True Crime: New York City does what few GTA clones can – it stands on its own. With the engrossing atmosphere of New York to drink in, tons to do, and a solid story to follow, there's plenty of reason to plug countless hours into the game. Besides, haven't you ever wanted to play ‘good cop, bad cop?'
Marcus Reed doesn't start off as a boy in blue – in fact the game opens up with his massacre on those who flubbed a hit on his dad and big-time crime boss. Caught red handed (literally) by his family friend and officer of the law, Marcus is bailed out and turned around to the path of justice... up until he sees his mentor blow up with an entire building in an act of foul play. Marcus is told to lay off the case due to his personal attachments, but he won't have any of it; he's out for revenge... and a bit of keeping the peace, collecting goodies, and goofing around the streets of NYC while he's at it.
True Crime is chockfull of stuff to do, most of it having nothing to do with the main story itself. You can take Marcus on the streets, stopping muggers, rapists, drug dealers and hobos (yes, hobos). Or you can play the role of bad cop, extorting money out of stores, planting evidence on innocent citizens, or just by randomly murdering people at an alarming rate. None of this really affects the main story, nor does it change the multitude of side-stories that open as the game progresses. Though it is fun, in a compulsive sort of way – sure, you may have stopped beatings in the street a hundred times, but what harm is there in having another go?
If you ever get bored of the street beat, float back to the main story. Or take part in some of the tasks your father (now safely in jail) has lined up for you. Or go street racing. Or buy some new music. Or... well, you get the idea. There's a mountain of gameplay objectives and collectables out in this vast city…and if you get tired of any of it, True Crime has you covered. Want a no-nonsense, one way ticket to your next mission? No problem – grab the subway or hail a cab! This fail-safe, distraction free trip from point A to point B keeps travel around New York from ever becoming a chore!
If only the same could be said of the gameplay itself. While True Crime offers a lot to do and keeps you interested in doing it, actually doing it is a most cumbersome experience. The controls are a mouthful to memorize... before arresting a perp, you have to show your badge, then draw your weapon, then fire a warning shot, then and only then can you go after the guy without receiving 'bad cop' points. This wouldn't be such a big deal if it weren't for the fact that Marcus lacks any sort of context-sensitive button. This is the way New York's True Crime unfolds throughout – there's a lot Marcus can do and it's all mapped out in a layout that keeps you confused and frustrated for a good while. Learn the controls and you'll have a much better time, though there's no way to make the clunky loading times go away, sometimes throwing off your timing in driving or fighting.
True Crime offers some heavy substance to sink your teeth into, and if you're a fan of the free-roam genre and are looking for a satisfying story experience in the process, New York would be worth a shot…if it weren't for the clunky controls and constant loading problems. What could've been a great game in the genre is broken and humiliated by its problematic control. Give it a whirl, if only to see what could've been.