Hands On: Gangstar Rio: City Of Saints

There’s a certain sense of humour about Gameloft’s latest Gangstar title, the last in the series of the rather Grand Theft Auto-esque, ambitious but generally a little flawed iPhone and iPad games; it’s not that it’s deliberately funny, more that it makes you smile whilst you’re playing it, and not always for the right reasons.

The main one is that, for a game that relies so heavily on dialog to progress the story, it’s a shame that the voice acting is so iffy and the script so often cringeworthy.  It’s hammy beyond parody (at least, that’s how I read it) and – get this – trashier than Saints Row in terms of language and the Brazilian vernacular.  Most of it’s unquoteable, thankfully.

[drop]There’s some bizarre character animations, too- I walked out of one shop to see three or four NPCs all doing a freakish ‘into the wind’ walk, on the spot, before spinning around in circles.


But somehow, it doesn’t really seem to matter.   Yes, you’ll scoff at the painful delivery and giggle when your protagonist runs over yet another pedestrian with a daft accompanying soundbite, but for the most part you’ll be having too much fun causing mayhem to care.  That is, assuming you can get used to the controls, which were never going to be perfect given the type of game.

You can’t really fault Gameloft here, mind – this is a game that would normally use two analog sticks and a wealth of buttons and triggers, so if you decide to avoid the tilt controls you’re left with onscreen sliders, pedals or a wheel (or combinations of the three) all of which take some adjusting to.  On an iPad (I’ve been playing this on an iPad 2) everything’s a little too far apart and nowhere near as configurable as it is in Modern Combat 3 – there’s no excuse for not letting the player move and size the buttons nowadays.

At its heart, though, this definitely feels like a title fans will appreciate.  The map’s big enough and varied enough to have its own character (with some famous Rio landmarks getting some subtle changes) and there are loads of cars, bikes and other vehicles to keep you happy.  Likewise, sub missions and events abound, and the story itself plays out just like a Rockstar title, the missions flicking from character to character with lots of plot twists.

[videoyoutube]Visually it’s not bad, given the multitude of platforms the engine has to support; characters are decent enough up close, the lip syncing’s actually quite impressive and although there’s some ridiculous pop-in the overall draw distance is good and the frame rate’s not bad considering.  It’s the best looking Gangstar game so far, for sure, some of the textures are great, even close up, and the cutscenes are generally ok.

You’ll get out of Rio what you put in – you might struggle to really connect with the characters on any deep level, but fans of the genre will appreciate the little touches in amongst the obvious homages.  RPG-like levels for guns is a smart idea – your ‘respect’ score all important – and, if you do choose to invest, at least it looks like the who-tried-to-kill-you plot will keep you guessing.

The plot’s daft, that’s for sure – the game kicks into gear a couple of missions in after you’re left for dead and totally transformed via plastic surgery – but the action’s solid enough.  There’s lots to do, for sure, the music’s great and although from the time I’ve spent playing the game so far there are few really stand-out moments the game’s lighthearted enough to keep you smiling.

At least, I think that’s the intention.

Gangstar Rio: City Of Saints is out on iOS tomorrow, and soon for Android.



  1. I’m just never quite sure on these, they iOS touch screen seems to make them less fun than they should be.

  2. Gameloft feel like a brand that represents the mass market or “casual” developers of identity-less, copycat iOS and mobile games, and for me thats always something that makes me smile X).

  3. Always hoped for a GTA set in Rio. Would have made a great story.

    Looks like these got to it first.

  4. Sounds like a decent game but with all the controls I think I’d just quit it so much. Wheres the fun in that?

  5. I downloaded the last game so I mite give this one ago.
    The trailer looked good …. But the comments about the controls seam very valid.

  6. i’ve played the lite versions of previous titles in the series, and they could be fun games, it’s just the controls that let them down.
    i’d imagine they’d be a bit better on an ipad or other tablet where you’ve got more space, but on a touch it’s just too cramped for the kind of control layout games like these need.

    now if only they’d port them over to the minis platform.
    they’ve ported some of their titles, but they have quite a few left that would work really well with proper controls, if if minis only have access to one analog control.

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