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Gangstar Rio: City of Saints
by Paul Byron on Tuesday 22nd Nov 2011

Trouble in paradise

Gameloft’s Gangstar series has fared pretty well on iOS, providing gamers with a GTA style sandbox environment that Rockstar seemed unwilling to provide.

Their latest game (and the third in the series) comes at a time when Rockstar have announced their classic GTA 3 is due to arrive on Apple’s devices.  Gameloft has its work cut out to see off the opposition, but does Gangstar Rio have the muscle?

Playing a hitman, tired of his life of crime and yearning for a different life, the game eases you in with a simple mission to deliver a case of money.   It’s here that you first encounter the control and the map system and take the time to get used to the game world.

Gangstar Rio: City of Saints

The storyline takes a sideways shift at this point.  Having announced your intention to leave the gang, the car you and your whiney girlfriend happen to be sitting in blows up.  Waking to find yourself with a different face after extensive burns, it’s time to get some answers by changing your name to Angel and joining the gang as a new member in order to work out who torched the car and killed your girl.  It’s not the greatest material by any means, so if you’re expecting something with a strong story, look elsewhere.

From this point, missions fall thick and fast, from a drive-by shooting to gang battles.  Most of these are very similar but provide a quick way to get hold of some cash.   Playing the game straight through should provide enough money to have some fun in Rio once the story has ended.

Alternatively, it’s worth sampling more of Gangstar Rio’s map and picking up some achievements.  Taxi, Ambulance and Pizza missions await anyone who steals the relevant vehicle, stunts are awarded for big jumps, while shooting parrots and even killing bystanders provide dubious achievements for the less morally shy player.  It’s here that Rio really shines and the sandbox comes alive. 

Gangstar Rio: City of Saints

Getting around means learing to live with the control system.  On foot the game uses the left stick to walk and right button to run.  It works fine alongside using the right hand to move the camera around.  When it comes to firing a gun, though, it can be tricky to aim, walk and shoot at the same time and virtually impossible to run and gun.

In a vehicle, of which there are plenty dotted around the city, the default controls are tilt to steer and use the right and left hand for accelerator and brake.  Dropping the sensitivity down a bit, I found this method to be the best (if not ideal) way to drive, though taking corners at speed is never going to end well.  Other controls allow for slider based movement or an on-screen steering wheel.   None of these is ideal, but neither are they broken enough to cause much trouble and spending a little time with one control method should suffice.

With tanks, helicopters, boats and different cars with different features (the 4x4 is worth finding if you want to take the action off road) there is plenty of fun to be had just driving around, assuming you get used to the driving controls.  Bikes are useful for death defying jumps and if you get tired of all these you can even go for a swim.

Graphically, the game will depend greatly on what hardware you’re running it on.  Playing on the 3GS the low quality graphics and constant frame rate issues weren’t pretty.  It’s passable and playable, but once you’ve seen it running on newer hardware you won’t go back.  Even on a 4th Generation device the quality is noticeably different when placed next to an iPhone 4S or iPad 2. 

Gangstar Rio: City of Saints

Gameloft have obviously been hard at work making the A5 chip in these newer devices work for them and it shows.  With an iPhone 4S the game looks beautiful and the draw distance is impressive.  Sunrises and sunsets become events to sit and watch from a scenic spot and the reflections on the water add to the charm.

There are plenty of faults with Gangstar Rio: City of Saints.  The story is badly paced and while the voice actors all have the right accents they sound as if they’re reading straight off a script with no attempt at acting.  Controls aren’t ideal, either, but somehow Rio manages to overcome the broken elements of the game if you’re willing to play around in the sandbox and spend a bit of in-game credit on the many items you can buy in the shops. 

It’s no GTA by any means, but Gameloft have still managed to build a city worth playing in, especially if you have the new hardware to experience it in its full glory.


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  • Sound: 8
  • Graphics: 9
  • Gameplay: 7
  • Longevity: 7



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