Crime don’t pay and Crime Life: Gang Wars don’t play. by Cole Smith
December 12, 2005 – Crime Life: Gang Wars is not like a combination of The Warriors and GTA. It’s more like a cross between crap and more crap.
There are so many elements of other games incorporated into this one that the developers forgot to give it a personality of its own. The game tries to emulate the popular Rockstar franchises and the killing moves are indicative of Dead to Rights. The beat-’em-up gameplay style is borrowed from Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance. Instead of paying homage to these games, Crime Life: Gang Wars disses them and shows no respect.
Tre is the principal thug in this sorry-ass adventure. He’s trying to impress the crime boss to gain entry into the Outlawz crime gang. In order to do so he’s got to complete a lot of missions that include killing, fighting, stealing and tagging. The combat system is shallow and there’s no short-term rewards or instant gratification. You have to wait until the mission is complete to acquire a new move. You don’t acquire stats and you can’t purchase new moves or upgrade your skills. You are really limited in virtually every aspect. Now I can appreciate that if the game wants to strive for realism but in that case the story has to be bulletproof and the control system has to be very tight and flexible. If that’s the kind of stuff you’re looking for then you better look elsewhere.
I get into a lot of arguments with fans when I criticize their favorite games but more often than not I’m dealing with a person that is blinded by some kind of abject loyalty either to an iconic character and/or series or in this case, the subject matter. Some kids just want to pretend they’re gangstas and if that means playing a lousy game then so be it. I just can’t imagine any self-respecting gamer attempting to defend this game. It’s just not good. From the storyline to the graphics to the voiceovers and the gameplay it just exploits the thug lifestyle to a demographic that covets it vicariously through games, CDs and videos. Even well known hip hop artists managed to stay their distance from this game – and we all know how discerning they can be when there’s a buck to be made.
Grand Central City is the name of this metropolis. Even New York didn’t want its name associated with this game. Different areas of the city are connect via the subway. There are no cars to steal and none to drive, so if you want to get somewhere you’ve got to take the subway. Each region is controlled by different gangs such as the KYC, Headhunterz and the Pogue Mahoneys. I would like to say that each gang poses a unique threat but such is not the case. You have a limited amount of moves available for melee combat including a hard and a light punch of which you can make a combo. You have to really pummel your opponent to do much damage which grinds the gameplay down into a button masher. The object of the combat is to dwindle your enemy’s health meter to zero and then administer the finishing killer move.
Continually punching your enemy will fill your adrenaline meter which is used to activate the killing move. There are a variety of killing moves, some which involve weapons such as bats, knives and swords. Other killing moves include snapping a neck or breaking a back with a well-placed boot. It takes a significant amount of hand-to-hand combat to tackle an enemy so when you’re locked in a fight you’re going to be at it for a while. This is especially dangerous when you’re surrounded by gang members. Even your own members get in the way but the worst scenario is when another rival member starts taking shots at you while you’re busy fighting with another one. The switching system required to direct your hits at another character is so slow and cumbersome that you’re better off just finishing the thug you’re wailing on before you turn around. Either way you’re going to get it from one or the other.
Missions are filled with multiple objectives that are hard to keep track off. Sometimes you’ll have to kill someone and then fetch something or go to some special area. Not all of the objectives are related and because they don’t always make contextual sense it’s easy to forget to do something such as random acts of vandalism or tagging. Some of these extra goals are buried in the text-based mission briefings that you receive through an in-game email. Some goals are pointed out by the game and are obviously very easy to locate.
Eventually you will have more responsibility and must show good leadership skills to your gang members. You will have to protect them from rival gangs and corrupt police. Through your actions you can be good or bad depending on how you treat innocent civilians and women in your hood. When your boys are low on energy you’ve got to get them some junk food to replenish their health. When a member runs out of health he will still hang with you but he can’t do nothing more than stand around looking like he’s going to puke.
Respect is an elusive quality. To earn respect you have to perform a variety of arbitrary missions for different characters. There is no Respect meter so you never really know how much you’re getting or exactly how it is that you acquire it since there are typically a number of side-missions to complete which interrupts the flow.
Characters display awkward animation and their faces look like they’ve been reworked in the emergency room more than a few times. The urban environment may appear sprawling at first but you are confined to portions of smaller areas where you can perform your missions. Various objects in these environments such as window, cars and parking meters, (a source of income) are destructible. Slowdown occurs when the screen is busy, and no it’s not a form or bullet time, it’s actually unintentional and very annoying.
The cutscenes are among some of the worst acted I’ve ever seen. The writing is equally as amateurish as the acting. Never mind the bad grammar, but the whole hip hop vernacular is just cliché after bad cliché. The tunes aren’t bad but like the game they lack originality and polish. Don’t let the Xbox Live fool you, there is no multi-player mode – no one would want to play this game that long. Instead, you just log on to the network to tell the world what a damn fool you are for buying this game.
- Urban gang-life action game with an all-star cast of hip hop artists
- Music, voice and likeness from members of hit rap group D12
- Free roaming gameplay with mission based story mode
- Morally driven story – consequences for actions, good or bad
By Cole Smith
CCC Staff Writer