True Crime Not Dead: Let’s Resurrect An Old Cover Feature
We covered True Crime: Hong Kong on the cover of issue 191 of Play. Now the game is un-dead (though not going to be called ‘True Crime’ anymore), we might as well revisit this year-and-a-half old preview. YEAH.
The announcement of the next stage in the True Crime series took many by surprise – it was a more or less a forgotten series and one that, bar a few positive reviews for the first game, Streets of LA, didn’t actually score too well across the board. Stephen van der Mescht, executive producer of the newest title in the series, had a pretty solid idea as to why this particular game would be revisited when we asked him: “There’s a lot of people that don’t actually know this: it’s the second-best [selling] open-world game out there. The first True Crime actually sold about 4.8 million copies or something.” With this in mind, it’s easy to figure out why Activision decided a return to the series would be a good idea.
The True Crime of 2010 is related to its forbears only by name and general setting – there is no continuing storyline or reference to past titles made in this third entry to the series. This was a conscious decision on the part of developers United Front Games (who are also handling the PS3-exclusive Modnation Racers), who opted to make True Crime a complete reboot, as van der Mescht put it “taking it back to its base level”.
The lead character, Wei Shen, is an undercover cop just as the leads in the past two titles were. This time around players are infiltrating a Triad group in Hong Kong, attempting to bring them down from the inside. It won’t be a simple case of get on in there and blow the whole thing up, though, and we’re promised the subterfuge and intrigue will stretch further than just pretending to be a bad guy. Aside from the undercover element and the open-world setting, the similarities end there, with United Front keen to stamp their own identity on the game.
Identity plays a key theme in True Crime, with the background of Hong Kong being described by the developers as “the most important character in the game”. When it comes to portraying the island, United Front opted against what has come before in the series and didn’t create a replica of the city it is based in.
Instead they decided to make an adapted facsimile of the area, maintaining its feel and the general areas in and around the city, but keeping things far enough away from reality that they’re still fun to play. That’s not to say it isn’t accurate in any way, however, with the team taking pains to effectively reproduce the general look and feel of Hong Kong – around 27,000 photos of the city were taken for research and numerous visits undertaken in order to make sure what they were making wasn’t just a westerners view of what goes on in the east. From what we were shown, it certainly looks the part: dense and cramped in parts, open and modern in others and quaint as you might expect elsewhere.
There are four main areas to the map, each of which modelled on a real life version of regions in Hong Kong and each with a distinctive look, feel and – as the developers were keen to stress – playing style. In the hustle and bustle of North Point, for example, players will have to make full use of the game’s free running system in order to navigate the cluttered, dense, labyrinthine streets. Head to the more commercial Central District – which we were lucky enough to have an exclusive demonstration of – and you will see far more open spaces, cleaner areas and architecture of a Victorian style, befitting the area’s former owners – the British.
This whole area looks far more space-age (with the odd temple thrown in for good measure) and generally less alien to western eyes than the more traditional HK settings elsewhere on the map. Aside from this, it was used as an example of how where you are affects how you play the game. In the Central District region there is a network of tunnels leading from building to building, suspended in the air above the streets. What this seemingly insignificant point means is that instead of the street-based hustle and bustle of areas like North Point, navigation through the Central District can be undertaken in a totally different way. While it may seem like a tiny point – and don’t misunderstand: we don’t think this is game-changer, more just a good touch – it really should affect how you play the game.