True Crime: Streets of LA (2003)

Like Doom just before it, the impact that Grand Theft Auto has had on gaming is astounding, from causing moral panics to shaping gameplay in competitors. Inspiring an open world sandbox gold rush of copy-cat competitors each providing their style to the winning formula. Many of these “clones” looked to the big screen for inspiration, borrowing from the likes of Scorsese, and other classics in the crime genre. In 2003, one clone tried to marry the cinematic sensibilities of Hong Kong action films, with the soon to be winning formula of Action/adventure/R.P.G. entertainment that was True Crime: Streets of LA.

Nicholas Kang feels like he stepped straight out of the silver screen.

You take the reins of undercover LA Cop Nicholas Kang, a cocky but consummate professional who is assigned to take down the Triads. In his quest for justice, he deals with a branching tale that deals with corruption, soviet-era crime lords, and even the undead. But as Kang delves deeper, the case may also have a more personal connection for the undercover cop.

Guns, cars, and your fists are the primary arsenal to take on crime.

You control Kang through his attempt to bring down, the sprawling crime syndicate from inside and out. He has an arsenal of quips, gratifying gun techniques and barrages of kick and punches, to aid him. The missions are intercut with random crimes that Kang can stop at his leisure. He can also check out a variety of gyms and garages to upgrade his skills (though this depends on how effective of a cop Kang has been) and commandeer any vehicle for crime-fighting, or pleasure. The campaign has branching paths depending on how well you do each mission and the story has a variety of endings depending on how well you do.

Your success and failure influences how you advance through the story.

The missions themselves feel like fully-fledged mini-games, with the four-basic types consisting of sneaking, Fighting, Gun-Fighting, and car tailing ramping up in complexity as you progress in the campaign. They are easy to pick up and fun to master, with a lot of the action looking like it was taken directly from the silver screen. The settings are nice, night-clubs, bars, ancient crime temples. Adding to the movie magic is the Hollywood voice talents of Michelle Rodriguez and Gary Oldman among other big names, making the game feel worthy of its setting. L.A. has also been recreated, as a guy who has not left the continent of Europe, I am going to have to take their word. The visual look of the city feels accurate, as do the layout of the famous neighbourhoods and streets, which have a recognisable feeling from countless times of seeing them in films and T.V.

Car shootouts are common in the Streets of L.A.

With addictive arcade-like gameplay and a slick sense of humour that is unafraid to be goofy, True Crime: Streets of L.A. is a loving tribute to the Hong Kong action films that appeared to inspired it while forging a new direction for the rapidly evolving Grand Theft Auto clone market. It provided an Open-World L.A. just before G.T.A. did, along with an evolving action R.P.G. experience that will go on to inform future open-world action-adventure titles. While Grand Theft Auto suggested how car-jacking antics can be cathartic, True Crime: Streets of L.A. shows there’s fun to be had on the other side of the law.

Your car can get pretty beaten-up in the pursuit of justice, Micheal Knight never had to deal with this!

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