Urban Crime is a good example of how not to use a freemium business model
Gameloft are known for producing high quality games. Their reputation has enabled them to be entrusted with big video game titles such as the mobile version for splinter cell conviction.
Now Gameloft bring us Urban Crime. Another Grand Theft Auto copy cat that tries hard to be the Don of third person sandbox games, but lacks in a lot of areas.
Urban Crime is a Gangstar game made into a Freemium title. These titles allow you to download the game free, but there are in-app purchases (which are technically completely optional) to improve the game's quality and allows the player to get more out of the game as an experience.
The micro-transactions in Urban Crime come in the form of diamonds and dollars. Dollars are used to purchase weapons, ammo and health kits. However, before some of these can be purchased they need to be unlocked by using diamonds. You can unlock diamonds in-game by performing certain tasks, but it will take a long time to get a decent amount to unlock weapons, ammo, health kits, cars, perks and energy kits. So if you want anything good, then you are going to have to shell out some money for these diamonds.
Let’s pretend that you have decided to buy some diamonds to unlock some new weapons, you're now going to have to buy the weapon with dollars before you can use it. Missions don’t give you loads of money so if you want access to them right way, you’re going to have to spend out more of your real money to get some in-game dollars. The issue I have with the overall way that Gameloft has designed there micro transactions is to give you very, very little in a pretty poor game and then expect you to shell out a lot of money on in-app purchases.
The story of the game kicks off with your character being let out of prison and being contacted by your cousin. He tells you that now you are back out, it is time for you and him to start taking over the city. There really isn’t much of a story to it, and Urban Crime does suffer from a lack of narrative, a seriously flawed decision once you realise that this is basically an old Gameloft game which originally had a fairly big story element. The tutorial has you completing some pretty basic stuff like performing hits on the territory boss or stealing some drugs. Once all the missions are complete you then take control of the area and turn it into your home turf.
Like GTA you are not limited to jumping from mission to mission, free roam lets you perform random killings, carjacking or whatever takes your fancy. Missions in the territory can also be tackled in whatever order you deem fit. Completing mission’s gives you experience points that go towards levelling your player that unlocks cars and guns, but also gives you energy. The energy system is used to stop you from doing missions too quickly. Of course you could always buy energy drinks using real world money but it’s very frustrating to not be able to play missions when I want to and feels like a rip off. It really seems like Gameloft is just holding back the basic mission structure from you. The missions you will tackle aren’t easy, not because they are hard, but because of the god awful controls.
To control your character, you move the camera by moving your finger around the IOS device and you use a touch stick to move the character. Aiming is done by touching either a vehicle or a person, and then to shoot you simply press the gun icon. These controls don’t really work when you’re trying to run away from a massive gun fight it is awkward and is just going to end up getting you killed. I wish that was the end of controls issue, but by far the worst, is the car controls.
Controlling the car is done in the usual way; press the pedal on the right to accelerate and the pedal on the left to brake. Steering is done by tilting the device. Its sounding ok so far but wait until you try to make a turn in the road, the turning circle for cars is ridiculous as it takes the entire road width! Braking is also dreadful, attempt to brake and you will find that all the cars, for some reason, have had their brakes rewired to their handbrakes, which makes turning a corner more like a drifting event and slows you down while people are chasing you. Due to this braking issue it also causes you to crash, a lot, which is very annoying.
The graphics in Urban Crime look like pretty awful. I would expect to find those graphics in a title Gameloft made years ago (in fact, it's exactly the same engine found in Gangstar: Miami Vindication). There isn’t much in the way of textures which defiantly doesn’t help the game looks. Pop up from buildings and other cars can be an issue too and is really annoying when you are doing a race mission, and a checkpoint pops up just a few meters from where you are meant to turn, causing you to crash and be over taken. The frame rate isn’t stable either. I found this most noticeable when I went to pick up money from the bodies of the rival gangs I had killed. I will merit the game for its car radio, Gameloft have done a pretty good job at replicating the stations would you find on a GTA game.
This game doesn’t feel like a modern Gameloft production at all. I’m used to playing their high quality productions and Urban Crime is defiantly a step in the wrong direction. Freemium is a good idea but the way they have included micro transactions is awful. The worst part, that had me raising my eye brows in disbelieve, was when I was attempting to flee a gang fight. I found a sports car to highjack to use in my retreat, then only to be told I would have to pay using diamonds if I wanted to steal this car.
With poor controls and poor graphics I would be surprised if gamers kept this on their IOS device for more than a few hours, let alone pay to get in-game items. Hopefully Gameloft will use Urban Crime as a lesson and learn from their mistakes. My recommendation is to shell out money up front for GTA 3 on your IOS system, it’s much better and you will be getting the proper experience.
- Sound: 6
- Graphics: 4
- Gameplay: 4
- Longevity: 6
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