393580_largerFollowing on the heels of West Coast Hustle, Miami Vindication and Rio, Gameloft’s latest Gangstar entry, Gangstar Vegas [$2.99] brings the largest environment in the series by virtually recreating everybody’s favorite city of sin, Las Vegas.

I’ll get this out of the way quick so I don’t need to waste your time later – Gangstar Vegas is, in most ways, identical to Grand Theft Auto, from the way the missions are given to the dialog while driving to the types of missions available. The game also doesn't drastically change the way the other three Gangstar games played, but it does refine some mechanics from the previous ones.

As Jason Malone, a boxer who gets paid to take a dive by mobster Frank Valieno, you agree to throw the match, but during one round, you manage to get a hit in and you knock the other guy out cold. You win the fight, and while you didn't mean to, you’re now on Frank’s hit list. During this interactive prologue, you’re introduced to the hand-to-hand fighting controls.

Vegas’ tutorial introduces you to the main aspects of the game while documenting your escape from Frank. Everything is pretty straightforward. You’re able to steer your vehicle by tilting, but I found I was tilting my iPad like a wild man and still couldn't get around corners that easily. I fiddled with the sensitivity, but eventually just swapped to the virtual button steering option. You're able to change the control type for each different vehicle, should you be so inclined.

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Vegas is fully voice acted, and runs the gamut from good acting to that of Resident Evil (1996) quality. Jason himself is very hit and miss. Sometimes he’s into it, sometimes it sounds like he’s bored and wants to get the headset off. Karen, one of the first characters you meet, is believable, as is Vera, who is Karen’s boss. The remaining cast is amateur, but gets the job done; with the exception of E-Man. He’s an annoying character, and if I were Jason, I’d torture him constantly just to get him to shut up.

Controlling Jason is fairly painful, and will require some getting used to. Running is a hassle, and is overly sensitive (even with sensitivity turned down). He tends to walk into walls often, and when you move in the opposite direction, he tends to run into the wall before finally getting his feet. When you add sprinting to the mix it’s even worse. In order to climb obstacles you need to sprint as you run toward whatever it is, however I find Jason likes to jump over everything and anything even when I’m not all that close to the object.

Driving handles much better than walking and running, but manages to feel sloppy and stiff, both at once. It’s not hard to drift around corners or do 180’s, but the way the vehicle manages to magically right itself after completing the turn is slightly jarring. Apparently, vehicles in Vegas don’t come equipped with horns.

mzl.wbzmfzztGraphically, the game is well done. Characters all have unique faces and bodies, and the attention to detail is pretty nice. Lights reflect, water ripples nicely, and your tires squeal and emit smoke appropriately. There are, however, some minor glitches that pop up. You’ll see car doors that look raised or lowered above the rest of the car body, you’ll fall through the world quickly just to pop right back up, and cars will get “impaled” with curbs, trees and other random objects. Collision detection sure isn't that great here.

The biggest gripe I have graphically is when cars, people and objects pop up right in front of you. This seems to happen the most as you’re driving along nicely, only to crash into something that wasn't there a second ago. Poor programming, or perhaps a limitation of iOS and its memory? You’ll eventually come to anticipate and adjust your car accordingly, but it’s still annoying.

There is a lot to do in Gangstar Vegas, and you will never be at a loss of where to go or what to do. Story missions are easily identifiable, and one of the features I quite liked is the option to start a story mission from the map screen. If you don’t feel like driving to a start point, open the map, select the story mission, and begin the event. You’re taken to the cut scene that introduces the mission, and then it begins. This applies to all secondary game types as well.

You’re able to ask friends for help on a mission. If you have no friends, you’re limited to just asking E-Man, and the price starts at $100,000. By asking an actual friend, not only do you get help in the mission, but your friend will receive a reward for helping as well.

mzl.iyxjxyjjGun play is very straightforward. There is no free aim mode; instead, you look where you want to aim, and tap on a person or object to target, which paints a big blue crosshair over top. You can then fire. Vegas also utilizes a cover system, that lets you crouch behind objects or shimmy along walls. While this is a nice feature, the majority of missions involving firefights sadly devolve into crouch, fire at enemy until ammo runs out, crouch, reload, fire at enemy, rinse and repeat.

Every criminal act you do is tallied and you’ll eventually receive a badge icon, indicating the police are after you. With one star, you’ll have one or two cops after you, but they get more aggressive as you gain in stars, and by the time you reach the max (five), you’ll have cops, SWAT and the army after you.

