True Crime: Streets of LA casts you as Nick Kang, a cop for the Los Angeles Police Department. Due to your extreme methods of policing and your ability to cause massive amounts of property damaged, you are suspended, only to be recruited by the EOD (Elite Operations Division), where your reckless attitude is a plus.
240 square miles of Los Angeles has been accurately rendered for you to cause havoc in. As a cop, you must behave when doing your duty. The game has a good cop/bad cop system, that gives you points based on what you do. Beat up an innocent pedestrian or run over a criminal that's surrendered and your rating will go down. Eventually, you can lose stats you've built up. Arrest a surrendering criminal or frisk an innocent that's acting suspicious, and your rating will go up, enabling you to upgrade certain aspects.
There are two main modes of getting around; on foot or in car. You can hijack (or, in police terms, commedate) various cars. Sports cars, sedans, etc. are yours for the taking. Each has various handling and stats. Since you're a well trained cop, you're capable of firing your weapon while driving. In an open top vehicle, you can aim anywhere. The other method is walking. While walking, you may encounter the odd street crime or suspicious looking pedestrian, which will let you get good or bad points, depending.
True Crime features a branching storyline with three different endings, depending on how good or bad you are. In missions where you're required to do something, failing does not mean repeating the mission. If you fail to tail someone to a hideout, you'll have a harder time finding that hideout in a later mission, whereas if you capture someone, your next mission will be easier.
Aside from gunplay, you're well trained in martial arts. You can pull off various punch and kicks, as well as combos. You can also grapple and possibly throw someone, ala a wrestling move.
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