There's no getting away from it. Yes, the new True Crime game looks a bit like Grand Theft Auto. But the old True Crime games were a bit like Grand Theft Auto, so that comes as no surprise. More intriguing is the longer list of titles from which this new instalment in the series has taken its cues. Burnout, Batman, Ghost Recon, Need for Speed, Mirror's Edge, Assassin's Creed, Ratchet & Clank, Bejeweled... All of these games are referred to during the course of our 45 minute demo, and only the last one as a joke.
Then again, the variety of influences comes as no surprise when you consider the pedigree of the development studio. United Front was established two-and-a-half years ago but most of its employees have been around for a lot longer than that. They came from the likes of EA Black Box, Radical and Rockstar, having worked on games such as Skate, Bully and Prototype. Two of them, producers Stephen Van der Mescht and Jeff O'Connell, have come to the Game Developers Conference to show off True Crime.
They begin by explaining the thinking behind the subtitleless game name. "We're looking at this the same way JJ Abrams handled Star Trek," says Van der Mescht. "It's a reboot of the franchise. We're going back to the beginning, taking it back to ground level and building it up from there."
This philosophy was key to deciding the game would be set in Hong Kong, he explains. "This is going to be the first open-world action game set in an Asian setting. Obviously there's Yakuza, but that's markedly different in terms of a gameplay experience. Hong Kong made perfect sense for us because the fact it was under British rule for so long means there's a nice fusion of East meets West."
That fusion even appears to extend to the main character, Wei Shen - an undercover cop who speaks with a perfect American accent, and who looks almost as Caucasian as he does Asian. Today's gameplay demo opens with a cut-scene where Wei Shen is talking to Winston, a local Triad boss.
Winston is not very happy, as you can tell by the way he keeps screaming things like "Dog Eyes tried to shoot my f***ing mom" and "What the f***? Bring the f***ing guns right now". He tells Wei to head down to the local heroin packing plant and shut it down, as revenge for the attack on his f***ing mom. The most efficient way to do this, of course, will be to shoot everyone in the face, but Wei must keep one particular chap alive if he is to avoid incurring the wrath of a more powerful Triad.
Off we go to the heroin plant, then, courtesy of a hijacked car which swerves and screeches through the city streets. There are four neighbourhoods in this open-world and the one we're currently in is called North Point, as is a real-life area of Hong Kong. However, O'Connell says, it's modelled more on Kowloon. "Our game is not geomapped to the real Hong Kong. It uses the same districts and general layout, but it's all built for gameplay," he explains.
"It's been important for us to capture the essence of Hong Kong," Van der Mescht chimes in. "We have not focused on faithfully recreating every street and landmark, we've looked at it more from the perspective of capturing the feeling of being there. Which means taking iconic landmarks and staying true to the neighbourhoods in terms of the ones that actually exist, but putting this all together to maximise gameplay."