What is it about flying cars? People have been predicting we would all be buzzing around in the skies for decades, and yet here we are in the 21st century and we're still rooted to the ground with all four wheels sticking solidly to the tarmac. But although flying cars are common in the movies (Bladerunner, Back To The Future, Fifth Element etc), they are rather less abundant in computer games. Polish developers Techland are looking to change all that with Crime Cities, a kind of airborne 3D accelerated Grand Theft Auto for the new millenium...
Crime Cities is set in a series of four prison cities, which fall somewhere between Fifth Element and Escape From New York, with towering skyscrapers and streams of traffic flying around between them. These vary from your standard Bladerunner style neon-lit decaying urbanscape to a partially flooded city. You play Garm Tiger, a government agent who is framed for treason to allow him to infiltrate a criminal organisation known as the "Synclides", who are believed to be behind a crime wave which is causing chaos and terror in the outside world. And so Garm takes on the role of "Johnny Red", a mercenary imprisoned in one of the vast criminal cities, taking on missions for a range of different factions to earn money and earn the respect and trust of your fellow prisoners. There are well over 100 missions to complete spread across the game's four cities, although they generally boil down to "search and destroy" - find the target and take him out with a bit of vehicle to vehicle mid-air combat. Of course, the first thing you do on entering the city is wander around blasting people at random just for the fun of it, but doing so will bring the wrath of the police on you. And as they don't know you are an undercover agent, they will shoot to kill if they find you opening fire on neutral cars.
Cash And Carry
Completing missions brings you a variety of rewards, including weapons and equipment, a better relationship with the faction which hired you, and of course cold hard cash. This money can then be spent on improving your vehicle, as you start out the game with a flying car which is fast and agile but fairly flimsy and poorly armed. Luckily you can replace it with any of fifty other vehicles as you progress through the game, and there is also a range of over twenty different weapons you can bolt on to your car to help you take out your targets and those pesky police. There is also a selection of new equipment which can be added to upgrade your chosen vehicle, although you start the game with the most important items already fitted - a radar to help you track down potential targets, and your Globnet connection, through which you receive and accept or reject offers of missions from the various factions in the cities. There is certainly plenty of scope for you to customise your vehicle throughout the game as you earn more cash and respect, and it should help add some much needed variety to the proceedings.
Crime Cities is perhaps not the most imaginative game we have ever seen, freely mixing gameplay influences from the likes of Descent and Grand Theft Auto with the styling of films like Bladerunner and Escape From New York, but it's certainly a combination which hasn't been tried before.
Judging from our brief hands-on time with the game at the recent ECTS 2000 trade show in London it certainly has the potential to be an entertaining game, and the sheer scope should give it some longevity, with four vast cities to explore, dozens of targets to eliminate and a wide range of vehicles and weapons to purchase.