple grenades at that kid who made fun of my outfit at CMJ as he was walking into work. Haha, just kidding of course, but the landscapes truly are that realistic.
The premise of the game is this. You are street thug turned cop Marcus Reed, son of a drug kingpin. Your mentor on the force, who looked out for you after your dad got pinched by the fuzz, gets killed your first day as detective in a massive explosion. The murder is covered up as an accidental gas leak and you're ordered to stay off of the case. Obviously, you disobey and try to get to the bottom of it. Along the way, Marcus Reed (played by up-and-coming actor Avery Waddell) encounters a number of interesting characters, including an FBI field agent played by Christopher Walken, Reed's incarcerated father played by Laurence Fishburne, Mickey Rourke as a fellow NYC detective, Esai Morales as NYPD's Organized Crime Unit Chief and even Traci Lords as the city's top madam. Obviously, these high quality actors add to the story line of the game, but it's really the extras that make this game so addictive. In addition to solving four "Major Cases", Reed is also called on to thwart various street crimes - drunken brawl at a bar, possible rape in progress, prostitutes fighting their pimp, drunk drivers, bank hold-ups, etc. The more small crimes you solve, the more experience points you get. The more points you get, the more money you make via your paycheck and the more money you have, the cooler the shit you can buy - cars, clothes, hair-styles, guns, etc. As you're busting these perps, you have the option to be a good cop - arrest them and turn in the evidence - or a bad cop - kill them and sell their shit at a pawn shop. As you progress through the game, different alternate adventures come into being. For example, Reed is tapped to go under-cover and join an illegal street racing circuit and similarly, to join an illegal "fight club" in order to bring down the respective promoters of each.
This game is obviously not for kids (people walking by on the street swear like truck drivers), so don't go buy it for your 10 year old nephew for Christmas, but for those of you looking to loose yourself in NYC's seedy underbelly, this is the game for you. The only thing I have to warn you about is that the damn game just might be TOO addicting. I played it a ton over the long weekend and still am not even halfway finished. Just make sure you have some serious free time on your hands when you sit down to play, as the hours literally FLY BY. Now I know how detective Stabler can work for days at a time without sleep. Kicking the crap out of criminals is awesome! (and sleeping is for sissies).