But not to worry. If you die, you get resurrected and will be out some cash for hospital bills. Oddly, the cops never seem to want to arrest you. I beat up a guy in front of a cop, which triggered a star. The cop came and starting beating me. For testing purposes, I sat back and let him do his thing… until I was dead. The AI occasionally gets stuck behind or in objects, making targeting impossible. Two missions I had to abandon and restart because I couldn't kill what the game needed to let me advance. The other cars throughout the world have this weird tendency to stop driving, back up, and then drive into barriers, for no reason whatsoever. Or they’ll drive over a bridge. Or just stop in the middle of the road. The AI definitely leaves a lot to be desired.

mzl.lflqzazs-1As you progress your character levels up. With each new level you earn skill points, which can be used to purchase upgrades. And boy, are there a lot of upgrades. There are different weapon categories; hand-to-hand, pistols, shotguns, rifles, etc., and under each category you can improve different ratings. You can increase clip size, cause more damage, or reduce reload time. You can also increase your resistance to bullets, fire or explosions, and how many healthpacks or armor kits you can carry. In addition, you can also increase top speed, acceleration and handling for vehicles, in each category (cars, boats, motorcycles, planes). In this way, Vegas gives you an almost infinite level of customization.

Completing missions and killing people will also randomly drop items, which can be used to customize Jason, or you can purchase new items at the pawn shop. If that innocent old lady drops “Shave Cut #2”, for example, you can use it to change Jason’s hair style.

While the normal store is easily accessible and allows you to buy new weapons, ammo, vehicles and health or armor (even while in the middle of a story mission), the pawn shop is where you can buy unique items. To do so, you’ll need to have collected pieces of what you want to purchase, or you can spend some of your blood money to do so. Going out and finding high value targets, who usually are standing around or driving in limos and are signified with a briefcase above their head, can yield some of the components required. The list of items available in the pawn shop updates every thirty minutes, and you can count on Connection Johnny (yes, that’s his name) to always have top items.

mzl.pemwkzdbOnce you've completed the story, or simply want to take a break, feel free to try one of the many other events going on. Unlocking certain events requires you to advance to a certain point in the story, but eventually you’ll be able to take part in street races, flight checkpoints, boat races, ring challenges, time attack races and stadium motocross tracks. Each side mission rates you on a scale of one to three stars, depending on if you complete the mission within the time or target requirements.

In addition to races, you can compete in fighting tournaments, go on multi-faceted bank heists, attempt to survive a consistent onslaught of enemies and, my favorite, Carnage missions, which basically task you with destroying as much as you can in a set time.

If you don’t feel like racing or killing, you can steal cars and drop them off at garages for money, or play various casino games, like blackjack, slots and video poker. Why not visit the dollar store, check out a nightclub, or see what restaurants are on offer?

Or, you can purchase properties. There are five districts that make up Vegas, each of which has four properties available. By buying one, you generate income that you can collect every so often. Some you can collect in as little as thirty minutes, others might be twelve hours. You’re also able to fast travel to any property you own, without cost.

And while you might think your actions are for naught, don’t fret. Not only is there a leaderboard that shows your progress but the game has a huge amount of stat tracking; cops, enemies and pedestrians you've killed, time traveled on foot, or by car, how many times you've been killed or died. It’s pretty in-depth.

Gangstar Vegas also features tattoos that you can earn, which are awarded at the end of a mission, and  increases your overall score. Kill 25 gang members during a mission, for example. Tattoos exist outside of the mission structure as well, such as jumping off ramps 25 times with a vehicle.

There are also a total of 180 pickups to find; 60 each of clothing, weapons and wheels. Collecting them earns you about $500 each, while collecting all 60 will earn you a special reward.

There are three types of IAP’s which you can choose to utilize in Gangstar Vegas. You can buy cash straight-up, or if you don’t want to earn skill points through playing, or just want to make Jason a badass, you can buy those too. Finally, you can buy keys, which are used to open crates that can contain great items. Keys can very rarely be found while completing missions, and if you gamble enough, you can earn them. Whether you choose to buy something or not, none of the IAP's are essential to enjoying the game.

The bottom line is, Gangstar Vegas is a great open-ended game, with lots of variety and lots to do, and will keep you playing. The dialog, which is only marred by the acting, is humorous, as are the news reports and the in-vehicle conversations. The races will keep you coming back, and if you’re anything like me, the graphical glitches and inconsistencies won’t keep you from trying to achieve a perfect three-star rating on each and every race, challenge and heist, for the sole purpose of seeing your game completion status jump to 100%.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarNone
  • Dman

    This is an amazing game!! This game has a ton of depth and the story is riveting.

  • Rip73

    Great game, agreed.

    But that is one hell of a comprehensive review.
    Covered everything, good and bad, about the game.
    I'm very impressed.
    Excellently done James.

