Exclusive: Gangstar Rio Hands-On Preview

We recently visited Gameloft’s office to get the very first hands-on demo of their upcoming open-world crime game, Gangstar Rio. If you’ve played Gangstar: West Coast Hustle and Gangstar: Miami Vindication, you know what to expect, but Gangstar Rio does offer a slight change in scenery.

Gangstar Rio is set in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where you play as an established criminal named Raul. Raul starts the game with a shiny silver suit and all the respect he needs– a big change from previous Gangstar heroes who started at the bottom. But like in any good crime story, Raul is betrayed when he tries to leave his gang, the Assassinos.

Missions unfold in exactly the same way as previous Gangstar games. Like in the Grand Theft Auto series, you can either walk or drive your way to the start of each mission, but Gangstar Rio also lets you activate missions from the menu screen. This quick access to the story missions is one of the things we like about the Gangstar series– it cuts down on unnecessary travel time.

If you do choose to go exploring, you’ll find that Rio is busier than the Gangstar versions of LA or Miami. There are now twice as many civilians walking and driving around, even though the map is the same size as Miami’s. We did notice some graphical pop-in as we drove through Rio, but this is one of the areas Gameloft is still trying to polish.

Besides the crowds, Gangstar Rio has a few more notable improvements. At times, you’ll enter buildings during your missions, while the first two games were outdoors only. In addition to cars and motorcycles, you’ll also get to pilot airplanes, dune buggies, and a tank. Plus, Raul can arm himself with a chainsaw or katana for some up-close combat.

But the biggest improvement, for us, is the RPG-like leveling up system. Now you’ll earn experience points for completing missions, taking side jobs, or intervening in new random events like rival gang attacks. As you level up, you’ll get to choose which skills to improve. Health and Strength are self-explanatory, but putting your points in the Driving category will improve your car’s acceleration and damage, while the Shooter skills will increase your accuracy and damage with firearms.

Gangstar Rio won’t change what made the first two games fun, but it does tinker around the edges and add some promising new features. We’re especially excited about the new random events, and the prospect of leveling up our character. The closer this GTA-like game comes to being an RPG with lots of driving and shooting, the happier our virtual crime sprees will be. No release date has been announced yet, but we’ll keep you up to date on all the latest news from Rio.

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