Hello all! Last week’s game was a classic RTS, in which every aspect was designed to facilitate the complete destruction of your enemies.
Today brings us to a so-called “GTA clone,” which could have been something really special if it wasn’t such a mess. It’s still pretty cool to me, though.
True Crime: New York City is the 2nd and last entry in the full of potential, but ill-fated True Crime series. I wrote about the first one way back, as well as it’s spiritual successor. In this PS2/GameCube/Xbox entry, you play as Marcus Reed, a gangster turned cop (here the “PDNY” as opposed to NYPD). You investigate some kind of case involving I guess money and who the hell even knows. See, despite an all-star cast (Laurence Fishburne, Christopher Walken, Mariska Hargitay, Mickey Rourke, and even Redman as a bonus character), the overly serious plot and underdeveloped characters fall flat. The developers traded Streets of LA’s goofy charm for a more serious, grounded tone. You don’t fight dragons or zombies in NYC, but the plot is forgettable and mundane; I struggle to remember much of it despite replaying it. It’s too bland to care.
Likewise, the game doens’t play very differently from the last entry. Like GTA, you roam around a sandbox in whatever car you’ve stolen, doing missions and, in this case, stopping crimes. I always felt True Crime handled shooting and fighting better than GTA, but it’s still kinda clunky. Basically, everything I said about Streets of LA applies here, as far as the actual gameplay stands.
In short, True Crime: NYC is a hard sell. I still like it (in fact, I loved it back in the day), but it’s kind of a mess. It’s buggy as hell, it freezes often, and the framerate is generally in the lower teens. Also, the graphics, from a technical standpoint, are hideous. But I liked it so much because it felt like my home was represented accurately in video games for the first time.
A lot of games from this era take place in New York City; the Spider-Man games, Indigo Prophecy, Driver, The Godfather, and Max Payne, just to name a few. But those portrayals of NYC were always off, something a native like me could point out right away. Max Payne and Indigo Prophecy in particular had a distinct European influence behind their versions of Manhattan, whereas The Godfather went with a more cinematic mishmash of NYC’s general feel and layout. True Crime: NYC, on the other hand, featured a GPS-accurate map of Manhattan to wreak havoc in. The street you’re on is displayed on the top of the screen as you drive, the color scheme is dead-on, landmarks such as the Flatiron Building, Woolworth Building, Penn Station...so many exist in the game. You can visit Times Square, ride subways (most of the stations don’t look like they do in the game anymore, but quite a few still do), and visit the legendary CBGB in lower Manhattan.
I mean, you can go inside CBGB. TC: NYC offered you the ability to enter bars and shops. They all more or less looked the same, but there was something special about being able to go inside so many places, when a lot of games in this genre didn’t, at the time. It made this virtual Manhattan feel more lived-in, and real. I remember playing one day and deciding to drive up to a bar I knew; my father had taken me there once. I wanted to see if it was there, in the game. Not only was it there, on Murray street where it belonged, but the surrounding architecture and even the scaffolding on the buildings were all accurate. In 2005, long before Google Street View, this was almost surreal. Driving uptown to where my grandmother lived, on 181st Street, I would find myself driving downhill on a road divided my a fenced off patch of grass and trees, with a small opening you could walk through to cross the street. Again, this was dead-on, although my grandmother’s building was sadly different. It was crazy, though—here was my home city, laid out virtually, 12 years ago. How could I not love that?
I’m reasonably sure I spent more time exploring in True Crime: New York City than I did playing the story and missions. As I said, the game itself is a trainwreck; buggy, janky...it barely even functions, thanks to a rushed holiday release. But at the time, it was the virtual tourism that hooked me. I can’t really overlook the myriad problems with the game, but damn if it wasn’t cool to see Manhattan fully realized in a video game. It’s worth that much, I guess. Sometimes a game is just one thing, and sometimes that’s okay, depending on what that thing is. A great representation of Manhattan is a bit subjective; I can’t see this mattering as much to someone who lives in Georgia or something, but...I dunno. Sometimes a game is what you make of it.
Thanks always for reading this possibly too-long series of goofy, rambling articles. I have a Twitter and I like talking to people, so follow me!
Next week’s game is one everyone hated, but I kind of like. You solve a murder in this one...your own. Dun-dun-dunnnnnn.