There are two ways to look at Gangstar Rio: City of Saints. One is to look at it as a serious game, and by doing so you will find it to be a shameless copycat of the Grand Theft Auto series, with a needlessly raunchy story. The other is to see it as a farce, assuming it is intentionally tasteless, but as detailed as an open-world game will get for iOS. Gangstar Rio is undeniably an expansive game with lots to do and many places to see, which also opens it up to lots of areas for improvement.
If you’ve played any recent Grand Theft Auto games, then nothing in Gangstar Rio will be unfamiliar to you. To those of you new to the driving, open-world genre, all you need to know is that an entire city is open to you. Buildings offer various purposes: shops to buy weapons or clothing, garages to fix vehicles, or even property to purchase and expand your empire.
Rather than running from place to place, you have a smorgasbord of vehicles available to you. All you need to do is steal them. Jeeps, sports cars, motorcycles, even boats and jet skis are all yours for the taking. Driving is done by tilting your device and pressing the brake or gas pedals on your screen. In a very clever move, Gameloft has allowed you to play your music library through your vehicle’s radio.
Say hello to my little friend.
A large cast of characters will fill this city as well. You play as Angel, a notable member of the Assassinos, a Latin gang with vast influence. However, Angel makes a dumb move when he thinks he can quit a life of crime and settle down with his heavily-tattooed girlfriend. We won’t spoil it here, but we’ll say it doesn’t end well and Angel is forced to start over. Most of the missions you take will involve learning more about who is responsible for Angel’s ‘going away party.’
Other missions involve rescuing women from rapists, attacking a snitch outside of a porn shop, and scaring district attorneys with wild driving. Clearly, this isn’t a game for the young or easily offended. Nearly all of the cutscenes in the game involve coarse language and sexual remarks, so parents beware.
It’s easy to find the flaws in Gangstar Rio. The graphics aren’t exactly up to par with other modern games on the App Store. When speeding down city streets, you can often see buildings being rendered just before you pass them by. The combat system is also buggy. You’ll regularly be frustrated when trying to punch your enemies, because it’s easier to hit the air in front of them than actually land a blow. Finally, the missions aren’t even close to original. You’ll spend most of your time driving to a location, beating up some jerk, and then driving away.
Avoid crashing into religious iconography.
Since this is the third Gangstar game, Gameloft has been able to add some new elements to improve the franchise. The best new feature is the reputation system, which allows you to level your character to improve his stats. Every criminal action you perform–running down pedestrians with your car, for instance–earns you reputation points, similar to experience points. Once you level up, you gain points you can spend to increase your health, driving ability, combat, and several other abilities. This will encourage you to play more than the story missions and venture out into the city.
For those players on the go, Gangstar Rio is mobile-friendly. While Grand Theft Auto may have required you to drive around the city to reach your destination before even starting a mission, Gangstar Rio allows you to select a mission on the city map and instantly begin the mission. This will save you tedious driving time and let you really dive into the game.
Gangstar may not be for everyone, and its adult themes may induce eye rolling at times, but you can’t deny you’re getting your money’s worth here. There are a good deal of missions and side missions, but sometimes it’s fun just to drive around and jam out to your iPod. It’s important to take the warning screen at the beginning of the game seriously. This is an adult game with mounds of vulgarity that even someone with the dirtiest of minds and mouths will find unnecessary.