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Gangs of London - Game Review

Our Take: Driving around London is great, and there are a load of extras, but the terrible story, voice acting, and poor enemy AI bring down the title. Rating: 7.1

By Sid MarkPublished 6 months ago 6 min read

Thanks in part to the British film industry gangsters, gangs and everybody generally associated with the underworld have been generated renewed interest over the past few years. Movies such as Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Layer Cake and Sexy Beast have raised the profile of this continually fascinating aspect of London life. It's by no means new though, tales of the East End and its less that friendly inhabitants have been in and out of the press since the notorious Kray twins and The Great Train Robbers.

It's this new cooler image which Sony first hit on with their PS2 hit The Getaway and it was only a matter of time before a sequel was produced and this mini spin off for the PSP. There's always a concern though with handheld versions of console hits, as to just how much compromise will be made in order to fit the game on the considerably smaller media. So, has Gangs of London got enough attitude? Read on and see...

Gangs of London begins with you selecting one of five gangs to head and, hopefully, rule the UK capital's underworld by becoming involved in almost every crime known to man. It doesn't really matter which of the five you select, as over the course of the game you are likely to undertake the same missions anyway.

The missions themselves start out very simple indeed, delivering a car from point 'A' to point 'B' is unlikely to tax even the newest gamer. You have, of course, got the other gangs to deal with too and once you enter their territory they'll pretty much do anything to stop you in your tracks. One interesting thing here is that vehicles take a great deal less damage than humans do so you may have to 'carjack' another mode of transport mid-mission.

As the game progresses you'll also encounter some 'on-foot' and 'stealth' and whilst the former is self-explanatory the latter features such dumb enemy AI that it's simple to sneak up on anyone and dispose of them even in broad daylight. Later missions combine a variety of these elements but it's only really when you get the opportunity to overthrow another boss (by infiltrating their HQ) does the game ever really become taxing on any level.

Outside of your single player game the developers have added a generous amount of extras, although it has to be said not all of these are as entertaining as they should be. London Tourist, Free Drive and The Knowledge (an exam which London Taxi Drivers must take) allow you to see the city in all its glory whilst visiting most of the famous landmarks.

Less impressive are Four Weeks Later: featuring zombies which continue to appear out of nowhere and Speed Trap: featuring a bomb which will detonate if you should fall under a given speed and was done far more successfully in the recent Pursuit Force. There's even a collection of 'traditional' English Pub games and whilst drinking is not included you can still indulge in a game of pool or darts.

There's even a 'retro' arcade game although why this hasn't been replaced for something more up to date in the pub in question is anyone’s guess. Finally, should you discover someone else with the game (or alternatively lend them yours) you can beam an exclusive London Underground level to your PSP. This is said to be different on every machine and success will give you a code to enter into a website in order to win Gangs of London goodies just hope it's not a copy of this game.

Visually the game is stunning and gamers will be delighted with the 'abridged' version of London. It's not as comprehensive as the P2 versions but it's still a very impressive slice of the UK capital with most of the major layout familiar to anyone who's visited the city. There have been compromises made though and the 'cartoon' look makes for a far lower resolution which may irritate gamers who've been used to the first two outings. The same goes for the cut scenes, which are now a selection of static 'comic book' panels, which you'll no doubt skip over as they do little to enhance the gameplay.

There's clearly an art to doing voice over work as opposed to straight acting but, while some thespians are masters with only a script and their imaginations to hand, Sony didn't manage to locate any of these for Gangs of London.

Instead you get some of the worst cut scene dialogue since the less than impressive Street Riders although where that was simply annoying this is actually wooden and very poorly acted out. It's difficult to know who to blame here though as the scripts are terrible too and full of clichés, which is surprising given that this has been produced by a UK based studio.

The various pieces of music don't really impress either (that's if you can actually locate them) with only the sound effects doing the job they set out to do.

The control is split into two distinct areas: on-foot and driving. The latter doesn't really pose too much of a problem but while the vehicles handle reasonably well they are nowhere near that of a dedicated driving title.

This can all be forgiven in the light of the other gaming aspects, which have you (and generally two other gang members) causing mayhem around the city. This part of the game is so laden with problems you do get the feeling that both the testers and coders simply gave up as the release date approached. For starters the whole thing is poorly laid out and some moves require you to perform almost impossible combinations of button presses.

There are other problems with your characters movement too but rather than list these separately it's probably more important to focus on, what the developers saw, a unique and valuable feature. That is if it actually worked. What I'm talking about here is the ability to give your gang members orders and while they will occasionally 'stay' or 'go' they don't appear to enjoy going through doors into dangerous situations. This is one of many complaints regarding the game’s control and while this no doubt makes the whole thing more challenging you know that's not the intention.

Overall Gangs of London retains many of the good and bad aspects of its larger console cousins and, while the fully rendered digital version of London is still very impressive, there are sections which will wipe out memory of anything you found impressive about the game in the first place.

Most of these stem from the frustratingly short missions and the appalling AI which allows you to breeze through the majority of missions which should present at least some sort of challenge and that's before we even mention the audio elements. The driving missions are better but mysteriously none of these allow you to view the full beauty of the city's layout instead keeping within a two-mile radius.

On the plus side there's a considerable amount of gameplay on offer here and even when you've completed the main mission (should you stick with it) there's more than enough to keep you occupied for weeks to come. It's certainly not what gamers were hoping for although if you did enjoy The Getaways on the PS2 then you are likely to enjoy this. As for everyone else, a couple of nights rental should do the trick or simply opt for the superior Liberty City Stories.

action adventure

About the Creator

Sid Mark

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