GDC 2010 Preview: True CrimeBy Patrick Klepek - Posted Mar 10, 2010
What We Know: True Crime is a your classic reboot scenario. The previous two installments in the series (True Crime: Streets of L.A. and True Crime: New York City) were average Grand Theft Auto clones that tried to differentiate themselves by offering over-the-top hand-to-hand and vehicular combat. Activision hopes to wipe the slate clean with the third True Crime offering, and from the sound of it, they seem to be on the right track.
What Did We See: The creative forces behind Activision's True Crime made it very clear during a short look at the upcoming Hong Kong-themed action-adventure during GDC week has nothing to do with the original games. I don't remember a whole lot about the original True Crime games and it sounds like Activision and new developer United Front Games are counting on that, as well.
The game itself, however, is familiar. You're an undercover cop (this time in Hong Kong going up against the triads), the game's set in an open world environment, you fight people with fists and guns, you blow stuff up and you drive lots of cars. It's what United Front Games is doing to enhance what's already been established in other sandbox games that's pretty interesting.
Combat's never been a strong suit of the Grand Theft Auto games. True Crime strives to make that an enjoyable, dynamic part of the experience. In the demo, I watched the developers hop around the game world in a manner not unlike Altair or Ezio in Assassin's Creed. There's verticality to the movement of the main character that creates a host of options to the player when deciding how to tackle the enemies in front of them. And in chase sequences, a game mission that typically elicits groans, those options are put to great use, as orange indicators in the environment signal which spots you can to freeform climb, jump and run on. I also, uh, watched the developers pick up a meat cleaver and hack a guy to bits -- never a bad thing.
United Front Games is also tackling one of my biggest annoyances in video games: crowds. There are a few things that video games are universally really poor at and crowds are one of them. Crowds are normally dropped into a game to block the player's path and frustrate them. More often than not, it's just bad game design. Crowds are a big part of True Crime (Hong Kong is a busy city, after all), but they've also designed a mechanic mapped to the analog stick that allows you to move your shoulder-blades and seamlessly sift through the crowd. This wasn't actually shown, but if it works, I'll applaud them. One step closer to enjoyable game crowds!
What was shown at GDC was ultimately a very, very tiny slice from True Crime. It's impossible to see where the story's going quite yet (but I have to admit I haven't counted that many f-bombs in a video game cut scene...ever?) and the gameplay is in an early, unpolished state. The team seems especially enthusiastic about the direction they're taking with this new True Crime and, hey, the world could always use a game set in an interesting new part of the world.