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A wide-open sandbox game where you play a Chinese-American cop in L.A., in the vein of irreverent action-comedies such as Beverly Hills Cop. It is noted for several things: Being immeasurably better than Dead to Rights at the whole "Mix gunplay with martial arts" genre-blending thing, being really funny, and allowing the plot to progress even if you fail every single mission (though failure does prompt many different branchings and will affect how good an ending you reach).
Also notable for the fact that it pulls yet another sudden Genre Shift during the latter part of the Good ending, where Nick Kang descends underneath the city and starts fighting zombies and dragons, in an homage to Big Trouble in Little China.
It was followed by a sequel, True Crime: New York City, which was not nearly as well-received by critics or fans. A third True Crime game, titled True Crime: Hong Kong, was in production before being cancelled by Activision in 2012. It has since been picked back up by Square-Enix and retitled Sleeping Dogs, and is set to release in August 2012.
- Attack! Attack! Attack!: It's extremely rare to find criminals who will give up when you flash your badge. Almost all criminals will attack you or run away when confronted. Several offenders of minor crimes will go through extreme amounts to get away from Nick. The worst example would be common muggers stealing cars and taking off to the other side of Los Angeles when confronted. Also those in street fights will forget about whatever it was they were fighting about and focus their aggressions on you.
- Back Seats Are Just for Show
- Bullet Time: Using precision aiming slows down time and allows you to see bullets in flight.
- Car Skiing: One of several possible vehicular stunts.
- Cowboy Cop: Nick, which is actually why he was recruited for the Elite Operations Division: they want cops who aren't afraid to bend the rules.
- Deadpan Snarker: Nick snarks at everything.
- Failure Is the Only Option: Averted! You can succeed at anything you want, or fail at anything you want, and keep on going either way.
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Christopher Walken, and James Hong basically reprises his role from Big Trouble In Little China. Mako plays the voice of the Man Behind the Man, General Han Yu Kim.
- Honor Before Reason: If you try to pull out Nick's guns during a designated fist-fight, Nick will reach for them, but then stop and say something like "Nah, let's do this honorably!" or "Must...resist...the dark side!" or "I'd rather just beat the crap out of you."
- Karma Meter: Perform non-lethal takedowns (like shooting a guy in the arm) gets you Good points, while shooting them in the head is Bad.
- Those are just the easiest ways to affect the karma meter. Reckless driving is Bad, lethal takedowns are bad, property damage is bad, stealing is bad, and in some cases, causing car accidents is bad (but if you find someone that wasn't wearing their seatbelt after a crash, it's a wash). Stopping random crimes is good, and frisking people without cause and finding something illegal is good (What Fourth amendment?).
- The Mafiya: They appear to be the Big Bad of the game. The truth is a bit more complicated than that.
- Only a Flesh Wound: A possible option for the player is to perform non-lethal takedowns.
- Ring of Fire: You fight the true final boss hand-to-hand in a ring of fire in the wreckage of a crashed jet.
- Stealth Based Mission: The least common of the mission types has Nick sneaking very quietly through a short level. You can perform non-lethal takedowns, lethal Neck Snaps (for Bad points) and have an emergency dart gun with only three shots.
- Sword and Gun: Well, fist and gun, anyway. Nick is able to shoot or beat the crap out of anyone and can switch to either whenever he wants. Most story missions are designated as either shooting or fighting missions, though; the adaptability mostly just comes into play when you're cruising the streets.
- True Final Boss: Interestingly, the true final boss is the same as the Bad Ending boss; the difference is that there, you had no idea what he was really up to or what he was trying to accomplish, whereas he spells it all out for you in the Good ending. There, you've successfully eliminated all the conspirators that he was also gunning for.
General Kim: All I had to to was to follow you. Now my mission is nearly complete.
Nick Kang: Nearly? Is there anyone left?
General Kim: Just you, Kang.
- Wretched Hive: The in-universe Los Angeles. You can stand at an intersection and see five muggings or street fights one after another.