Games

True Crime: Streets of LA

Sean Trundle

You can only listen to Kang shout 'It's Dim Sum time!' as he shoots up a Chinese gang so many times before you start to get uncomfortable.


Publisher: Activision
Genres: Action
Subtitle: New York City
Price: $29.99
Multimedia: True Crime
Platforms: GameCube, PlayStation2, Xbox
Number of players: 1
ESRB rating: Mature
Developer: Luxoflux Corp.
US release date: 2007-07
Amazon affiliate

It would be impossible to write an honest review of True Crime: Streets of LA without the obvious comparisons to Grand Theft Auto, so I'm not even going to try. In True Crime, Luxoflux has attempted to emulate every '80s cop movie in the same way that Grand Theft Auto attempts to capture every mob movie you've ever seen. Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Tango and Cash -- they're all here. Unfortunately, True Crime falls short. While there are any number of technical factors that detract from the game (awkward controls and clunky cars to name only two), its true shortcomings are inherent in the design.

First, the "in-depth engaging story" simply doesn't work with this genre. The beauty of Grand Theft Auto was in open-ended activity within the carefully constructed city. While True Crime does set aside some space for that style of play in the game, it is overshadowed by the consistent story elements. Even within the exploration sections, you are constantly harassed with tasks to complete. The missions themselves are trite, repetitive, and uninteresting. Shoot these guys, chase those guys, fight this stripper, repeat. Where Grand Theft Auto felt like freedom, True Crime feels like a job.

This ties into the second flaw -- they've made our protagonist, Nick Kang, a cop. In doing so, they've lowered the walls of cultural protection a bit; it feels okay to watch a criminal beat up a random citizen, because he's a criminal. The first draft of this review started out with "This game could be a little more racist, had it been developed by KKK Studios." The truth is, however, that Grand Theft Auto relies on all the same stereotypes and caricatures, but watching inter-gang violence and playing a racist cop are two whole different ball games. Luxoflux tries to buffer this by making the police force a multicultural buffet (Kang is Asian-American, his partner Hispanic, and his commanding officer African-American), but you can only listen to our "hero" shout "It's Dim Sum time!" as he shoots up a Chinese gang so many times before you start to get uncomfortable.

One might be inclined to chalk something like this up to simply "being how it is" or to "realism," and dismiss it (or even applaud it, for representing a "true" LA cop). However, while gamers will occasionally debate the merits of realism, it is certainly not a requisite to a good game and occasionally a detriment to one. And if Luxoflux's primary concern was realism, they might have started by making bullets which move at a reasonable speed or a police officer who doesn't have to take lessons at a dojo before he figures out how to kick someone on the ground. The designers chose what to include as "real," and what not to. Not that this is to advocate representing a fantasy world where everyone's nice and criminals can be converted with a hug, but one can question the ethics of how they chose to portray Kang.

Of course, Luxoflux might claim that they weren't trying to present Kang as a hero. With the game's "Good Cop/Bad Cop" system, you're not stuck doing things by the book. If a suspect is proving too difficult to arrest, you can whip out your pistols and handle him the old fashioned way. Your karma will take a hit, but the game will proceed. This makes True Crime the ultimate buddy story, in a twisted way -- you can be both Murtaugh and Riggs at different points in the story. Presenting us with this choice, they can wipe their hands of it and say Kang is who we make him; if we want a boy scout, we can certainly have one. Sadly, this theory falls flat in practice -- no matter how high your Good Cop rating goes, Kang will still interact with his female partner as a misogynist jerk.

The soundtrack, touted as a tribute to west coast hip hop, varies between being faithfully that and just completely random. It doesn't take a connoisseur of rap to tell you immediately that Megadeth's "Symphony of Destruction" just doesn't fit. To be fair, the artists highlighted on the game's webpage certainly seem to fit with that intention, and the majority of the soundtrack lives up to it. There's plenty of Snoop Dogg and a bit of Coolio to satisfy your appetite, if that's what you're after. Perhaps they were just stretching to fill in some gaps and figured any power anthem would do in a pinch.

Really, though, True Crime's biggest failing is simply that it's not a masterpiece, but it has to live in the shadow of one. People will overlook the racism and misogyny of Gone with the Wind, because, well, it's Gone with the Wind. This game, however, has little hope of achieving such a status as it pales next to the champions of its genre. It fails to do anything spectacular, and, as a result, all of its flaws shine through clearly. True Crime cannot hide behind the all-concealing veil of "entertainment," because it simply doesn't have enough.

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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