While there’s no substitute for the grand scale of the Grand Theft Auto games, there’s absolutely no reason to write off any other open-world, crime-based action-adventure game as a reflex. Gameloft have been producing the Gangstar series for quite some time, and Gangstar Vegas, the fifth instalment in the series, is as enjoyable and vast as the series has ever been. It would be too much of a complement to call any game “Grand Theft Auto Lite”, but Gangstar Vegas is the game that comes the closest with its action-packed missions, dangerous vehicular exploits, and open-world setting working in its favour.
The gameplay here kind of resembles the outcome of a game of Telephone (also offensively named Chinese Whispers in some parts of the world), if the person at the source of the whispers were describing Grand Theft Auto and the person at the other end of the whisper mill were the developers of the Gangster series. There’s no way to miss the similarities: the foray into a criminal underworld, the open-world setting, the inclusion of car theft/driving mechanics in the action, and even the way the missions are dished out is pretty close to how it goes down in the sublime Grand Theft Auto series.
To some extent, Gameloft makes the format their own, though with a number of bugs and annoyances that ensure it can’t quite compete on the same level as GTA. The movement mechanics are fine, as are the hand-to-hand combat controls that are taught to you at the outset in a dynamic tutorial woven into the game’s storyline itself. However, driving mechanics are noticeably lacking, mainly due to the failure of the tilt controls to be implemented properly. Just try turning a sharp corner using tilt mechanics, and you’ll find you just can’t get the responsiveness you need. Stick to the on-screen driving controls instead, though having to do so is one of the reasons that Gangstar will never be a serious rival to Grand Theft Auto.
Plot and Content
The game’s plot is taken straight out of the book of gangster clichés, with the protagonist being an MMA fighter who’s supposed to throw a fight but ends up winning it by accident. You’re put on a bad man’s hit list as a result, and the game unfolds from there. The fact that the game is fully voice-acted in the first place is quite impressive, though the acting does have its ups and downs. Much of your game will be spent interacting and carrying out missions for Vera and a variety of other characters who all fall towards the dodgier end of the spectrum of shady and shifty individuals.
One of the undeniably entertaining aspects of Gangstar Vegas are the nature of the missions. All wildly illegal in nature, the missions invariably involve one of or a combination of the following: gunning someone down in the street; getting to a place at a certain time by driving as recklessly as possible; using a variety of weapons to destroy as much as you can; blowing up, shooting at, and running over various characters in the game that are even eviler than what you are, man.
The End Result
No matter which way you look at it, it has to be said that Gameloft has done well to carry this series successfully to its fifth iteration (and counting). One of the main appeals is that it is free to play of course, though it’s largely enjoyable because you get to do loads of illegal things. The game is held back by its buggy and often clumsy mechanics however, with little annoyances penetrating most aspects of the game including walking/running, driving, and shooting. However, it is still one of the most impressive gangster games available for mobile.
For me, what pulls back the game from the brink of being too amateurish to be playable is not only the incredibly vast open world but also the graphics, which are very impressive. Las Vegas is recreated wonderfully here, with detail you wouldn’t have even believed could be possible on a mobile device until very recently in gaming history. So I say go ahead and download this game. It’s not quite as polished or powerful as Grand Theft Auto, nor is it quite as stylish or atmospheric as Red Dead Redemption, but it fulfils its role – a secondary alternative to Grand Theft Auto on mobile - very well indeed.