Gangstar Rio: City Of Saints Review


Gangstar Rio: City Of Saints
Developer: Gameloft
Publisher: Gameloft
Platform: iPhone/iPad(reviewed)
Release: 10/11/11
Price: $7.49 – Available Here


iOS gamers tend to be a casual breed. We enjoy casual Friday’s at our casual-contact jobs, and during spare moments we casually remove our iOS device from our pocket (iPad may require cargo pants to do this) for a spot of casual gaming. This of course is not true. There are those who would identify as “hardcore” and who still enjoy playing their mobile devices. Gameloft have managed to time and time again deliver console worthy games for iOS gamers. Their latest title Gangstar Rio: City Of Saints is no exception. The next installment of their Gangstar series is back, this time set in Rio de Janeiro, but with all the illegal shenanigans fans of the series have come to expect.


It is easy to dismiss the medium of videogames as a poor format narrative, arguing that perhaps film or novels are more appropriate for well-crafted story telling. It’s almost just as easy to claim that this genre of game (or movie, or novel) inherently comes with that extra bit of cheese. For what it’s worth, videogames like GTA are particularly cheesy. But not this cheesy. City Of Saints has a ridiculously corny, and often overly crude story line. Filled with excessive cursing, sexual innuendo and a bunch of other adult themes (there is a disclaimer prior to starting the game) this game is defiantly not for the easily offended, children or those who study literature.

Set against the backdrop of Rio de Janeiro, City Of Saints follows the downfall and rise of Angel. Betrayed and blown up, Angel seeks revenge against those who have wronged him, but committing a ridiculous amount of crimes and getting involved with numerous nefarious characters. While the script itself is rather lame, those of you who take gaming seriously know there is more to the story than just cut scenes (which can be skipped mind you). The real story emerges through playing the game, through exploring the open world of Rio de Janeiro and completing missions and tasks as you see fit. This is where City Of Saints starts to get interesting.


City Of Saints is your typical crime based sandbox game. You roam around the world, driving, running, shooting, punching, stealing. Whatever you want to do really. While there are missions in the game, in fact there are 23 missions, 27 jobs, 12 races and not to mention side missions like delivering burgers or picking up patrons in “your” taxi. Cliché dialogue aside, the missions are well crafted and aren’t overly difficult. My only concern with the mission function is that they can be assessed from the pause menu. While it is helpful to restart missions after you die, after all driving across town after getting shot to death is a difficult task, the fact that you can access the missions without having to initiate any contact with the person giving out the task is a little concerning for me. It takes away from the exploratory nature of the open world, and reduces a great deal of the story to a mere tap of your finger. The only reason I can think this function has been implemented is to assist new comers to the game type, after all, iOS gamers may never have touched a console before (cough cough).

One of the little helpful items I do like in the game however is the GPS function on the map. Just open the map, click a spot, steal a car, and follow the green path to your destination. Even though this also breaks the illusion of the open world, it is fast becoming a game convention, having seen it in a preview of Saints Row. Not to mention the fact that almost everyone uses a GPS in daily life, so why not create a game version also.

A few additional features that sit on the fence for me include the leveling up system. After watching Breaking Bad, I found out that crime is all about respect. City Of Saints has this covered. Gaining respect, either by completing missions, jumping cars or performing tricks on motorbikes, will help you to level up and also recruit a little gang who will help you out at times. Unfortunately my gang is a little shy and I have only seen two members. But the idea is there, and hopefully my sweet wheelies will bring all the boys to the yard.

Vehicles: the corner stone of any crime-based sandbox. City Of Saints has this covered pretty well, from fast-food scooters, to drag racers, to planes. The problem with these vehicles is that they can become rather taxing to drive. Tilt controls are particularly difficult on the iPad I think: taking too much attention away from watching the road. These can be swapped for an on screen wheel, which makes swerving around corners much easier and a hell of a lot more enjoyable. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for aircrafts. Once boarding/stealing/borrowing a plane or helicopter, the gyroscopic ability of the iOS comes into play, as you frantically tilt your device while altering a slide-bar on the side to make sure you stay airport. Fortunately, if missions that involve planes become too burdensome, you can always purchase a “skip mission” item that, surprisingly, allows you to skip the mission.


If there is only one element that captures your attention, it will be the graphics. With each release Gameloft have pushed the boundaries of what is graphically possible on a mobile device. City Of Saints has taken the city of Rio de Janeiro, and transformed into a virtual, navigable game world, allowing players to walk through numerous neighbourhoods and even venture into buildings. What really makes the world come to life is the rising and setting of the sun, making for some stunningly picturesque views of the city. The vehicles are all amazingly designed, and all of the non-playing characters are bursting with unique personalities. There is also the option to customize your own character, however I find the selection of outfits a little slim: ranging from a street-based drug dealer to a high-class drug dealer image. There is always the option to mix and match, why not wear tracksuit pants, a blazer and a beanie for that ultra fashionable look. The clothing options are not purely cosmetic however. They can give you increased armour, luck, ammo and look, with more clothes being unlocked as you move up in ranks.


The sights and sounds of Rio are definitely not absent from City Of Saints. The soundtrack, while not very versatile, captures the atmosphere of the game perfectly. The sounds of the non-playing characters, while they may say rather off putting things at times, also adds to the sense that you are actually navigating through a small, isolated world. If you are like me, and boast an obscure iTunes catalogue, then you can always upload it to your iPad or iPhone and have your own music play through whatever car stereo you happen to have, err, shall we say, borrowed. This isn’t absolutely necessary, as the game soundtrack works well on it’s own, but it’s nice to have the option.


It is hard to ignore the similarities between City Of Saints and GTA. There are after all, many of them. However, the similarities are purely mechanical. The structure of the game, and perhaps even the overall feel of the game may be similar to GTA, but Gameloft have managed to create an original, albeit crude, story, coupled with stunning graphics and entertaining game play. But what is amazing is to hold in the palm of your hands, the city Rio de Janerio, digitized and beautifully constructed to become the City Of Saints. It cannot be denied that Gameloft have done a fantastic job creating an open world, which can offer hours of enjoyable gameplay.


I am a current media student with a focus on video game research.

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