A little more than a month ago, iPhone giant Gameloft first announced a sequel to Gangstar: West Coast Hustle [$4.99 / Free / HD], an open-world crime game which we liked quite a bit in our review despite a few disappointments. Gangstar: Miami Vindication [$6.99] was released this evening, and while several of our annoyances from the first have been tweaked or massaged to be less problematic, there's still a few things keeping Miami Vindication from being our favorite thug simulator.

Much like the original, Gangstar: Miami Vindication features a full city to explore, a wide variety of vehicles to steal, weapons ranging from baseball bats to flame throwers, and a heap of missions to complete. (75 to be exact.) The game plays exactly how you'd expect it to play if you've ever played a Grand Theft Auto or similar type of open world crime game. You can play through the series of missions which vary wildly from something as simple to going to a particular point in the city to stealing a specific car or even racing. Alternatively, you can just disregard the missions entirely and instead just drive around the city, stealing cars, running from the police, or really doing whatever you feel like doing.

While there isn't a whole lot of innovation to be found in Miami Vindication, it has been improved in some ways over the original. For instance, the game is fully voiced over and the voice acting actually seems to be a little better than your typical Gameloft game-- at least for major characters. Gameloft also has been boasting the fact that the game was written in part by one of the writers from the TV show The Wire. This story consists of dabbling in the various sectors of the Miami criminal underground on the hunt for your missing brother. I don't see it winning any awards, but by and large the dialog in Miami Hustle is substantially less cringeworthy than West Coast Hustle.

Controls seem to be a lot tighter than the original, offering three different options: Tilt, a virtual steering wheel, and a slider which I've found myself preferring. When on a motorcycle, tilting your device back and forth executes wheelies and stoppies although riding a wheelie for any length of time usually seems to result in a spectacular crash. Lighting is improved as well, resulting in some fairly spectacular views during sunset and sunrise as the entire city is bathed in warm sunlight.

Unfortunately, even though the lighting is better, Miami Vindication is home to some heinously low polygon models. Cars look decent, but character models look absolutely dreadful. Animations are extremely limited, faces lack depth, there are no fingers to be found anywhere, and no lips move when anyone speaks. Instead, they just flail their arms about and bop their heads back and forth. With how much of the game is spent watching two characters talk to each other, this soon becomes incredibly distracting.

The draw distance is decent, but pop-in is considerable. You can see buildings and terrain from far away, but trees and other small details all appear incredibly close to your character. Much like the original Gangstar, the city of Miami in Miami Vindication is terribly barren. Only a few cars will ever appear on screen at once, and pedestrians are rare as can be. Everything feels entirely too clean and empty. Gameloft did implement some varied areas to the city instead of being totally metropolitan, but all the subareas all feel equally lonely and empty.

If you can get past the relatively sparse graphical environment, there really isn't anything else like Miami Vindication on the App Store. Riding around on motorcycles and boats is a lot of fun, and if you can find a helicopter, flying around the city is really pretty cool. I still prefer Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars [$9.99 / Free / HD], but if you don't like the top-down view and want a full 3D experience, Gangstar: Miami Vindication is worth exploring.

TouchArcade Rating

  • Mike

    I'm intrigued, although it looks like absolute crap.

    • Salsamd

      It actually looks a lot better than that video. See the last video in the opening post of the ongoing thread.

    • SiDCrAzY

      I personally don't mind the graphics, I think they're okay. The animation is the thing that really sticks out to me. Now THAT is kinda bad.

    • Your Mom

      This game keeps crashing when I try to load it and it's getting on my nerves, plz help me

  • Ip4

    What a disappointment.

  • http://twitter.com/Inaba_kun Phil Baxter

    Looks terrible, and bizarrely worse than the two GTA spin offs (Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories) on the PSP. Both of which were standard full 3D GTA games. We've all seen from the likes of Epic Citadel what the i4 is capable of, and the 3GS isn't too far behind, so the only reason this game looks so terrible is because Gameloft were aiming for old school 3G support.

    Personally I think it's time to move on, the 3G is ancient and should be left to serve out it retirement years as a phone with some casual games on the side. For those of us that want real handheld games, of PSP quality or higher, we should demand a graphical level vastly higher than this.

    • SiDCrAzY

      It would take more development time to create a game with Citadel-like graphics. Meaning it would be more expensive for Gameloft.

      Couple that with the fact that they would make less money once they actually sell the game due to the fact that they had to cut off a portion of the iDevice population.

      Gameloft doesn't care whether or not they give you guys "PSP quality" games, they care about making the most amount of money as possible.

      Either way if anybody wants "real" handheld games THAT BAD, they should get a PSP or DS.

      I personally don't mind, while I do have a PSP and DS and it has awesome games that the iDevices don't have, the iDevices still have plenty of fun games.

