True Crime: The GDC 2010 Preview

Activision shelved the True Crime series after only two games. Not that either were

Activision shelved the True Crime series after only two games. Not that either were bad; they just never quite lived up to the potential of a cop's perspective on the fight against crime in a sprawling urban open world game. As part of this fresh start, True Crime moves halfway around the world to Hong Kong where investigator Wei Shin has been assigned to infiltrate a Triad gang. But to get the action movie feel developer United Front wanted, the game version of Hong Kong does not accurately map to the real world city. Instead, the four neighborhoods draw from a number of different sectors of Hong Kong.

In the demo I saw, Shen got an assignment from a minor boss named Winston to kidnap a rival boss and take out his heroin processing plant down on the docks. Driving there, the developer's past experience with arcade racing games was clear. Barreling down the streets and sliding around the corners looked clean and fluid. Once at the site, plenty of hand-to-hand fighting ensued, featuring a combination of martial arts but based heavily in Muay Thai--a favorite amongst the Triad for its potent and quick crippling moves.

A lot of improvisation figured into what I watched. For instance, Shen brushed by a refrigerator, grabbed its freezer door, and swung it open to smack his pursuer in the face. There's also a free-running element to the fights with a timing-based mechanic to vaulting things like rails and tables. Executive producer Stephen Van der Mescht stressed, though, that they intended to keep it more grounded to things like hurdling obstacles in a cop chase than full on parkour. There was plenty of shooting too with what looked like an assisted lock-on for targeting specific parts of the enemies.

Throughout the game, a "face" (Triad slang for rep) system reflects Shen's power and prestige and holds the key to his advancement. Part of it is earned by actions, but an entire other element of it comes from conspicuous consumption. That means Shen will have to accumulate the luxury cars, fancy homes, and designer clothes necessary to gain face. As he does, the way people respond to him, and for that matter who will respond to him, changes opening up new areas, missions, and yes, dating options.

Van Der Mescht closed the demo saying that they hope to transition between the different sorts of action in True Crime without it feeling like going from mode to mode. While that sound noble enough, if they hope to achieve the action flick feel cited as inspiration, then the fighting has to feel great. Get that and the rest should fall in to place.

Helmed by ModNation Racers developer United Front Games and published by Activision, True Crime is slated to hit PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 this fall.