If there’s one thing I hate it’s a copycat. That’s why Gangstar Rio has me so conflicted; how could I actually enjoy a game that is every inch a rip off of the GTA?
I’ll make no bones about it. From the cut scenes, the sandbox world, gameplay, special features and design this game has ‘Vice City wannabe’ written all over it. But it’s hard to ignore a game, especially one from a developer such as Gameloft that promises so much.
From the sprawling seaside resorts to military islands to cramped alleys of the Favelas, Rio De Janeiro, the setting of Gangstar Rio, has made a very good attempt at reproducing the vibrant Brazilian city.
Gameloft were obviously limited by time, budget and the technical ability of the Android platform but they’ve done a good job at creating an open-world sandbox environment that throws up very few faults. There could be a little more depth to the city such as AI going about their daily business or perhaps some kind of infrastructure of TV channels, media and transport. That said, would we really take much notice on a 4 inch phone screen?
A Story of Clichés
The game is centered around a carbomb explosion which killed the main character’s girlfriend. Angel, which we later become aware is his name, much track down the perpetrator suspected to be a member of one of the rival gangs. You continue to work in the lucrative drug business to fund your lifestyle and get more information as to who planted the bomb.
The storyline itself isn’t all that bad but can feel labored and never ending. At least games like GTA know how to have fun with the criminal underworld often throwing in dark humor and fun missions. Gangstar Rio is like the straight-faced mob boss that hates life and just wants to be left alone. At points this translates into the missions which can become a repetitive cycle ‘drive here, kill him’ missions.
What little attempt there was to spice things up is brutally overshadowed by the appalling writing and voice acting. Most of the cutscenes are two dimensional attempts as replicating Scarface with added cliché.
Playing in the Sandbox
Moving past the obvious failings there is still fun to be had. Outside of missions you can roam the city streets. Getting cop chases can be difficult as police cars can be hard to find but when you do fun of epic proportions ensues.
The AI of enemies is something that’s extremely hard to get right with sandbox games but the chases are close battles of speed, firepower and wits. Gaining a slight lead and hiding in a back alley is the only tactic sure to outsmart the persistent patrol cars.
There’s a good selection of vehicles in the game including trucks, cars and vans. Motorbikes also feature but the touchscreen controls simply aren’t up to the task of making them an enjoyable gaming experience. Again, Gameloft let the user down with poor soundtracks for the engines. At times, accelerating engine notes sound more like a ramshackle assembly of blenders being turned on and off.
Boats are also available but can be hard to come by outside of missions. Thankfully the developers have included the ability to swim making crossing over to the islands a piece of cake. Oddly, Gameloft have decided to add a piece of Need for Speed with drifting mini-games making an appearance. You can also ‘drift’ your car to gain rep points outside of missions,
As the game advances the missions will take you to different parts of the city. Like most GTA titles, you’ll progress through having different enemies and rival gangs right until the end of the game. Thankfully you’re alone on most of the missions allowing for your own decision making and sense of adventure to kick in.
Highly Detailed, but Boring Firepower
The weapons are somewhat limited. For some reason they’ve decided to include several different types of pistols, assault rifles and so on. This might be a popular addition for gun fans but I feel it adds very little to a game where the aiming system is third person and involves tapping the target.
Despite the flaws Gameloft have done a good job at emulating what Rockstar do so well on consoles. The open world environment is a sight to behold on Android devices and is a sign of greater things to come for the platform.
In my opinion Gangstar Rio is worth buying for the driving and sandbox world alone. Just don’t expect a serious rival to the GTA series.