      I don't look for "epic" games when it comes to my iPod, I just look at the fun factor.

    • ltcommander.data

      With 1st and 2nd gen devices still making up probably 40-50% of the iOS installed base, with the 2nd gen Touch basically being given away for free over the summer as part of the back to school deal, it doesn't make sense for Gameloft who seems to rely on selling titles in volume to ignore a significant part of their audience. Epic being an engine developer and mainly doing mobile platforms on the side for now can afford to be a little bit more forward looking. I'd certainly expect support for 1st and 2nd gen devices to fizzle out next year with iOS 5. Something to look forward to with the next Gangstar I guess.

      The other part is the endless debate on appropriate price points and development time. I don't doubt that the various portable GTAs had significantly larger budgets and longer development time than the demands for yearly sequels Gameloft seems to be facing and the GTA prices on their launch platforms reflect that.

      • http://twitter.com/Inaba_kun Phil Baxter

        There surely must be plenty of people with new devices who want high end content, and refuse to buy low end stuff like this. I'm up for a good GTA style game, but it will have to look hugely better than this to pique my interest, and for what it's worth, it will also have to drop the horrible 'gangsta' stuff, which is incredibly juvenile, puerile, and frankly pathetic.

        With Mafia 2 currently doing well on the 360 and PS3, Take 2 should port the original to i4 and 3GS. The game still looks pretty nice and should run on new devices if coded properly. Ports like this would be a good way to save on development time while feeding new devices the higher end content they deserve. Gameloft can have the low end, they're welcome to it, but they won't be getting much out of me I'm afraid.

      • ltcommander.data

        I always wondered how well Driver did/does on iOS. Certainly it doesn't look as popular as Gangstar, but there is probably a dedicated following. I'd certainly be interested in a port of a newer Driver game or preferably a new built for iOS game by Gameloft/Ubisoft to tie in with Driver San Francisco. Porting older console games might get good content onto iOS with a reasonable price, but it's generally seems hard to graft good controls onto existing games.

      • RhythmMan

        You have a hard time with logic I see. Even after people take the time to explain it to you, you're still trying to justify your narrow view of economics. Go play your Epic Citadel demo...with no AI, no people, no jet skies, no cars, no helicopters, no guns, no missions, no story, no freakn anything. And stop insulting a fun game with ALL those things because it doesn't look as good as a tech demo.

      • Mediocre

        With zero actual content, the game won't be "juvenile, puerile, and frankly pathetic" at least.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XIZZHYX55ZL65FKOKC46BDA3GI Ed Lashley

        Sure you want it, but are you willing to pay for it? Mafia 2 ported by Take 2 to the iDevice would cost you 39.99, probably.

      • Decoy Octopus

        I Will

      • Scully_636

        shut up man and stop critisizing it and play ur stupid psp. go home already :P

    • Scully_636

      okay. lets remember that this is an ipod. if u want awesome graphics, go play on your console or even you psp. but lets not forget that its a game by gameloft. not microsoft or nintendo. so deal with it.

  • tsharpfilm

    Is it even possible right now to do detailed models with fingers, lip sync, and crowded city streets on an iDevice?

    • SiDCrAzY

      It's probably possible on the new devices, but there aren't many of them out there so I don't think devs want to make a game that specifically caters to that crowd.

  • Aza

    Good as its going to get for now I guess. Why oh why won't rockstar port GTA (LCS/VCS) to iPhone? Surely it can be done. I'd pay top $ for those kinds of games.

    • SiDCrAzY

      Translation: Top $ = Anything under 10 bucks ;)

    • ltcommander.data

      After all these years Rockstar finally relented and is porting GTA III, Vice City, and San Andreas to Mac. If they can do this, chances of LCS and VCS iOS ports are looking up. I'd think the dilemma at Rockstar is whether to spend resources porting LCS/VCS to iOS now or working on the next new portable GTA title probably targeting iOS from the get-go in addition to PSP and 3DS.

    • Dusse

      I don't think they want to. Rockstar only does high quality, and they probably don't think (and I agree with them) that they could do the game justice on iOS (with controls etc).

  • SiDCrAzY

    Game is pretty fun, though I'm not a fan of this genre. Not even the GTA ones. Only 3D GTA I ever liked was GTA IV. San Andreas was fun to mess around with, but I never got serious with that game. I treated the game like a cheap whore I suppose ;)

    Only GTA I liked was CTW.

    With that said, it's nice to see GL actually improving.

    • SiDCrAzY

      Correction: Only GTA's I liked were CTW and IV

  • ultimo

    The icon makes me Drool!

  • Justin

    It's Sawyer. From LOST. Has no one made this connection yet? I call shenanigans!

    • http://twitter.com/funkti8n funkti8n

      I searched the comments specifically to see if anyone thought that icon was Sawyer!

