Gangs of London
What the hell is wrong with the quality assurance in Sony’s London Studio? Do they spend entire days in the pub? It sure looks like it, because the London boys once again deliver a horribly mediocre mess, filled with blatantly obvious technical flaws. Thought The Getaway: Black Monday was bad? This one’s worse…
At first, Gangs of London seems to offer quite a bang for its buck. It offers both a story mode, a free-roaming mode (with numerous things to do), a turn-based strategy mode, a number of pub mini-games and a game-sharing mode. However, as you’ll read further on, nothing is particularly fun. It’s all painfully average at best.
Let’s start with the mini-games, arguably the best part of the game. You kan play skittles, darts, 8-ball or arcade (which is basically Snake). They’re pretty addictive, have a nice learning curve and should keep you busy for some time. And you can play them through ad hoc Wi-Fi if you want. The free-roaming mode is a mess. You can choose between several ways to play it; Free Drive and Cause Havoc are pretty self-explanatory, The Knowledge is a dumbed-down version of Crazy Taxi, Riot Control has you subduing a rioting mass of people, in Getaway, you have to run from the police and Speed Trap forces you to stay above a set speed. There’s nearly no incentive to keep playing, since the basic game mechanics are so seriously botched.
Take the camera for instance. Because the PSP only has one analogue stick, you can’t change the perspective. This wouldn’t have been such a problem if the basic stance were any good. And it’s not. Even when it’s not stuck behind walls, the camera nearly always fails to give you a good view of the action. Often, you will be shooting enemies (or they will be shooting you) you never saw coming. Closely related are the troublesome controls. You move around with the stick, but if you want to shoot someone, you’ll need to lock on to your foe. Most of the time, the game will choose the wrong one (Murphy’s law kicks in way too often in Gangs of London), which leaves you desoriented (and let’s the other one have some potshots at you). When you’re aiming, you’re also forced to strafe around, which is painstakingly aggrevating in close quarters, since you’ll be hitting walls and obstacles the entire time. And don’t even get me started on the terrible stealth mechanics…
The AI routines have must have been written on a rainy Monday morning, because they’re a total mess. Both enemies and team members alike have a nasty habit of getting stuck behind walls, and simply standing in the middle of a crossfire, waiting to get shot. Taking cover? Never seen a friendly or enemy gang member do it in all my sessions. Your gang members are also good at simply ignoring or disobeying your orders (after a while, you simply won’t bother anymore). In the story mode, they’re supposed to get better after a while because of some sort of experience system, but even if they do, I haven’t seen it.
It wouldn’t have been a The Getaway game (okay, semantically, it isn’t, but we all know better, don’t we?) without vehicles. And just like pretty much all of the game, their handling Sucks -capital S!-. Is it really that hard to implement decent car physics? If Rockstar can pull it off with GTA: Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories, why can’t Studio London do it? The vehicles all drive like bricks. Their cornering is god awful and hitting a pole causes you to stand still immediately, even if you hit it at around 80 km/h (50 mph for our Anglo-Saxon friends)!
Completing the game shouldn’t take you more than four hours on the normal setting. Most missions are over in barely two to three minutes (I’m not kidding!). There’s no storyline between missions, you basically complete your tasks, expand your territory until you win. The missions are all dull and repetitive. Assaulting a warehouse? Defending some important bloke? Chasing cars (no Snow Patrol pun intended)? Been there, done that. Should you feel a strange urge to continue playing this mess, you can try the aforementioned mini-games and free-roaming mode, but there’s also a turn-based strategy mode. In each turn, you can do three different things, but it all boils down to recruiting extra members, moving them and taking over enemy turf. Plain and simple, but boring as hell.
Gangs of London only shines when it comes to audio. The game’s voices are exquisitely done. Though the number of f*cks, c*nts and sh*ts is approaching critical levels, it adds to the realism. The music isn’t bothersome and sound effects are crisp. The graphics in the game are nothing to scoff about. The textures are bland and don’t even come close to those on the PS2. The game sometimes suffers from inexplainable framerate drops (that last for the rest of the level!), has countless clipping errors and features sloppy animations. The only good thing is the sheer size of London. You’ll recognize the most important locations immediately. This is nice feat for a handheld game.
But then again, what’s the use of having a huge world if it’s not enjoyable. Everything in this game lacks good ideas and finishing, save for the voice-acting. There are tons of great games on the PSP now, so you shouldn’t bother with this one. If you’re looking for a great free-roaming action game, just go buy Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories