Crime Life: Gang Wars
Popular gaming commentary website UK Resistance recently ran what it called the Blue Sky In Games campaign. An end to all this dreary urban yoof street gang violence dark days misery. A return to the days when gaming meant collecting golden rings in colourful platform worlds made of ice cream, and a colour palette bedecked with yellows, pinks and lime greens. It's a noble cause, a good cause, a just cause, a cause we at PC heartily endorse. Sadly, Crime Life couldn't be further from these aims if it tried, and instead represents a particularly nasty nadir in the path of gaming history.
It's a non-stop relentless-o-thon. A melange of drive-bys, gangbanging, robberies, urban decay, violent actions and people talking Ebonics. Ora carefully monitored, marketing-led, BBFC-friendly interpretation of Ebonics, expressly designed to appeal to the target demographic, at any rate. Oh, and it's not much cop.
The premise is that you're a new initiate into the street gang The Outlawz (although with no back-story, character or introduction it feels as though you've just dropped into the world, Mr Bean-style). You have to prove your chops by, basically, beating everyone up, committing crime and generally hell-raising in the worst possible way.
Not Quite 8 Mile
With the emphasis on worst. This amounts to lots and lots of fighting, anyone and everyone, giving the Crime Life world the feel of one giant deathmatch arena, rather than any serious look at gang life in the modern age. It's not helped by the worst camera since The Matrix: Path of Neo, never quite giving you enough view to avoid distant trouble spots or turning fast enough to give you fluid control over the combat.
On top of that, the visual style employed doesn't exactly push the boundaries of modern technology, with poor textures, animation and detail, all giving the impression of a half-hearted console port at best. There's plenty to explore, but despite the amount of 'real life' scenery dressing (non-drivable cars, civilians, shops, bars, strip clubs and so on), none of it really amounts to much, not helped by the lack of any decent story structure to tie everything together.
You see, whereas something like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas manages to invest in the game's street life action a story with decent characterisation, actual dramatic development and genuine interest, Crime Life seems to think that throwing every cliche in the book at you is sufficient to justify the never-ending stream of violence. GTA attempts to justify your actions. Crime Life simply revels in its moral abhorrence. GTA is deep. Crime Life is shallow. GTA keeps it real (ish). Crime Life is as real as Ali G. GTA entertains. Crime Life bores.
Even the violence doesn't appeal much beyond the first few gang brawls. With combat happening roughly every ten steps, it doesn't take long for you to exhaust the different fighting moves on offer, and although some variety is afforded by grabbing different weapons, most fights are pretty random button-mashing affairs with little in the way of grace, style or skill on display.
Is there anything to recommend then? Well, at a pinch you can argue the soundtrack is decent, but then, having spent so much money signing the cream of the UK and European rap scene, that's to be expected (although if you're not into your hardcore hip-hop, you'll not find anything here to appeal other than the Music Off option). The attempt at creating a free-roaming world does offer some interest, although with no option to use vehicles or swing the camera into a view that feels comfortable, it all feels very sub-GTA.
That's Crime Life's biggest problem really. Everything you could want from this game is done far, far better in GTA: San Andreas. Whatever differences there are (other than in terms of quality) unfortunately ring of being marketing-led and as such feel venomous, cynical and morally bankrupt. Applying a random lead pipe battering to an old woman in the street, for instance, often results in absolutely no negative consequence whatsoever. Which sends out a reprehensible message to the more impressionable gamers (especially over on the console market, which is where most of Crime Life's sales will take place).
Am I being over-sensitive? No, I don't think so. I'd happily recommend the similarly violent GTA series, but mainly on grounds of quality gaming. Crime Life fails in both gaming and moral terms. What we wouldn't have given for a few shiny rings to collect. Y'getme?
Download Crime Life: Gang Wars
This one time? I was rounding up some hookers for a rich guy in "Blingsley Hills"--we all get in a big street brawl, me, the hookers, and one of my pals against a bunch of guys that I know are bad because they're wearing blue vests. One of the hookers is getting low on health (if she dies, the mission restarts), so I leave the melee and run three blocks to the burger shop. I buy the ailing hooker--who's still fighting down the street, remember--a nice burger with fries, which refills her health bar. As the battle rages, I stay in the safety of the burger joint, monitoring health bars and buying food when folks are about to die. This was the only fun moment I had with Crime Life, and it wasn't even, you know, literal fun; it was "hawhaw, what a stupid game" fun. I played Crime Life for over 10 hours before I put the controller down in disgust--not because it's a crass, mindless brawler designed to hit the lowest thug denominator (although that didn't help), but because it's so fundamentally terrible. The button-pounding gameplay is an ugly mess, the graphics, an even uglier mess, and the "urban" trappings are just embarrassing. I didn't finish Crime, but I know i didn't miss any good parts.
The back of the box reads, "So you wanna be a gangsta?" Oh hell no. From Crime Life's ridiculous missions (steal "bling" so your boss can dress better, go get wasted and then beat the crap out of five nobodies--are you kidding me?) to its butt-ugly presentation, fighting for dummies combat, and horrible camera, this deeply flawed sandbox game is way overpriced even at $20. Just imagine for a second that you wanted a Gl Joe action figure for your birthday, but instead someone bought you that shoddy, odd-looking doll dressed in army fatigues with a Spider-Man head from the dollar store. Crime Life is the bargain bin version of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
This whole gangsta subgenre that grew up around San Andreas is hurting. And Crime Life takes it to a new low, making titles like 50 Cent and 187: Ride or Die seem like masterpieces. A weak, uninspired fighting system, where the gruesome finishing moves are the sole highlight, is at the heart of the problem. But bad as the combat is, the developers commit a cardinal sin by omitting any sort of co-op play in a game that desperately cries out for it. What Crime Life needs even more, though, are graphics that don't look like they were done for a PS1 budget title. Seriously, Crime Life is one of the worstlooking games to come out this year. Just another reason to stay away, I guess.