Jack of all trades but competent at none.
Whenever you hear anything about the London underground chances are you think about Guy Ritchie movies like Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch. These films capture the seedy underbelly of London crime while providing humor that makes you cringe while you laugh. The Getaway, Sony’s perennial PS2 series, has tried to capture the same type of humor and gritty action of a Guy Ritchie film while providing players a wide open London to explore.
Although they are often flawed, none have looked or played as bad as spiritual successor Gangs of London. Nearly every single aspect of this game has either been botched, is completely buggy, or painfully repetitive and boring. When playing through this game, it’s almost as if you are playing a game filled with every single criticism the series has seen all at the same time. The only thing that this game has going for it is the sheer amount of stuff you can do, although finding something that you will actually enjoy playing may prove a greater challenge than mastering the control scheme.
But before I begin taking my jabs at this title, let me first introduce you to the particulars. Gangs of London focuses on exactly that; different gangs through the London underground are vying for dominance and you get to conquer the streets as the leader of one of the five rival crews. As you select a mission, you are greeted with surprisingly excellent comic book-style cut scenes accompanied with equally stylized dialog that describes your gang’s meteoric rise. Each of the five selectable gangs has their own unique if all-too-typical storylines so the replayability potential is huge. Unfortunately, across all five scenarios you’ll run into the same four or five mission types. These include driving from point A to B, running from the cops or rival gangsters, killing your enemies in and around a certain building, or any combination of the three, and none of them are really that much fun. After you’ve ran from the cops or cleared an entire building with a shotgun your first time you’ll feel like you’ve done it a thousand times.
If it wasn’t bad enough that the missions are repetitive and boring after the first couple times through, the controls are frustrating enough to turn even the most patient gamers away in anger. The best way to describe the control scheme would be “an even buggier scheme than The Godfather, but without specific body-part aiming or wall cover moves.” Like The Godfather or Grand Theft Auto, Gangs of London relies on lock-on aiming as a crutch for the lack of a second analog stick. Unlike those other games, however, Gangs is wrought with buggy aiming that will just as often miss the target than hit. You would think with words like “lock-on” you could score solid shots, but fugetaboutit. Oh, but don’t worry, because half the time you will be spending aiming at the wrong person anyway as there are often innocent bystanders getting in the way and confusing the lock-on even more. And don’t get me started on the “stealth” moves, which basically just put your guy into a crouching pose and often get you smacked in the head with a discharging shotgun.
So if the actual single-player game is completely unplayable, then what remains? Well, for starters, you can tinker around with the fully-modeled city of London in Free-Roaming mode and start as much trouble as you want. Since you will want to avoid playing the actual on-foot action or driving as much as possible, the only thing left are the Pub Games and the Gang Battle mode, both of which are enjoyable diversions and little else. The Pub Games consist of Darts, Skittles, 8-ball, and an old-school/new-school version of Snake. Snake in particular was a clever little game that often challenges you to use both hands to move two different snakes at the same time, while the other three games were easy to pick up and fun to play as well.
Gang Battle is another “Divide and Conquer” mini-game that models itself along the lines of Risk, but instead of putting players in little missions to conquer a map section like in The Godfather, players instead only deal with the strength of their forces in that district. If one side has a considerable number greater than the other, then that side wins. The only real strategy comes from how you spread your men out across the two or three battlefronts that you will develop over the course of the game. With only three moves available to you per turn, its tough to keep all of your men mobile and in the immediate fight when you are also attacking in a different area. After learning the game on easy, I bumped it up to the highest difficulty level and was easily dispatched by the fourth turn. The structure deserves a little credit for taking Risk and applying it to a mini-game, but a little more player involvement in the numbers game would have gone a long way to keep this mode interesting.
In the past couple of months, we have begun to see a movement in PSP games from Sony. Packaged along with the actual games are a ton of mini games that act as a distraction and little else. NBA 07 from a couple weeks ago did it with the Carnival games and now Gangs of London does the same here. The difference between the two is that NBA 07’s core gameplay was sound and enjoyable, while Gangs of London is as close to broken as it gets. Anyone looking for a virtual 8-ball or darts simulator will find it here, but they certainly aren’t worth the 40 dollar price of admission.
Will Sony be able to “getaway” with this offshoot of its popular free-roaming series? by Patrick Evans
Gangland warfare has had its share of videogame representation, what with the Grand Theft Auto franchise tearing through sales charts every time it spawns a title. One of the lesser known, not to mention lesser acclaimed, franchises is The Getaway franchise from Sony. With plotlines that seem like a lost film script by director Guy Ritchie, The Getaway usually tells the tale of various bad men grabbing for power in London’s seedy underground world. Later this year, PSP owners will get a taste of that British underground in Gangs of London, a spin-off of sorts featuring an original story mode and plenty of action on the side.
The story mode of Gangs of London will allow players to choose from many different gang factions, such as the Chinese, British, Jamaicans, Pakistanis, and Russians. Each gang will feature different strengths and weaknesses. So for, lets say the British, automatic weaponry may be a specialty, but their ability to escape a crime scene could be lacking. Gangs will also utilize unique weaponry in combat, as well as rock their nationalities in their style of clothes. While conquering the story mode, the different gangs will also experience varying paths to underground glory as told by stylized comic-book style cut-scenes.
Conquering the Underground may be even easier with the hot-swap feature that has been included as well. If you are pinned down by machine gun fire, just swap out to another player to take care of the problem in no time. Different members of the gang can be given different weapons for a given situation. A runner would need to have a small, fast firing weapon to cause confusion while the chap supporting full-barrel shotgun lays waste to the unsuspecting blokes.
It would be easy to write Gangs off if this was all that was available, but there is more. Another key mode is Gang Battle, which plays out more like a strategy game than an action game. Players will be charged with conquering London one district at a time while recruiting members off the streets before their rivals do. The real departure from convention takes place during combat, however. Combat takes on the form of a turn-based card game, ala Metal Gear Acid. Strategy in this mode is key, especially against your friends in four-player Ad-Hoc mode, which Gangs supports.
There are other modes available as well, such as the Tourist and Free Roam modes. Tourist mode requires you to drive around the city streets of London, searching high and low for objectives to photograph. Free Roam mode, as the name implies, gives the player free-reign to do whatever they want, be it antagonize the motorists of London or blow them all away. Sony didn’t end there, however. A plethora of British Pub games, such as Darts and Billiard, are available to play with friends as well, further adding to the multiplayer experience.
As with the similarly styled Getaway titles on console, control issues may be a concern for Studios London as it continues development. With a few months to go, it will be interesting to see just how intuitive they can make the combat and gang-member controls.
- Choose from 5 different gangs bosses and witness the plot unfold in a series of graphic novel narratives
- Control a team of gangsters and swap between them on the fly while engaging in explosive urban combat
- Over 60 missions that offer a mix of shooting, tactical battles and various driving challenges, all in a living breathing photo realistic London
- Free roaming city allows you to explore some of the most dangerous areas of the Underground
- Play a series of mini-games which includes a unique Strategy Card game, Tourist mode, British pub games (pool, cards, darts, chess, skittles) and more
- GameShare allows players to beam playable missions to a friend
via your PSP™ system