    • James D Paterson

      Thank you muchly. :)

      • Rip73

        You're very welcome.
        I love it when I read a review where its obvious the writer has put the time into the game and has gone to the effort of covering all aspects, both positive and negative, in order to fully inform us of what exactly we are getting and can expect.
        Its too rare these days and it was worth commenting at just how good a job you did.
        I look forward to seeing a lot more of the same from you.
        Its very clear that you're a gamer who understands the particular platform you're commenting on very well.
        Thanks.
        And keep up the great work.

  • NOEN

    Great review!

  • bigred447uk

    This is a great game with a few cracks amongst the goodness. I wish it had a realistic mode where fall damage didnt enable you to leap off a multistory building whilst barely losing stride, if you have enough health, and where the police remember your crime for longer.

    Having said that it plays well enough and has lots of content. Also i put my iphone 5 in the washing machine so i'm temporarily relagated to my old 4 for now and it plays great on IP4.

    GL did a great job here and i hope it makes some of the companys haters think twice.

    • Ryan

      I agree about the fall damage, but IMO the wanted system is perfect, it's basically a carbon copy of GTA 4's system, just a little bit easier which makes sense as this is a mobile game.

  • themostunclean

    Just an addendum to the portion about keys- they are also dropped by enemies. I've gotten them a few times during carnage missions but I found a more reliable way-

    Go to a small indoor area such as a convenience store or bank and start killing the patrons/employees. This will start racking up your wanted level and soon cops and soldiers will start spawning inside the building. Soon after hitting a full wanted level, a downed enemy will drop a key. This has now worked 8 out of the 6 times I've tried it.

    • themostunclean

      6 out of 8. Sorry.

  • worldcitizen1919

    I'm glad the reviewer was objective and mentioned the control problems but still gave it 4 stars. That kind of a review really helps because it puts everything on the table and lays out all the pros and cons to enable a person to make an informed unforgettable decision either way.

    This is what I call the ultimate balanced review. I'll put this one in my 'might get' basket.

  • worldcitizen1919

    Correction I meant unregrettable decision. Ios always correcting and inserting and changing my words!

  • Jesse7277

    You're a pro MMA fighter not a boxer. That's apparent in the beginning of the game. Other than that excellent review.

  • ODMay

    I have to turn off wifi on my (5th gen) iPodTouch to play this game.

    • ODMay

      Never mind, I found out I have to give it time after it freeze. I don't have to turn off wifi now.

  • toxiccheese

    Controlling Jason is fairly painful.
    Driving manages to feel sloppy and stiff, both at once.
    Gunplay is basic.
    Graphically the game is well done.

    Controls (character and vehicles) and gunplay are very important in this kind of game. If I'm going to be fighting the controls the whole time, how can it be fun?

    4 stars!?

    • James D Paterson

      Once you get past the controls, yes, it's a fun game. Objectivity is being able to complain about something while not letting it ruin the game.

      It takes getting used to, and once you get it down, it feels fine. It's just not second nature that some people feel they should be entitled to on their $500 device.

      • toxiccheese

        You know what ruined the fun in this game?? The controls and the bland backdrop of Vegas. Seriously, where are all the people??? I should be able to drive down the strip mowing down hundreds of people. For me this game is a two star at best. It is not a good game. After a few hours I just gave up. I'll go back to the iOS games that work naturally with touch based controls.

      • https://weheartit.com/cantst0pfallinginL0ve ⭐沛霖⭐㊗

        lol , i am glad i bought this on discount , the auto cam is killing me , LOL !!!

  • Lamar Taylor

    Good review and pretty accurate. I'm not as picky so to me the game looks great, sounds great, and is fun to play. That's all I ask for when I sit down to enjoy a game.

    People can bash mobile games all they want but these games just keep getting better and they are fun. My inner criminal can barely focus on missions because I love "doing dirt" around the city and testing out all the different cars.

  • x x

    So:
    The controls are bad
    The graphics are nothing special, and glitches sometimes, not much objects on the screen in the same time
    Gameplay relies on iap, has nothing new to offer, and obviously inferior to any gta game
    Aiming and shooting is dumbed down
    Boring side quests and i guess even story missions has not much to offer
    And the rating is 4 out of 5 ?????

    • Utfan

      Didn't the review clearly say that the graphics are good, story is decent, side quests are awesome, and there was no need for IAPs? I have every Gangstar and GTA game and this one is better than the GTA games.

    • James D Paterson

      "Boring side quests and i guess even story missions has not much to offer"

      Hmm, could you please point me to the part of my review where I once used the word boring? Because a quick glance, as well as a search, didn't turn up that word once. Nor did I even allude to the side quests, or the story quests, being "boring" with "not much to offer".

      • x x

        "to take part in street races, flight checkpoints, boat races, ring challenges, time attack races and stadium motocross tracks. Each side mission rates you on a scale of one to three stars, depending on if you complete the mission within the time or target requirements.

