True Crime

Honk Kong Phooey?

True Crime's plot, while perfectly serviceable, is pretty traditional stuff, so let's kick off with a relevant paradox or two instead. They may not actually be genuine paradoxes, obviously, as I'm quite thick.

Paradox one: Publishers release so many games because they know that most games won't actually make much money. Paradox two: With so many games knocking around, if you're a developer and you're playing it safe, you're probably actually taking a huge risk.

In the - possibly mythical - old days, when plenty of the games that graced the top 40 lists had a chance of making a decent return, you could play it safe: you could lurk quietly in the warm centre of a genre, doing everything that was expected of you to a reasonable standard, and take no gambles on interesting new ideas that might potentially alienate part of your audience. You didn't have to be great, you just had to be good enough.

Increasingly, that's not, er, good enough. Increasingly, you have to mark yourself out from everybody else. You still don't have to be great - what are you, a Communist? - but you do have to be a bit of a loudmouth. In a classroom full of extraverts, you have to be the one wearing clown makeup and hinting about how you may have just killed your family and buried them in the backyard.

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Expect mini-games, specifically mini-games involving karaoke.

In other words, if you're a racing game, you have to be the one where everything explodes. If you're an FPS, you have to be the one where you decide whether or not to murder little children to level up your powers. If you're a puzzle game, you have to be the one with an RPG threaded into it, and even then you can't be sure you'll succeed, so you should probably throw in the bit about murdering children again just to hedge your bets.

That's the problem with True Crime. It doesn't look bad, but it certainly doesn't look great, either. It looks - what's the phrase? - good enough.

Activision's latest open-world cops-and-robbers outing moves the action to Hong Kong, a city where wooden shacks nestle alongside glass mega-scrapers, where the roadsides are filled with glittering neon signage, and the night sky is stained a sodium orange.

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Some of the combat has shades of Stranglehold, but sadly without Chow.

It looks like a decent place to drive around - easily identifiable, but gently caricatured - and there's the expected range of vehicles to pinch in order to get your undercover cop from A to B. The trailer even has speedboats. Everybody likes them.

With a nod to Just Cause 2 - although it feels more like Pursuit Force - you can leap from one car to the next as you drive along, via a handy contextual prompt, and once you're on foot and in the middle of a mission you have a similar range of gymnastic options, too. Combat's spread across gunplay - which looks pretty serviceable as it shifts between Crackdown-styled body part targeting and a free-aim - and melee fighting.

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