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This is the first era that the player can access.
TK, an 18-year old man, works as a getaway driver for a New York crime ring in 1978, like robbing liquor stores, racing over the city and the circuit tracks. His good friend Ray works as a mechanic in Hunt's Point, where TK has a room. TK describes himself as "a country boy who wants to make good", and he moved from the country into New York.
- "Nickel and Dime": Lose the cops and get to Ray's Autos in Hunts Point.
The end cutscene shows TK relaxing when Ray arrives and he considers going deeper into the criminal world, instead of "always robbing nickel and dime stores". Afterwards, Ray introduces him to Slink, whom he does low-level work for.
- "Wheelman": Get Slink's Andec, fix it up, customize it and prove to him that you can drive.
- "Gunman": Prove Slink that you can use a gun.
- "Pay Ray": Do a few jobs until you could earn $1500 and pay it to Ray.
- "Hot Wheels": Steal an unsuspecting person's Cerva, get the attention of the cops and frame him.
Slink introduces TK to the Mexican, who sets up races for him to prove his way as a driver.
- "Last Chance": Race against a competitor in a motorcycle under the Mexican's orders.
- "Bread Run": Get Slink's money from his business all over Manhattan before time runs out, all while avoiding thugs in Reginas.
- "Repoman": Repossess the San Marino sports cars to Phoenix Autos using a tow truck for Slink.
After completing all 3 missions, TK meets Bishop, who hatches a plan to break an associate, Candy, out of Rikers Island Prison. Upon completion of this mission strand, the Manhattan safehouse is unlocked.
Usual jobs & jailbreak plan
- "Rosalita Racer": Get the Mexican's Rosalita before any other punks do and get it back to the Mexican.
- "Circuit Breaker": Help the racer that the Mexican bets on win the races at Hunt's Point & La Guardia.
- "Air Mail": Collects the packages that drop from the helicopter, then bring them back to Slink's lockup in Kearny.
- "Paddy Wagon": Steal the Prison Van in order to bust Candy out of prison.
- "Turning the Screw": Scare a prison security guard into giving information for the jailbreak while driving his San Marino Spyder.
- "Jail Break": Bust Candy out of prison.
The gangsters form a collective, composed of TK, Slink, Bishop, 'The Mexican' and Candy led by a corrupt undercover detective, Corrigan. Corrigan's organization wishes to start distributing cocaine in New York City, but a prominent Colombian drug lord, Rafael Martinez, already has a foothold, so Corrigan plans to have Martinez kidnapped. Candy here proves himself with his planning skills and orders TK to plant some bombs for him.
Kidnapping plan, ransom & betrayal
- "Gift Wrapped": Under Candy's orders, steal a Land Roamer and drive it over to Phoenix Autos, where it will be rigged with a bomb. Then head back the way you came.
- "Kidnap": After setting up everything for the kidnapping, Candy lays out a large, detailed plan. At the Manhattan safehouse, go with the role to make sure Martinez's convoy is going exactly where they want, with blowing a sign to block a bridge tunnel, a convoy car that was rigged with a bomb earlier to weaken the convoy, another train bridge to force them to another street in Queens so they can then block and assault it. Kidnap Martinez, and escape the police and the rest of his gang, and take him to a small warehouse in Bronx.
- "Ransom": The final mission of the 1978 era, which unlocks the 2006 era. Martinez' men offer the money in a bike on top of the parking lot, which turns out to be a trap. Escape across the rooftops and get into the Mexican's truck, escorting the money to the same warehouse.
After counting the money, Corrigan changes the plan and shoots Martinez dead. Figuring that TK is insignificant, and that they need somebody to set up, Corrigan shoots him at the same time and leaves him to be charged with kidnap and murder. TK is sentenced to 28 years at Sing-Sing prison.
While at Sing-Sing, TK plans vengeance upon each of the men who betrayed him. While he was incarcerated, Slink became a drug producer and a porno director and Bishop became a drugs kingpin who cooperates with Slink. Corrigan is now the Commissioner of the fictitious "City Police" and Candy became a gangster who runs a prostitution ring. They are all wealthy, except for the Mexican, who has become a low-life and alcoholic working in an arcade in Queens. TK is released in 2006, now aged 46.
