True Crime: Hong Kong – E3 2010 Impressions

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True Crime: Hong Kong developer United Front Games (the guys who made ModNation Racers, oddly) are setting out to accomplish three things with the upcoming cop movie-inspired sandbox title:

  1. They want it to feel as good in the car as out of the car.
  2. Make the city a real-world, living environment.
  3. Have a likable, imperfect character who can support a modern open-world game.

At E3 last week, United Front’s Jeff O’Connell gave us a tour of how their vision of Hong Kong is shaping up so far. Impressions and details after the jump.

O’Connell was very upfront about True Crime: Hong Kong’s Hollywood influences. It’s shooting for a mixture of stuff like Point Break, Reservoir Dogs and The Departed. Basically an action thriller about an undercover cop who’s torn by his obligations to his duty, and the compromises he has to make to get the job done. In True Crime: Hong Kong, this man is Wei Shen, an undercover cop attempting to infiltrate Hong Kong’s Triad syndicate.

In the first mission we saw in the demo, Wei must find a dirty merchant in the market named Ming, and collect a debt. As Wei slowly walked through an alleyway marketplace area, we got a taste for how the world will behave. The market was bustling with activity, people dancing around a jukebox, merchants hawking, tons of people milling around, etc.

Surprise, Ming didn’t want to go willingly. A foot-chase ensued. Here we got to see how the free-flow chase mechanics would work. During foot chases, you’ll run into obstacles: fences, trash, people, stuff like that. With a single, well-timed button press, Wei can gracefully dodge/jump over the obstacle and keep going. Mess up, and you’ll be slowed down for your clumsiness. When flawlessly executed (like it appeared to be during our demo) this looked pretty cool, and like a good cop movie chase.

Finally Wei caught up with Ming and his thug pals, and we got to see some fighting. Wei has a bobbing boxer’s style, and can do standard punch and kick combos, with a few twists. We saw some brutal bone-break finishes, where the camera would zoom in and the action would slow down for second. In one of these Wei kicked a dude’s leg right at the joint, snapping it. You can also interact with the environment in cool ways. Wei threw one guy off of a roof, smashed another guy’s head into a TV, and one very unlucky guy’s face into a vent fan (which was bloody and awesome). It reminded me a little of Splinter Cell: Conviction’s “interrogation moves,” but fully integrated into third-person beat-’em-up combat.

We skipped ahead to a new mission, one about halfway through the game according to O’Connell. In this mission, Wei had to return a motorcycle to someone on the dock for some cash. And that guy was…Ming! That crazy guy. So, before the mission, we got a good look at a cutscene, which looked pretty damn good actually.

Wei sped off on the motorcycle, heading to the objective. The driving looked nice and tight, except for one noticeable oddity. Wei crashed into the back of a red sports car, and actually lifted it off the ground with his head. Then he drove off like everything was cool. Anyway, the highlight of this section came when Wei got to the dock. Stuff with Ming went poorly (he knows Wei is a cop!), and a firefight broke out. Wei drove the motorcycle straight at a garage, ditched it, and when the motorcycle crashed into the garage there was a beautiful explosion. It was kind of Bond-esque and looked fun. Hopefully you’ll be able to do that kind of thing a lot in the game.

Wei got out a machine gun and went to work on Ming (and his endless thug pals). Shooting looked pretty standard. There’s a circular reticle used for aiming, and it looked like it was auto-locking onto nearby enemies. Once the dock was cleared out, Wei stuff Ming into the trunk of his car and drove off.

Lastly, we were shown a flythrough of Hong Kong in its entirely while O’Connell gave us some details about the game. It looked pretty huge! It’ll also sport a full 24-hour weather time cycle, with ambiance dynamically based on the location and time of day. Other goodies: in addition to the core story missions, you can do favors, mini games like karaoke and cards, hack computers, pick locks, engage in car races, bike races and boat races, and unlock Achievements. Also, you can customize your character’s outfits, and load up on lots of different weapons.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t actually try the game out for ourselves in this eyes-only demo. But True Crime: Hong Kong definitely looks like an ambitious sandbox crime thriller in a rich setting. We’ll keep you up to date on True Crime: Hong Kong as it nears its September 21 release date.

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