There can be no mistaking that Gameloft’s Gangstar: Crime City draws its primary influence from the first two iterations of Grand Theft Auto. A sandbox universe where you can hijack cars and engage in urban street warfare with rival criminals, Gangstar is a unique world of its own inside your cell phone.
Graphically, Gangstar is a 2D top down game with copious amounts of colors to make the urban jungle less monotonous. People, including your on-screen persona, are not particularly detailed from this birds eye point of view. However, the meat of the game will have you traveling in vehicles and these are better depicted on the screen with your usual assortment of sedans, coupes, SUVs, and trucks. During night time sequences, they also have some neat headlight effects although it’s mostly for show as there is enough brightness/contrast to make out everything.
It comes as no surprise that Gangstar boils down to a string of missions and mini-games offered by various crime bosses throughout the city. Missions typically range from assassinations, gang warfare, Fedex-style rescue/delivery and VIP escorts. Typical of Grand Theft Auto, you assume this nameless, speechless persona who recently left prison to start off again in Crime City. You’re in debt to a local boss (very originally) called Kingpin and must work it off. Missions are the easiest way to do this but the game also offers a limited route where you can buy clubs, eateries and even own a music label that will steadily earn cash for you provided you have the initial capital.
One thing to note is the dialogue in this game. Gangstar won’t get a walk-in cameo from Ray Liotta because the script itself is struggling (or rather screaming) for street cred. I’m not sure if the point was to include every single piece of urban slang in the game but it does feel like the denizens of Crime City are trying too hard.
Any game inspired from Grand Theft Auto will undoubtedly have to include races and driving challenges and these are scattered throughout the game. Vehicle control is fairly simple. The game offers what it calls assisted or expert control. This is a bit of a misnomer since it really means whether the controls are relative to the vehicle or the map. Out of all the things you can do in Gangstar, I found the driving missions the most difficult. The difficulty level for these oscillates from pedestrian to frustrating trial and error sessions. Because of the small screen of the cell phone, it’s difficult to see far ahead to anticipate turns or obstacles.
With over 60 missions, Gangstar is an ambitious project. The game world is large enough that it will take you awhile to see and (at least attempt) to do everything. While Gameloft pitches Gangstar as a jump in and start playing, the lengthier than normal load times might put a crimp on that. Judging from the commercial success this kind of game formula has in the industry where clones such as Saint’s Row and Crackdown are making waves,
Gangstar should have no trouble finding enough audience to spawn a sequel. Hopefully the the difficulty level and quality of missions will be more consistent in future iterations.