- "The Mexican": Get revenge on the Mexican and kill him by chasing the train to the fairground in Brooklyn. At the end cutscene, the Mexican's corpse is thrown out of TK's car in front of Corrigan, who immediately recognizes him. The next day, Ray offers some help by meeting an ally of Candy, who's been running out of New York a lot.
- "Tailgate": Kill Candy's hitman in an Olympic Punk and meet Maria Cortez in Harlem.
Upon meeting Maria, TK agrees to work for her to kill Candy, while Ray digs up info on Bishop & Slink.
- "Ram Raider": Ray introduces the Ram Raider car, intended to sabotage Slink's shops all across Bronx. Initially, this turns out to be a trap, either escape or kill all bodyguards. Afterwards, the mission can be activated.
- "Rush Hour": Slink's bodyguards carry the stash in four identical Kramers, but only one got the drugs, while the others are decoys. Find the right car before the time runs out, and once you find the drug car, destroy it.
- "Slink": Ray calls TK and tells him of Slink's whereabouts. Kill Slink before he escapes in his Pimp Wagon.
Revenge on Candy
- "Guardian Angel": Maria asks you to escort the shipment from Kearny all the way to Hunt's Point, but decided to scrap the plans upon realizing it's a trap.
- "Gauntlet": Escort Maria's Schweizer with the bodyguard until he somehow dies, then drive Maria's car to her destination.
- "Riding Shotgun": Escort an Antilli VO3 Special located in a truck to Englewood while protecting it from Candy's gang. Eventually, the truck gives out near Maria's place in Manhattan and you have to drive the bike yourself.
- "Candy": Maria tells TK that Candy's back in town, TK heads to kill Candy, who plans to kill Maria and gets his henchmen to inject drugs into TK. Chase Candy's MX2000 down and destroy it before he gets to Maria.
Revenge on Bishop
- "Shell Shock": Collect a Boltus with a rocket launcher in a warehouse, escape the hitmen and drive it to Ray's Autos in La Guardia.
- "Gate Crasher": Lure the cops into Bishop's drug runs: a parking lot in Manhattan, a freighter in Brooklyn & a construction site in New Jersey.
- "Bishop": Bishop calls TK and challenges him in a chance to duel one-on-one in New Jersey, who uses a Negotiator. Destroy Bishop's Negotiator.
Revenge on Corrigan
Corrigan turns up at Ray's garage in Hunt's Point. He reveals that Ray has been secretly working for him, and set up the assassinations of Candy, Slink, the Mexican and Bishop, but only to secretly help Corrigan erase all of his connections to the 1978 kidnapping, so he couldn't be charged with anything in case one of the other four was arrested. Ray did this in exchange for money, because of his gambling problem and subsequent debt. Corrigan kills Ray then tries to shoot TK, but is saved by Maria who turns up armed. Corrigan escapes. Maria reveals she is actually the daughter of Rafael Martinez, the assassinated Colombian drug lord, and that she worked for Candy to track the killer of her father. She figured it out that Corrigan killed Martinez, and that TK was sentenced by Corrigan, and tells him that they should work together to catch Corrigan. It is also revealed that Corrigan figured it out that 28 years passed, and that he got out, so he carried out an assassination on TK, starting with blowing a car in front of Ray's Garage when they were going to meet Maria, another time when Ray built a car for TK to destroy Slink's business, once when TK was going to meet with Maria to prove her his driving skills by doing a job, and once when he sabotaged Bishop's drug operation.
- "Bear Cage": Get a police car with Candy's body in it and a pack of C4, drive it to the police station, set off the explosives in Corrigan's office and escape.
- "Home Wrecker": Steal Corrigan's limo with Slink's body in it & drive it to his mansion in Englewood, kill the guards & escape.
- "Corrigan": The final mission of the game. Maria tells TK that Corrigan is in Witness Protection. TK arrives in front of his hiding spot in New Jersey, shoots the guards, but Corrigan escapes by helicopter, when TK gives chase. After blowing up a tunnel with TK in it, with TK narrowly escaping, he shoots down the chopper. Corrigan survives, and starts crawling over the street, but TK arrives with a gun pointed at Corrigan's head. Maria tries to stop him from pulling the trigger, telling if he wants Corrigan to suffer, he should give Corrigan to Maria, who wants more revenge than TK. in the end, he accepts, and Maria's henchmen take Corrigan into her SUV, and TK holsters his gun and walks away.