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Gangstar: Miami Vindication

For: iPhone   Also on: Mobile

Stuck in a vice grip

Product: Gangstar: Miami Vindication | Publisher: Gameloft | Format: iPhone | Genre: Action | Players: 1 | Version: US | App version: 1.0.0
Gangstar: Miami Vindication iPhone, thumbnail 1
Try as you might, there's no ignoring the elephant in the room.

While it's unfair to review Gangstar: Miami Vindication in comparison with Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, there's value in juxtaposing the two games. It doesn't take much to see that the success of the former has everything to do with the strength of its design and storytelling.

The presence of Rockstar's series on iPhone and iPod touch can't be blamed for the lacklustre nature of Gangstar: Miami Vindication, just as you wouldn't lash out at a great chef for making other chefs look inferior.

This is a game that has enough shortcomings that it doesn't need comparison to Grand Theft Auto to look bad - poor writing, plain gameplay, and inconsistent presentation make for an underwhelming experience.

The inkwell has gone dry

Disappointment begins with the story, which casts you in the role of no-nonsense country boy Johnny who drives from the Florida panhandle down to seaside Miami to save his troubled little brother. It's a cliched beginning to a threadbare plot used as an excuse to load the game up with missions.

From scenario scripting to dialogue, it's poorly written throughout. Groan-worthy one-liners dominate conversations, characters are paper-thin constructions with one-dimensional personalities, and missions feature one predictable situation after another. Despite Gameloft bringing in a writer involved with TV masterpiece The Wire, the writing suffers in this sequel.

Story may not matter to you, but it's important with respect to the added pressure it puts on gameplay. Without compelling characters or an interesting story, a greater burden is placed on the action as a means of holding your attention.

Gangstar: Miami Vindication
never breaks from convention nor delivers gameplay of high enough quality to overcome its staging.

Saint's death row

To the game's credit, variety isn't an issue. Piloting a helicopter as an escape from a shootout downtown after which you head out to the swamp to kick a few alligators around sounds like over-the-top fun.

Were this to play out fluidly, Gangstar: Miami Vindication might have carved itself a role as the Saint's Row of iPhone and iPod touch: lowbrow and trashy at times, but good for some laughs. But it's too clunky and unpolished to be anything so grand.

Take the driving controls, for example. Rather than using the virtual analogue stick that sits in the lower-left corner when travelling on foot, the game forces you to use the accelerometer, a virtual wheel that appears as a half-circle, or a horizontal slider.

It's nice to have options, but the ideal one isn't included - why make things harder by opting out of the analogue stick for driving?

And the list goes on

There are myriad other problems. When driving a boat through the canals that bisect Miami, the camera doesn't pan up and out of the way of low bridges, which proceed to fully obscure the screen as you roar across the water's surface.

A route to your mission objective is never displayed on the mini-map, which requires constant checking of the full map in order to avoid making a wrong turn.

The game frequently fails to auto-target enemies. Enemies occasionally get caught up against objects or stuck in the environment. Evading the police is a joke - as long as you're not in their direct line of sight, you can be standing in the middle of a downtown street and your wanted level will drop.

Gangstar: Miami Vindication may improve upon the previous instalment in tangible ways - the graphics are slightly better, the city is bigger, characters are voiced - yet the inability to improve gameplay in a meaningful way is a missed opportunity.

Dressing Gangstar: West Coast Hustle in Miami clothes doesn't cut it when expectations have risen and the takeout is better in Chinatown.
Gangstar: Miami Vindication
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 24 September 2010
Poor writing, conventional action, and a general lack of polish conspire to make Gangstar: Miami Vindication an underwhelming game
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