GTA clone or not, True Crime: Streets of LA was a pretty solid game featuring a realistic, open-ended world, a kung-fu storyline and plenty of bad guys to take down. For the sequel, True Crime: New York City, the developers have gone back to the drawing board, with a whole new city to explore and a new (anti?)hero to follow. We spoke with Peter Morawiec, Creative Director for the game, to get the skinny on all the Big Apple shenanigans.
UGO: What was the main goal in developing True Crime: New York City?
PETER MORAWIEC: The goal was not only to improve on the original but to give the player a very fresh experience. To achieve this we are introducing a new character, Marcus Reed, in a dark and gritty storyline set in the Big Apple.
UGO: What were some of the issues in the first game that you actively worked to fix for the sequel?
PETER: We added more good/bad cop actions and improved controls, shooting in particular - the player now has full control of the camera, able to aim freely while roaming about. Also, the player is now able to carry an inventory of firearms and weapons and cycle between them during gameplay, independently for each hand. On the driving front, we've varied up the feel of the cars, keeping it pretty real.
UGO: How much effort was put into recreating New York City? Is it to the same extent as LA was in the first game?
PETER: It was definitely a challenge - it's a much denser, vertical city, with a lot of variety. Our audience has definite expectations of what New York looks and feels like, so we've pushed the current generation of consoles to the limit with all sorts of trickery to bring a believable NYC to life. Our city crew traveled to New York multiple times, shooting thousands of photos and filming hours of video footage to make sure we get it right. I think that the resulting quality of our city is really top notch - the team had done an amazing job.
UGO: Could you talk a bit about the story? Will there be connections between the two games or is this a completely different arc?
PETER: It's a brand new story, no connection to the original. Marcus has a criminal background which makes him a very different character from Nick Kang. In fact, until five years ago, Marcus used to run a drug operation for his incarcerated father when his associates turned on them. Marcus was saved by his father's childhood friend, detective Terrence Higgins, and subsequently followed Terry into the police force to become a detective himself. However, early into the game someone dies under mysterious circumstances and Marcus smells a rat and is determined to find out what happened even though it's outside of his duties. A mysterious FBI agent seems genuinely interested in helping him out, while Marcus' own father Isaiah 'The King' Reed continues to push his own criminal agenda. At the same time, Marcus' boss Lt. Deena Dixon wants Marcus on the streets solving street crime. Suffice to say, being Marcus Reed isn't easy! How the story ultimately plays out is up to the player - there are two different endings, chosen based on player's moral choices throughout the game.
UGO: Can players expect to see new sorts of vehicles in this rendition?
PETER: We have an all new library of cars, SUVs, trucks and vans, with very different driving characteristics. The addition of motorcycles is most notable - we have both sports bikes and choppers. On the gameplay side, players can acquire dozens of vehicles at the police impound garage and car dealerships throughout the city then customize them in auto shops.
UGO: Is there any talk about online or multiplayer options? PETER: Not currently but it's definitely something we are looking into long term since True Crime: New York City is the first in a two-part True Crime series set in New York.
UGO: In terms of the soundtrack, will the game stick closely to the original's rap catalog or can players expect more variety? PETER: The Activision licensing team is currently wrapping up a massive soundtrack as well as some musical talent cameos. We wanted to bring gamers the greatest NYC soundtrack ever produced for a game, ranging from new and old school hip hop, classic and current rock, punk, etc. It is a lot more varied than last time and I'm told that it will be announced shortly!
UGO: Can you tell us about how the "broken window" theory plays into the crime stopping aspect of True Crime: New York City?
PETER: Since Marcus' official job is with the Street Crime Unit, one of the goals in the game is to eliminate crime throughout the city. Manhattan is made up of 20 precincts, each maintaining its own, ever-rising crime rate. If a precinct is left untended to for a while, crime will rise; ditto if player sells collected evidence such as drugs or arms back into the streets. The changes in the crime rate are reflected by the city map (known officially as 'CompStat') and via changes in appearance and sounds of the neighborhood itself - more dirt/trash, graffiti, closed down shops, screams, sirens wailing, etc. Players must tackle crimes in the area to reverse the effects and ultimately 'lock' the precinct zone as fully cleaned up.