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=612894605 Jack Shiels

        Same. That's Sawyer alright!

    • SiDCrAzY

      Oh crap, can't believe I didn't see that. I'm a huge lost fan.

    • CaseyLay

      Actually, I realized that the second I saw him. I'm just not surprised, because the guy from the last game "West Coast Hustle" looked like Jack.

  • Anonymous

    Blocky 3D graphics are still nicer on the eyes than those crappy retro games you folk seem to love over here.
    Besides, why the bias against Gameloft? Their graphics arent any more blocky than that survival horror game (i forget the name) that had damage modelling on the enemy characters. That was just awful yet you were full of praises then.

    • Anonymous

      Wait until you get older, you'll still love the games you played as a kid and they'll be considered "crappy retro games" by all the younger generations. You'll look at them knowing how much they're missing out due to their ignorance.

      • Anonymous

        In that case, for some of us games like Syphon Filter on the PSX are old games i played way back....and we thought they had good graphics then. This doesn't look any worse than lots of PS1 games so why isn't this being given the free 'retro' pass?

    • tsharpfilm

      I know, right. How can a site that worships games like Super Quick Hook be critical of the graphics in a game like Gangstar? I don't get it.

      And I'm 30 years old and I can't stand most retro games. They were fun when I was a kid, but today I'd much rather play Super Mario Galaxy than the original Super Mario.

      • SiDCrAzY

        Games like Super Quick Hook get complimented on their graphics because they have GOOD looking 8bit/16bit graphics.

        Just like Gangstar doesn't have the best looking 3D graphics and get called out for it, games that have bad looking 8bit graphics would be called out just the same.

        A game like Gangstar doesn't automatically have better graphics than SQH just because it's 3D.

        YOU might like them better or prefer them to retro graphics, but whether you like retro graphics or not is a whole other matter.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        Super Quick Hook, Pix n Love Rush, and other games are dripping with style. Gangstar feels like it was developed based on a bullet listing of features it needed to have, and character models that look good wasn't on that list. I understand that developing games like this consists of a huge balancing act for getting as much on screen at once, but models that look humans and more than one pedestrian on screen at a time is worth cutting the draw distance down a little bit or whatever else they could have done to make the game feel more alive.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5I3K2DKZSC7CF62UR5IG5D4WDY Omar Aria

    for me .... it's worth $0.99

    • Anonymous

      April 6th, baby.

  • Sticktron

    On the i4 the graphics are sharp, detailed, smooth, there is excellent draw distance and plenty of vehicles on the streets.

    The limited pedestrians is unfortunate, but there aren't 2D sprites like Chinatown, they're fully 3d models with textures. There is only a limited amout of memory to play with (especially to make things backwards compatible, but even on newer devices).

    Don't know wha people are complaining about. There is nothing else like it on the iPhone, and for what it is it's well executed. It's not really fair to judge it by what other features you'd like to have, but more what was accomplished within the constrained resources of a mobile computer.

  • Jeffmd

    It seem like an allright game. First thing you must do is switch the driving controls to stick. The tilt controls can be a bit touchy and turning around is absolutely hideous because the camera dosn't move with you when you do. The stick (slide) option gives finer controls and the camera never loses orientation.

    Voice acting was pretty descent. Story is kinda lose but the mission are more like giving you what you have seen before, and poking fun at it too. One of your first mission is to shoot up a bunch of gators to retrieve a bro's precious gun.

    Control on foot pretty nice, youll have no problem picking targets and putting a cap in em. Driving leaves abit to be desired. The tilt method of driving had me slamming into walls and I lost a number of vehicals to water hazards. I also slammed in to a cop once cause the camera dosn't follow you on sharp turns and I couldn't see him.

    Graphics, alot of complaints here but as someone who knows how these engines work, I am pretty impressed. Creating a massive streaming scaling engine on such a limited hardware spec is no easy task. Buildings may be pretty basic upfront but don't forget it is rendering alot of REAL things in the backdrop too. There is alot of texture repeat which leads to the games clean look, but that is mostly in part due to size restrictions (300 megs vs 1+gigs that GTA PSP gets) and production cost. imo the biggest improvement that is needed are character models. They are all pretty awful and there should be no reason you can't use high poly models for cut scene use. If anyone has played FFX-2 on ps2, square created some pretty amazing high poly models for cut scene use.

    In the end though and it was mentioned before, gameloft did not intend to make the next gta. As much as they have come a huge way from the java based cell phone games, I doubt they have the resources yet to pull off multi million dollar jobs to create a full fledge gta game. And in the end, games are made to make money.

  • http://twitter.com/ifoneprogrammer Ryeley Kuykendall

    Um is it just me or did he actually say "Miami Hustle" what was that all about?