E3 2010: True Crime First Impressions - Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting

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I do believe it was renowned philosopher, Carl Douglas, who said, “everybody was Kung Fu fighting, those cats were fast as lightning” – an appropriate phrase indeed for United Front Games’ upcoming free-roaming crime saga set in Hong Kong. It’d probably be more appropriate for the game if the lyric was, “everybody was Kung Fu fighting, I’m going to press your face into a ceiling fan and paint the area with crimson red,” but let’s be honest, that’s probably not going to sell as many records.

United Front Games’ reboot of the True Crime franchise takes the action back from the West to where the game got its true inspiration – Hong Kong. Taking a leaf out the film that inspired The Departed – Infernal Affairs – True Crime is looking to make a more serious crime drama than those that came before it and it’s aiming to excel itself in three key disciplines: the story, the ambient world and the action.

The story seems to be a major focus for developers these days, and rightly so – we’re educated folks for the most part and crave more than just pure adrenaline fuelled gameplay – but that doesn’t mean they’re sacrificing fun, as that will still be an integral part of the experience. With an all-star cast set to line-up, including the likes of Tom Wilkinson (Rock n’ Rolla, Full Monty!), James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China, Blade Runner) and Sammo Hung (Martial Law, Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon), amongst others, so the talent’s there to deliver on that side of things.

There is a huge emphasis on creating a living breathing Hong Kong in the reboot, as we see our main character, Detective Wei Shen, in a mission called Night Market Chase – I hope that’s a debug mission name – talk to a local pedestrian to find out the whereabouts of someone called Ming – who he has to track down to pay his debts. The streets are alive with character and as well as the locals going about their market stall business, the tourists litter the streets to take photos of the gritty downtown district with their loved ones. As the mission name suggests, after locating Ming, an on-foot chase commences and Wei steps up to pursue the target in a high octane on-foot chase. Wei vaults boxes, climbs fences, uses vending machines as a stepping stone to reach high walls and even bounds over a railing to fall through a sheet of plate glass above a market stall. Eventually the chase takes the action to the rooftop where the mission ends with its finale.

Here we catch a glimpse of the True Crime’s Kung Fu fighting mechanic and more importantly, using the environment to Wei’s advantage. In the space of one short fight where Wei is kicking, punching and countering the countless goons that cross him, the undercover cop uses the aforementioned ceiling fan to grind a foe’s face and spray red stuff all over the floor, he smashes someone’s head through a TV, slams someone through a ventilation duct and throws someone in a dumpster. Not everything can be used though, only objects that are highlighted with a white outline when you have hold of them, but they are in abundance in the rooftop arena, so there’s plenty of choice. It’s proper Hollywood stuff, from the brutal leg snapping counters to the comical use of the scenery.

The next mission turned the tables on its head and we saw a different side of the action – namely the gunplay and the huge explosions. Here Wei is tasked with the mission of returning a motorbike to an import shop. Unfortunately for our undercover cop, the previous contact, Ming, is on hand and acutely aware he’s actually undercover and not part of the underground criminal circuit that he’s meant to be a part of. More Michael Bay here than Infernal Affairs as the undercover cop’s cover is busted.

Jumping across the docks on the bike, Wei chases Ming once again, but with more resistance this time. Goons on the left and goons on the right, Wei takes them down with sublime ease taking advantage of a sort of bullet-time that is automatically activated and auto-selects targets based on the context of the situation – obviously being hands-off, how this factors into the gameplay remains to be seen and this is not just limited to bikes, it actually works on-foot and in cars as well.

A quick dismount of his high horse, errr, I mean motorcycle, sends the heap of metal flying into a stack of gas canisters – cue explosions. After taking Ming hostage, it’s now up to Wei to clear the area of goons before his shield soaks up so much damage that it’s the end of life as he knows it. Using the bullet-time action to clear the way – admittedly, it looks a little too simple with this mechanic, but they have done this scene probably 100 times and as they say, practice makes perfect – Wei ends the sequence by smacking Ming’s head on the trunk of the car before throwing him in. With Jay-Z and Rihanna blasting away on the radio, Wei and his incarcerated passenger seek to outrun the rest of the crew that take up chase. As always, the good guy gets away.

As you’d expect from any sandbox title, True Crime will offer a whole host of licensed music, mini games (like karaoke and gambling), boats, full day/night cycle and weather effects which affects population density, and a whole host of stuff off the beaten path, but no aerial gameplay – aside from jumping insane distances in your land vehicles or on-foot. True Crime is looking to put a huge emphasis on the chase, and rooftop pursuits will play a big part, as it does in every Hong Kong based movie – it seems to be parkour heaven in that neck of the woods! It is however a tad too early to tell how True Crime is shaping up, especially after a 15 minute hands-off presentation, but from what we understand, you’ll never be short of things to do.

True Crime is scheduled for a fall 2010 release.


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