True Crime: Hong Kong brought back from the dead by Square Enix

%26ldquo;We see this as a fantastic opportunity to create a new and unique franchise,%26rdquo; says Square Enix Studios London's General Manager Lee Singleton, %26ldquo;which gamers will come to know and love for years to come.%26rdquo; He's talking about the company's latest acquisition, a third installment in the True Crime series %26ndash; recently shelved by Activision, whose CEO told investors: %26ldquo;it just wasn't going to be good enough.%26rdquo; With the title's developers, United Front, being cut loose by Activision, the game's been picked up by the Japanese-owned company, who can do whatever they like with development, release and marketing %26ndash; anything, that is, except call it True Crime.

Above: %26ldquo;True Crime is goin' to Hong Kong!%26rdquo; (insert loud %26ldquo;gong%26rdquo; effect here)

The rights to the True Crime franchise are retained by Activision, who established the brand at the height of the %26ldquo;like Grand Theft Auto, but...%26rdquo; craze in the early 2000s. The original titles, True Crime: Streets of LA and True Crime: New York City, were styled after Grand Theft Auto, but with painstakingly correct street maps, which it turns out wasn't enough of a defining element: the series lay dormant for several years until this year, when Bobby Kotick announced that the series had failed to %26ldquo;after a sustained period of time get to [the] level of excellence%26rdquo; demanded by Activision, a company that only publishes perfect games.

Above: The next time you see this guy, he won't be called True Crime any more. And he may be a woman

True Crime: Hong Kong having successfully proved the impossibility of this particular impossible thing, United Front is free to make the game it wants to with Square Enix, provided nobody calls it True Crime. That may be less of a sacrifice than it sounds: the game, initially conceived by Treyarch, was originally intended as a standalone title named Black Lotus, a Hong Kong-set gangster thriller with a female lead whose gender-switching was the first big change Activision demanded. Will United Front turn back the clock on all this meddling and rebranding, or will it be a whole other thing altogether? The game's got no set release date %26ndash; or title, or confirmed story elements to speak of. Is %26ldquo;Hong Kong, guns, and the enthusiasm of professional game-adorers at Square Enix%26rdquo; enough to pique your interest?

Aug 1, 2011