With popular games like Saints Row, Crackdown 2, and Infamous 2 being born in the wake of Grand Theft Auto, Activision knows standing out in the crowded open world action genre isn't easy. To revive its dormant True Crime brand, the publisher brought on the expertise of United Front Games, a diverse team that includes developers who have worked on Bully, Prototype, and the Need For Speed series. United Front hopes to leverage its experience to deliver a game on par with Rockstar's juggernaut.
Rather than cling to the old True Crime formula, United Front is approaching the game as if it were a new IP. The key tenants driving the development are to capture the essence of Hong Kong, make it as fun to run around the city on foot as it is behind the wheel, and deliver a story that keeps you invested in the trials and tribulations of undercover cop Wei Shen as he infiltrates a Triad gang.
To show off the progress the team has made since starting development in 2007, United Front showed off two mission sequences. The first, Night Market Chase, begins at night in the crowed Hong Kong streets. Wei is instructed by a gangster named Winston to find and retrieve a petty thug named Dirty Ming. Upon entering the bustling market, a contact named Kwan gives us the tip on where Ming is hanging out. As Wei makes his way to the location, we take in the flurry of activity happening in the streets - people dancing, men chopping meat at food stands, and grouping lingering on corners and conversing. When Ming sees Wei approach, he takes off and a frantic chase through the crowded streets ensues. Ming pushes his way through the crowd and takes a staircase up to another area of the city. To cut the distance gap, Wei climbs up a sign instead. The chase includes jumps off ledges, crashes through market windows, and a street fight that shows off the brutal hand-to-hand combat system.
True Crime's melee combat is focused around combos, counters, and using the environment to your advantage. During the scuffle, we watch Wei break legs with brutal kicks, shove a man's face into a fan, put another one's head through a television set, and shove another baddie into an electricity switch, electrocuting him in the process. When Ming tries to better his odds with a chef's knife, Wei disarms him to end the confrontation.
The second mission, Top Glamour Imports, finds Wei in a motorcycle chase with Ming after he confronts him about being an undercover cop. As Wei flies through the streets on the crotch rocket, a slow-motion gunplay system lets him cherry pick enemies positioned behind cover. After sending his motorcycle into a fuel tank, Wei takes Ming hostage, uses him as moveable cover while picking off enemies, and shoves him in the trunk to take him back to headquarters for interrogation.
From the stunt camera when taking jumps to the GPS navigation system, the demo reminded us a lot of Grand Theft Auto. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and we're looking forward to exploring more of Hong Kong in the near future.