At this point in the series’ history, it’s probably safe to say that nine out of ten people on the planet have played at least some of one of the Grand Theft Auto series. Every time one comes out, it sells like mad and garners almost universal praise. I started my journey with Grand Theft Auto III, as many did, and I’ve played through every iteration since, save the one they did for the Nintendo DS. Though I did hear that one was good.
Given that the Grand Theft Auto games are essentially a license to print money, it makes perfect sense that other game-design studios would want to get in on the action. This started relatively early, with such games as Driver, but probably the closest imitator was True Crime: Streets of LA, which essentially lifted the Grand Theft Auto template and rejiggered it for its own use.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Media has been imitating other media from the very beginning, be it orally told legends to blockbuster movies. The process is a little more obvious when it comes to video games, but only because video games are the new guy in town. What happens with them seems unique, even when it’s not.
The True Crime series spanned two releases and both were… okay. Though they tried to hit all the same beats as Grand Theft Auto, they were substandard in most cases. The games had their fans, but by and large people dismissed them as clones without much to recommend them. Better to just play a Grand Theft Auto game.
Having explored Los Angeles and then New York, the True Crime games decided to go exotic and they started in on True Crime: Hong Kong. This would be in development for a while until its publisher decided that it simply wasn’t good enough and pulled the plug. Japanese publisher SquareEnix swooped in at that point and saved the game — not a common thing, let me tell you — continuing its development and eventually releasing it in the form we have today: Sleeping Dogs.