He rolls up in front of a run down ghetto. After calmly walking through the front door, he puts earplugs in his ears as he heads towards the back of the house. He slowly pulls a pair of submachine guns from his belt. Turning the last corner, he unloads his weapons into the people in the room. He is Marcus Reed and he's the good guy.
Welcome to True Crime: New York City.
The opening scene (which the player controls some of) quickly establishes the intended feel of the game: Gritty and dark. The main character of the game turns his life of crime around and joins the police force. From here on it's up to the player to decide how the story goes.
Anyone even vaguely familiar with the Grand Theft Auto series will see TC:NYC as it's clone. At least superficially. But while True Crime's visuals and basic gameplay elements may share a lot with GTA, the similarities mainly stop there.
As mentioned, the main character, Marcus, becomes a police detective, with the players help (taking the form of the games tutorial). Once this is completed, the game becomes very open-ended. The game map is relatively large; Manhattan Island not being a little place and it is captured well in the game. While moving about the map, the player will periodically receive reports of crimes in progress. The player can rush to the scene (the game generates them randomly but always puts them within a reachable distance) and help stop the crime.
The player does have a main storyline to follow if and when they choose, but most of their time will be spent stopping the variety of crimes that pop up. How the player goes about this is entirely up to them. Stopping a crazed gunman by shooting them in the arm, separating and cuffing the culprits involved in a violent altercation, or plowing through a crowd to run down a purse-snatcher in their car, TC:NYC doesn't really limit the players choices of how to do their policing.
The game does reward different choices in different ways. This leads to one of the games most creative and original elements, the good cop/bad cop system. Many gamers will be familiar with games that track their actions and denote them as a righteous or villainous based on those actions. TC:NYC implements this by giving the player many opportunities to do the 'right' thing or to follow the path of the corrupt cops of oh so many Hollywood movies.
Capturing a suspect without resorting to excessive violence (the kind that involves body bags) will earn the player Good Cop points. Planting evidence on a random person, selling evidence instead of turning it in, or solving crimes with an assault rifle will earn you Bad Cop points. This is a very nice addition to the game, as playing through as one or the other (or hovering some where in between) are very different experiences and gives the game a lot of replay value.
The player will also earn a salary (augmented by any illicit activities that they may choose to partake in) which can be spent on a great number of things. This includes the standard gamut of weapons and vehicles one expects from a action game, but the player also has the choice of purchasing them from police or civilian sources. The police weapons list includes some in the non-lethal variety, so players wanting to play the upstanding officer can do so more easily. The so-called civilian weapons include the kinds of things that you wouldn't see being used by real police forces, mainly because real police forces are interested in capturing suspects alive.
There are many other extras to unlock, many of which don't make the game any easier, but add to its enjoyment. The player can change their appearance (clothes and hair), as well, they can purchase music that can be listened to when cruising around in whatever vehicle they own, or have apprehended for what may or may not be official police business. As the player moves up the ranks of the police organization, more and more items are unlocked and available for purchase.
While TC:NYC is a lot of fun, some players may be put off by it's relatively dated graphics. The cityscape is perpetually dark and gloomy; mostly to stay with the overall mood of the game, but an unfortunate side effect is that the textures come across as muddy and underdeveloped. To breathe some life into the environments, the developers threw in the occasional rain effect and an inordinate amount of blowing trash.
The character models are, for the most part, terrible. A little more work was put into the focal characters of the story, but the rest of the population is bland of often repeated. For instance, most of the women in the game use the same model and are all dressed identically, the only difference being the color of their hair and skin. One would expect a little more variety in New York.
Despite the sub par models in the game, the characters themselves are deep and believable. The voice acting is very well done. The main plot line is heavy in dialogue and the script and acting are of a caliber high enough that you actually get into it.
True Crime New York City isn't going to win any awards for its originality, but it is a quality entry into a well-established genre. It combines a few interesting gameplay elements with some quality production to create an enjoyable playing experience. Anyone looking for something a bit different would do well to give this game a try. It has that quality most important to a game: it's fun.