Gangstar Rio: City of Saints Review

By , on November 11, 2011

Gangstar Rio: City of Saints
Download on the AppStore
3 out of 5


  • Large, detailed and unique environments to explore; 'Rio' makes for a great Sandbox environment.
  • More side-missions to distract you; everything from blowing up trains, to delivering burgers, and rescuing injured citizens.
  • Tight tilt controls for driving; vehicles designed for this method specifically.


  • Buggy engine; cars literally 'pop' in to existence while buildings barely render as you drive past them.
  • Car physics feel incredibly odd; sports cars can literally 'float' while simultaneously ignoring direct smashes or exploding from a handful of bullets.
  • Poorly scripted and presented storyline.


While in many aspects Gangstar Rio goes for broke and is bigger and better than its previous incarnations, making it the most comprehensive sandbox style game currently available for iOS, it fails to satisfy thanks to bugs, physics issues and a combat system the needs to be completely retooled.

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It hardly bears pointing out that the Gangstar series from Gameloft has taken its inspiration from Rockstar's GTA series, but where previous incarnations of Gangstar were happy to simply ape older generations of GTA, the latest version takes a swing at something entirely new. Unfortunately it's a swing and a miss as no matter how you look at it, Gangstar Rio: City of Saints fails to excite and inspire the same sort of sandbox fun it attempts to emulate.

The problems are evident early on as you jump in to a sporty vehicle and slide, crash, bounce and yes, even float your way through the back alleys of a permanently sunset drenched Rio cityscape. It's a beautiful area and one that's perfectly suited to this style of gameplay as it features environments ranging from its beach-y coastline to slums, idyllic hilltops and upmarket shopping districts.

Unfortunately the hits keep coming as the environment suffers for its poorly designed engine, with building rendering all too late and vehicles literally popping in to existence and falling in to their place even at a moderate jogging speed. Stopping to jump out of the vehicle and pop a few bad guys in the jaw is no better either as the combat system refuses to allow you to close the gap, often having you swing at empty air in frustration. Until the later stages of the game, guns are similarly challenging to use as they fire erratically and 'health meters' swing from green to red seemingly at random.

All of this is what you will have to contend with as you follow the story of the avenging gangster conveniently given a second chance after 'dying' with the name of Angel. You'll follow him as he infiltrates his old gang, unraveling a plot involving assassins, drug cartels and corrupt officials all while wearing nothing but breezy shorts and a couple chains.

Story missions are unlocked through a 'respect' system, ultimately allowing you to level up Angel and customize him by improving his health, ability with weapons, and vehicle handling. 'Respect' is a currency that can also be earned through side-missions and performing dangerous/illegal activities including murder, stun driving and delivering burgers. The fact that your character's appearance and ability to purchase weapons are almost limited by your respect level only adds to the frustration while limiting the freedoms you have in Gangstar Rio.

When considered on its own merits as a cheesy sandbox title designed for the iOS platform, Gangstar Rio has a lot to offer, but despite being the third installment of the series it shows a lack of polish; something that would have elevated this game from simply being a copycat to being a series in its own right.


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