There was a time when the App Store had no quality open-world crime games, and the best we could do was write notes to ourselves to play those games on our consoles. Now, however, we have a trilogy of Gangstar titles from Gameloft, and two official Grand Theft Auto games, including the full-fledged classic Grand Theft Auto 3. Now Urban Crime has come onto the App Store as a freemium crime title from Gameloft, and suddenly the streets seem to be getting crowded.
Urban Crime puts you in the shoes of a Miami criminal whose cousin thinks it would be a good idea to kill all of the crime bosses in the city in order to take it over. That’s as far as the plot goes– seriously, the enemy gangs don’t even have names, they’re just “enemy gangs.” In order to kill the bosses and gain territory, you have to complete a certain number of missions, which can be accessed through the map, as in the Gangstar games.
Look ma, no hands.
The missions range from stealing to killing to racing, and each one costs you stamina. The missions are formulaic and repetitive, and don’t involve cut scenes with dialogue, but instead are introduced by a text box and concluded with a mission complete screen with more scantily clad women than a pop-up ad.
Stamina and diamonds are the freemium features of the game. The former is consumed by doing missions, but replenished over time or when you level up. Leveling up unlocks weapons, vehicles, and skills, all of which can be unlocked instantly using diamonds, which accrue slowly but can also be purchased with real money.
The game offers a sizable city to cruise around and cause trouble in, but you can’t steal any vehicle or use any weapon you’ve not yet unlocked (except for limited times during special missions), which serves as a big buzz kill for any crime spree-inclined gamers. The controls on foot are easy enough, and the targeting system works pretty well, but the buttons are small enough to cause trouble. The driving controls are serviceable, as long as you use the joystick steering. Camera control is done through screen swiping, but it is very difficult to maneuver camera angles when both hands are occupied with moving around, which is a difficulty faced by the Gangstar and GTA games too.
The graphics aren’t as good as Gameloft’s other titles, and the environment often shows its lack of polish when you do things like walk too close to buildings and see through them. We also noticed occasional bugs in the gameplay, like when stamina failed to replenish or mission progress rewound somehow.
This is not to say that Gameloft can’t produce a good GTA alternative, because they already have a good alternative in the Gangstar series, to which we have given some high praise. This freemium entry is good for getting that quick fix of open-world crime, especially for more casual gamers who don’t want to pay for the alternatives. But if you have a couple of bucks and an affinity for the genre, we’d advise you look elsewhere.