        In addition to races, you can compete in fighting tournaments, go on multi-faceted bank heists, attempt to survive a consistent onslaught of enemies and, my favorite, Carnage missions, which basically task you with destroying as much as you can in a set time.

        If you don’t feel like racing or killing, you can steal cars and drop them off at garages for money, or play various casino games, like blackjack, slots and video poker. Why not visit the dollar store, check out a nightclub, or see what restaurants are on offer?"
        That doesn't sound very entertaining or even remotely new to me. And taking into account modern gameloft's approach to developing games makes me doubt that those side-missions are fun even more.

      • James D Paterson

        Ah, so it's your opinion that the activities you haven't tried are boring, and nothing to do with the review, as the section you quoted doesn't say anything about them being boring or bland.

  • GameExp3rt

    Truly somewhat saints row

  • za

    this game is amazing but need to add more but come on guys theres more to come its only version 1.0.0 but they could have added a safehouse,take off the repaying of a car if you want to change color and take of the deliver cost that will bankrupt a lot of people have a relationship more interaction with buildings weapons cars pay for a lapdance add back playlist,etc all in all good game oh and when you kill frank you take his house

  • andris12345

    Great review.

  • Protoman

    Soooo...this is like GTA only crappier? That's what I'm getting from the review.

    • James D Paterson

      Interesting perspective. I suppose by reading only the first two paragraphs you could come to that conclusion.

      It's basically GTA on mobile (not counting Rockstar's own ports, of course).

      How crappy or better it is than GTA is up to whoever is playing it.

      • Protoman

        I meant from the control description. When push comes to shove controls are the only thing that's matters in a game like this and it sounds like the GTA series on iOS has it in this particular category.

      • marc0313

        It's not really GTA. more Saints Row-like.

  • WilliamA

    Where is the formula 1 (that we can see on the dev diary)?

    • themostunclean

      Maybe an unlock for collecting all auto collectibles. Or in the pawn shop.

  • za

    The game is awesome but have some problems but we shoul all calm down the game just came out all games will have things we dont like when it comes out wait till it updates

    Even though they could have added a place to live you dont have to repay for cars just to change color or pay for it to get delivered and when you kill frank you take his house Nd it doesn't cost much to upgrade things

  • Utfan

    SPOILER ALERT!

  • DF

    Is the garage unlocked after a certain number of missions or can you sell away stolen cars right from the beginning? I can't seem to find it either on the map or going road by road through southside.

  • markxx80

    Best Gangstar yet!! No questions asked.

  • icoker

    does anyone know the purpose for the burger place?

  • ihd1234567890

    it is a bit disappointing that they did not have enough time or effort to make some sort of co-op mode. Maybe the call for help thing is supposed to be where a friend can do a missions with you? I don't know. Someone please reply.

    • Utfan

      Sorry I kind of hoped for the same thing too. I love the game though. Anyway, "call for help" is just asking someone to do the mission for you. When you click it, you select a Facebook friend who has the game and it pays him $100,000 from your virtual currency and passes the mission.

  • ayu85

    This game is really freaking awesome!
    Long time I haven't played a game such a long time on iOS. I let my PS3 be there sitting and play Gangstar Vegas on my iPhone 5.
    Graphic is well done and a free some time even the controls fits perfect. The cover system in Gun Fights works well, too and the most nice thing is you can get everything without real money.
    Play this game now from time to time even I completed the story because I want to buy every item you can get (till GTA V is released in September.
    Gangstar Vegas I really was suprised how great it is (I like it a lot more than Gangstar Rio)
    :)

  • Aland Jamal

    How can you upgrade weapons and other stuff into another level

    • https://weheartit.com/cantst0pfallinginL0ve ⭐沛霖⭐㊗

      its like crafting in RPG games.. geez , this game got lots of depth .."
      For example : you need to collect 10 class C1 & C2 car and turn in to pawn shop and make it a class B car !

  • Salsander

    Now that San Andreas is out, there's little to no point in buying this game. For the extra $4, there's a whole lot more content to find there. The controls have been fine tuned to a point I didn't feel at a disadvantage for not using a controller. The graphics are also superb with the inclusion of dynamic shadows and real time reflections. The world is also gargantuan in comparison to Vegas, yet dense with material and things to do. And although SA doesn't have the best story in the GTA series, the voice acting and satire trumps anything found in a Gangstar game. I'm not against so called 'copies' of games, but Gangstar Vegas just felt lazy. Gameloft had a good beginning with games such as NOVA and Asphalt, but lately they have been going downhill with their IAPs and general lack of quality. Even if you believe the two shouldn't be equated because of their different price tags, a $4 IAP can not make Vegas nearly as good SA.

Gangstar Vegas Reviewed by James Paterson on . Rating: 4