The fourth entry in Gameloftís Gangstar series, Gangstar Vegas
is, for all intents and purposes, a GTA clone. Thatís not to say
that it is entirely without merit, only that it takes the familiar
open-world crime genre and runs with it, and much of the criticism
levelled at it pertains to this perceived lack of originality.
You play Jason Malone, a rising MMA star who gets paid to take a
dive by bigwig gangster Frank Valieno. Predictably, everything goes
pear shaped and Jason soon finds himself on the run. Alone in Sin
City, Jason turns to Vera and Karen, who control what little
criminal activities Frank doesnít have a hand in, and soon finds
himself running errands and immersing himself deeper into the seedy
criminal underbelly of Las Vegas.
Admittedly the story is generic, but itís really just a flimsy
framework to justify the myriad of unsavoury shenanigans you can get
up to in the game, both story related and as optional side missions.
These include the prerequisite taxi missions, rampages, street
races, horde modes and much, much more; Gameloftís depiction of
Vegas is absolutely huge and packed to the brim with things to do.
The campaign engages enough to give an incentive to play through the
80 missions, and the voice-overs are of a good standard, but, aside
from a few shining moments of insanity, itís the usual ďwork your
way up the criminal ladder to become a Made ManĒ fare weíve seen a
thousand times before.
Getting around Vegas is, unfortunately, an arduous process due to
terrible controls. You do eventually learn to compensate for them,
but controlling Jasonís movements whilst on foot is akin to roller-blading
on an ice rink. Thereís an annoying sliding animation that occurs
every time you come to a halt, even whilst walking, and youíll
often find yourself running in the opposite direction when trying to
use the on-screen thumb stick. Another bone of contention is every
time you get near an object whilst running Jason will try to climb
or vault over it, making on foot chase missions and context
sensitive actions a true chore to complete.
The vehicles handle slightly better, at least once you turn off the
tilt controls, but youíll sometimes have your trajectory radically
altered for no good reason. As I said, you do eventually learn to
contend with these issues, but itís a bit of a shame that the same
attention afforded to the graphics wasnít carried over to the
Gunplay is remarkably easy; whilst behind cover you can select your
target with a touch of the screen and automatically switch between
the most present danger. Hand to hand combat is also quite robust
yet easy to use, putting Jasonís MMA skills to good use. The
customisation options are truly staggering - practically every
aspect of the game can be upgraded with skill points earned by
completing certain tasks and you can always gamble at one of the
many casinos or participate in a fighting tournament if youíre
running low on cash. Pawn shops are dotted around the city and offer
unique items, providing that you have the components required, which
can be obtained by hunting down high value targets.
Properties are also available to buy, though strangely you canít
have a crib of your own; although there is the option to purchase
IAPs to speed up the process of building up your stats, cash supply
and items, Iíve never once felt like this was a necessity, just a
shortcut for those who like such things.
Another nice touch is the option to directly select missions and
stores from the menu, alleviating the monotonous task of driving
from location to location, although personally I felt like I was
kind of cheating each time I opted to do this.
Graphics and Audio
Graphically, Gangstar Vegas is one of the prettiest iOS games
on the market. Las Vegas is as glitzy and dazzlingly vibrant as the
real thing, with the gaudy neon glow of the strip at night a true
beauty to behold. Often youíll find yourself just wandering around
and soaking up the sights; Gameloftís attention to detail in
crafting this world retains the sexiness of the graphics without
compromising the size of your playing area. Character models are
also well done and their movement feels natural and relaxed. Thatís
not to say that there arenít some issues present, such as poor
collision detection leading to some amusing instances where cars and
people become stuck within buildings and trees and some annoying pop
up, where youíll be tearing down the street and suddenly plough into
a car or shop that wasnít there seconds before.
Another small issue is with the cutscenes; although animated
proficiently, characters mouths donít move. Like, at all. There also
doesnít seem to be any noticeable visual indication of damage to the
vehicles, which is odd for a game of this sort. Sound is handled
exceptionally well, and the small selection of licensed music on the
radio stations is diverse and will cater to a large audience,
although I personally only recognised the band Kasabian. The
talkback radio stations and advertisements hark back to those in the
early GTA and Saints Row games, with subtle and satirical
humour hiding amongst the barrage of puerile jokes, both of which
are as equally effective in eliciting the laughs.
Despite some glaring flaws, Gangstar Vegas is a fun entry
into the open world crime genre and is easily the best game of its
sort currently available. Vice City, its closest competition,
may control better but it hasnít aged very well in many other areas.
Some may write Gangstar Vegas off as an derivative knock off,
and in some respects it is, but when itís handled as competently as
this itís easy to overlook these flaws and enjoy the game for what
it is Ė A massive sandbox (The map is nine times bigger than the
previous entry, Gangstar Rio) on your mobile that you can
dive into at your leisure. The control issues should be easily
rectified by an update in the future and the slightly underwhelming
story does little to distract from the gleeful destruction and chaos
that forms the crux of the title.