Popular gaming commentary website UK Resistance recently ran what it called the Blue Sky In Games campaign. An end to all this dreary urban yoof street gang violence dark days misery. A return to the days when gaming meant collecting golden rings in colourful platform worlds made of ice cream, and a colour palette bedecked with yellows, pinks and lime greens. It's a noble cause, a good cause, a just cause, a cause we heartily endorse. Sadly, Crime Life couldn't be further from these aims if it tried, and instead represents a particularly nasty nadir in the path of gaming history.
It's a non-stop relentless-o-thon. A melange of drive-bys, gangbanging, robberies, urban decay, violent actions and people talking Ebonics. Or a carefully monitored, marketing-led, BBFC-friendly interpretation of Ebonics, expressly designed to appeal to the target demographic, at any rate. Oh, and it's not much cop.
The premise is that you're a new initiate into the street gang The Outlawz (although with no back-story, character or introduction it feels as though you've just dropped into the world, Mr Bean-style). You have to prove your chops by, basically, beating everyone up, committing crime and generally hell-raising in the worst possible way.
NOT QUITE 8 MILE
With the emphasis on worst. This amounts to lots and lots of fighting, anyone and everyone, giving the Crime Life world the feel of one giant deathmatch arena, rather than any serious look at gang life in the modern age. It's not helped by the worst camera since The Matrix: Path Of Neo, never quite giving you enough view to avoid distant trouble spots or turning fast enough to give you fluid control over the combat.
On top of that, the visual style employed doesn't exactly push the boundaries of modern technology, with poor textures, animation and detail, all giving the impression of a half-hearted console port at best.
There's plenty to explore, but despite the amount of 'real life' scenery dressing (nondrivable cars, civilians, shops, bars, strip clubs and so on), none of it really amounts to much, not helped by the lack of any decent story structure to tie everything together.
You see, whereas something like GTA: San Andreas manages to invest in the game's street life action a story with decent characterisation, actual dramatic development and genuine interest, Crime Life seems to think that throwing every cliché in the book at you is sufficient to justify the never-ending stream of violence. GTA attempts to justify your actions. Crime Life simply revels in its moral abhorrence. GTA is deep. Crime Life is shallow. GTA keeps it real (ish). Crime Life is as real as Ali G. GTA entertains. Crime Life bores.
Even the violence doesn't appeal much beyond the first few gang brawls. With combat happening roughly every ten steps, it doesn't take long for you to exhaust the different fighting moves on offer, and although some variety is afforded by grabbing different weapons, most fights are pretty random button-mashing affairs with little in the way of grace, style or skill on display.
Is there anything to recommend then? Well, at a pinch you can argue the soundtrack is decent, but then, having spent so much money signing the cream of the UK and European rap scene, that's to be expected (although if you're not into your hardcore hip-hop, you'll not find anything here to appeal other than the Music Off option). The attempt at creating a free-roaming world does offer some interest, although with no option to use vehicles or swing the camera into a view that feels comfortable, it all feels very sub-GTA.