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True Crime: Hong Kong - 2011's most polished open-world?

Will Hong Kong play host to a GTA beater?

Barring a surprise from Rockstar this summer, True Crime: Hong Kong is very possibly the biggest and most polished open-world action game on the horizon - and we know, we've seen it.

Sit down with developer United Front Games and the team is keen to stress it's providing a lot of things above and beyond what the competition has to offer.

There are three core pillars; a deep Hollywood-scripted plot and protagonist, unique and intelligent sandbox gameplay and yes - lots of stuff to blow up.

As with previous entries, True Crime: Hong Kong yet again sees you getting in amongst the dodgy types as an undercover cop (though United Front's quick to point out it had nothing to do with the previous instalments).

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You play as Wei Shen, a 20-something police officer born in Hong Kong with the sort of backstory that'd inspire John Woo characters to shoot up the room.

As a child Wei fled Hong Kong with his mother following his sister's involvement in organised crime, and subsequent death to drug addiction. Years later, newly settled in San Francisco, his mother kicked the bucket, leaving him with nothing left to do but return to his old corrupt stomping ground and lay down the law.

It goes without saying that, with his sister's death fresh in his mind, Wei has all kinds of personal motivations when he goes about his undercover work among the Hong Kong Triads.

UFG hopes to use these polarising forces to create a natural tension in gang situations, and as the player you'll be asked to make plenty of difficult decisions - with outcomes that please both your undercover and police objectives.

In a similar vein to Splinter Cell: Double Agent, Wei's Triad missions carry cop sub-objectives that if completed will unlock bonus rewards. For example, tasked by gang leaders with burning down a rival triad building, to keep the police bosses happy you'll have to make sure no civilians are harmed during your criminal arson.

Wei can perform side-missions called 'Cop Jobs', in which he has to wear special riot police gear so that Triads don't recognise him, and rescue hostages, provide back up and other noble deeds.

In one mission we saw him climb to a rooftop with a sniper rifle and point it at a gang member holding a gun to a civilian's head. Successfully filling his face with lead gained Wei additional bonuses, such as being able to call a handler to call off pursuing cop cars during chases.

KUNG-FU FIGHTING
It's clear that UFG wants to create something more than the anonymous hero we're used to seeing in open-world games; and that doesn't mean cut-scenes full of dialogue (despite having unannounced Hollywood writing and voice talent on board), but rather something more in the mould of many staff members' previous project, Scarface: The World is Yours (UFG also includes veterans of Prototype, Bully and Saints Row).

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True Crime clearly lays out the type of character Wei-Shen is; he's an emotionally scarred, yet proud and proper cop with (some) morals. He'll do bad things if he has to, but he'll pay the price emotionally later.

His motives are also driven by a craving for respect in this very commercially-obsessed city, and you'll be rewarded for boosting his image with flash cars and sharp suits.

Wei-Shen is also a man who can throw a kick, and True Crime's spectacular looking melee combat, combined with a promising Parkour system, is perhaps its most defining feature.

The developer wants to fill every part of True Crime's punches with Hong Kong flavour; the fluidity, camera style, the effects... it's interior scraps are more akin to a traditional, polished action game than what we're used to from sandbox.

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