by Davneet Minhas
previewed on X360
Despite a massive marketing blitz and a blockbuster prequel, True Crime: New York City received mixed reviews and disappointing sales when it was released in November 2005. As a result, publisher Activision placed any idea of a third entry in the True Crime franchise on hold.
Five years later and with the memory of New York City faded, Activision is set to release the third instalment in the True Crime franchise, aptly named True Crime. It’s leaner, meaner, faster, and without a subtitle, much like J. J. Abrams’ reboot of the Star Trek franchise. In fact, True Crime producer Stephen van der Mescht cites 2009’s Star Trek as an inspiration for the game. Developer United Front Games went back to the ground floor for this reboot of the franchise.
If True Crime did have a subtitle, it would be Streets of Hong Kong, or more precisely, Subways of Hong Kong, since 90% of the city’s population uses public transportation. Yes, True Crime is set in Hong Kong. UFG felt the semi-autonomous city provided the perfect change in setting because of its fusion of Eastern and Western influences.
The setting was also inspired by recent Hong Kong cinema. The first two True Crime games were cartoony and campy to some extent, thanks to the influence of action-comedies like Lethal Weapon and Rush Hour. True Crime has been influenced by more serious Hong Kong crime dramas like Triad Election and Infernal Affairs, and even Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Infernal Affairs, The Departed.
The game’s plot follows the latter film closely. Its main character, Wei Shen, must move up the ranks of Hong Kong’s Triad organizations as an undercover officer while feeding information to his handlers without getting caught.
In developing the plot, True Crime’s head writer visited Hong Kong on multiple occasions to gain insight into the world of organized crime. The development team met with ex-Triad members, in addition to the former head of Hong Kong’s Organized Crime and Triad Bureau. It all serves to create a grittier and more realistic experience than previous True Crime instalments.
Part of that grittier experience is a believable Hong Kong. The team at United Front Games drew from a library of over 20,000 reference photos to ensure a general authenticity without replicating everything building for building.
The previous True Crime games were attempts at faithfully recreating L.A. and New York, down to the streets. True Crime maintains some of Hong Kong’s neighbourhoods, from the imperial waterfront of Aberdeen to the skyscrapers of Central Hong Kong to the urban sprawl of North Point. However, the game is more focused on capturing the feeling of the city than its alleyways and building numbers. Van der Mescht believes that this has provided UFG the freedom to develop spaces that maximize gameplay value.