L.A. Crackdown (Epyx) Review | Commodore User - Everygamegoing

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L.A. Crackdown
By Epyx
Commodore 64/128

 
Published in Commodore User #60

L.A. Crackdown

Los Angeles, California. City of stars, smog and sleaze of "big money, sharpshooters, percentage workers, fast dollar boys and hoodlums... a hard-boiled city with no more personality than a paper-cup."

Not much has changed since Philip Marlowe walked down these streets forty years ago; only now the cops stake-out in surveillance vans and the crooks smuggle dope inside motherboards and disk drives.

L.A. Crackdown is another game in the Epyx Masters Collection, 'so sophisticated they are recommended for the advanced game player', and if you think the snappy title suggests Crockett-and-Tubbs type action then you're going to be seriously disappointed. This is plodding police routine at its most monotonous.

As an ace narcotics investigator for the LAPD, it's your job to break up a vice racket that's importing synthetic eastern drugs inside boxes of clone computers. Your partner is a rookie straight out of police academy, selected from four promising recruits at the start of each assignment, and he's the one who gets to do the dirty work while you watch from the safety of a police surveillance van. Your partner gets all the thrills, but you live longer.

The van's equipped with two video screens. On one you can watch the rookie as he enters buildings, searches rooms and engages in fruitless conversation with suspects. The other screen depicts the scene outside the van, and it's here that you'll see suspects arrive and depart in their cars. The van's also got a map display; this will either show your van moving around the streets of L.A., or your rookie's progress through any buildings which he enters.

The rest of the hi-tech gadgetry at your fingertips comprises a clock/calendar, an options menu used for controlling the rookie and driving the van, and a bug monitor which tells you when telephone calls are being recorded. While your partner wears out shoe leather, snooping around, taking photographs of anything which looks interesting and planting bugs, you sit back and try to make sense of the evidence - calling up police records, reviewing photos and taped conversation, until, hopefully, a pattern emerges.

It all sounds very absorbing, but it's not. Most of the time you're parked outside the Pacific Shipping Company warehouse, the County airport, the downtown Sushi Bar or Patrick Sim's plush residence, just watching cars arrive and depart, and building up a daily timetable of the traffic. Or else your partner's searching the same rooms over and over again, waiting for some careless mobster to drop an incriminating document, or transferring the phone bugs from one location to another.

If you stick at this long enough - and we're talking weeks here, not days - you'll eventually collect some goodies: a despatch note, or a flight timetable, or even, if you're really lucky, a dead junkie. But it's unbelievably tedious, painstaking work, and work which makes no demands of deductive skills at all.

And what really gets on your nerves are the glaring inconsistencies which litter the program. Your rookie can be talking to a suspect on one video screen, while that same suspect on one video screen, while that same suspect can be seen driving off on the other screen. People arrive at buildings (especially the airport) only to vanish or depart from locations which were previously deserted. You can tail shipping boss Patrick Sims with relative ease, but never follow his girlfriend Lisa. Why not?

Most of the characters seem to have only a limited vocabulary; if your partner runs into them more than two or three times they're apt to lock into dialogue you've already heard. At times this can be ridiculous, as when Sims finds your partner snooping around his office at 7.45am on a Sunday morning (suspicious, huh?) and instead of calling the guards he comes out with the same excessively polite speech that he's used on at least three previous encounters.

These idiosyncrasies and others don't do much to create atmosphere, and what little there is gets ruined by blocky graphics and primitive sound effects. The playing area is small (only four buildings, with 24 locations in all) and the range of actions open to you and your partner is limited.

With a better script, more action, imaginative dialogue and more use made of the L.A. background, this game could have been twice as difficult as well as actually fun to play. The programmers should take a look at Mirrorsoft's brilliant Intrigue to see where they went wrong.

Bill Scolding

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