True Crime

Is the reboot just a load of Hong Kong Phooey?

Never make a gangster cross. Someone called Dog Eyes has tried to shoot a big gangster's
mother, and he's not entirely wrapped up in the situation. "Dog Eyes tried to shoot my fucking mum!" exclaims Winston. "What the fuck? Get the fucking guns!" It really is a to-do.

There's nothing for it, but to drive at high-speed to a heroin processing plant and proceed to kill its workforce - mostly by hand, but others with guns and meat cleavers. Ah, free-roaming crim-sim... how we've missed you in the time you've hardly been away.


"There's obviously one that does incredibly well in the genre," explains True Crime producer Stephen Van der Mescht while ignoring the GTA-shaped elephant in the room. "So what our whole development philosophy has been based around is finding ideas where we think we can innovate, and create a space for ourselves that way.

"For us that really started from a gameplay mechanic standpoint: the free-running system, deep martial arts, the melee system and melee weapons, a shooting system with lock, free-aim and cover..."

He's not wrong either, there's little doubt that this reboot of the True Crime series (only the name survives from the old buggy free-roamers) has significantly better on-foot action than Grand Theft Auto IV. Undercover cop Wei Shen, drawn deeper and deeper into a web of Triad dealings, has an array of impressive leaps and bounds. Vault over a table, and you'll be able to connect your foot with a nearby hoodlum's jaw - while the range of kung fu tussles and punches that are available go above and beyond conventional police training.


As, indeed, are the abilities to use contextually relevant parts of the scenery to kill people: men's heads are slammed repeatedly in fridge doors and their bodies fried on exposed wiring. It's violent, adolescent and carried out to the tune of the most heinous of swearing-words - but undoubtedly slicker than GTA4's terrible combat.

The location is an interesting prospect too. Hong Kong has been chosen because of the impact of recent Triad actioners emanating from the vibrant waterside city - movies like Infernal Affairs and Triad Election. Indeed, it's Martin Scorsese's remake of Infernal Affairs - The Departed - that's been the greatest influence on True Crime's plot that sees the undercover Wei Shen move up the ranks of organised crime while in constant contact with his police handlers and forever under threat of being found out. It's fair to say that Leonardo Di Caprio didn't have to kill so many people in so many exciting ways, but the drive for authenticity in True Crime is a real one.

"Our writer has been across numerous times to meet with a host of interesting characters to gain more insight into the world that we're developing - not least of all some ex-Triad people," explains Van der Mescht. "That's been really interesting, getting some perspective on how they work and what that's all about. From the law enforcement side we've also actually met with the ex-head of the Organised Crime and Triad bureau who gave us a lot of insight into how they operate."

On top of this thousands of reference photos have been taken of the various different Hong Kong locations being used and rejigged (this isn't a slavish recreation, as in former True Crimes) from the fishing villages and waterfront of Aberdeen to the towering financial heartland of Central Hong Kong recently seen in The Dark Knight.

On paper, this all sounds rather fun. How can a game in which you can leap from a motorbike to the top of a moving truck, before grimly gripping to it while the swerving lorry attempts to throw you off, not be an engaging prospect? Well either I just got a lot older and bought a copy of the Daily Mail, or True Crime is trying that little bit too hard to impress the teen market with its (un) unique blend of casual violence, ladies of the night and total barrage of fuck-words and rudeness.

Talk to the developers and the game does sound like an intelligent thriller with an original setting, watch their demonstration and it's a Western-looking Chinese chap running around a burning heroin plant waving a meat cleaver. The hope then is that the final product will be settled around the place that these two visions overlap. After all, Dog Eyes totally shot at Winston's mum! Who wouldn't have an eff and a jeff about that, before massacring hundreds of crims?