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Sept. 18 2006
Gangs of London - PSP Review
Release Date Distributor Publisher Developer
7/9/2006SonySonySony London
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Smashing up the car.
Gangs of London is one of Sony's big Christmas titles this year. Developed by their London Studio the game has more then a passing resemblance to The Getaway. It's set in London's criminal underground, has a rather decent graphics engine, plenty of swearing, and plenty of action. The problem is that the PS2 titles weren't that great to start with, so can the developers make amends with this PSP title?

In terms of storyline Gangs of London is your typical criminal underworld tale. At the start of the game you can select from five of London's fiercest gangs ("Morris Kane Firm" Cockney, "Water Dragon" Triad, "EC2 Crew" Yardies, "Zakharov Organisation" Russians or "Talwar Brothers" Pakistani) before trying to take control of the streets. After selecting your gang you are then presented with a map of the London area, and typically 4-6 different missions which you can attempt to complete - and thereby increase your turf - and power. Each of the missions are rather short - typically around 10-20 minutes which makes the game perfect for playing on your PSP when you're on the run.

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About to cop a beating!
The first thing that hits you with this game is the cut scenes which bookend each of the missions. We're not talking CG, but rather a series of still images with voiceovers. This would be tolerable but for one thing, every time you get to the end of the dialogue you have to press the X button to continue to the next still image. Why the hell they didn't just make it automatically continue is baffling. But that really the smallest issue with this game, it gets worse from there...

Essentially this is a third person action title where you ultimate goal is to take control of the city by completing the missions of offer. These missions are either on foot, or in the car. Selecting the mission takes you straight to the mission - no free-roaming exploration in this game folks (although there is a Free Roam Mode available from the main menu). There are several types of missions such as defending your turf, escaping from rivals, attacking enemy positions, making deliveries and so on). The main difference between this title and The Getaway is that you aren't working on your own but often have a couple of gang members by your side. Better still, you can order them around, or take control of other members (each of which usually has a different weapon).

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Driving sections look great.
Where Gangs of London really falls down is the control system. While the driving section is OK (although the car handling is very average at times, and some of collisions are less then realistic!) the on-foot sections are quite poor. Due to the lack of a second analogue stick the game suffers in terms of aimin at enemies - more often then not you'll be missing them by a wide margin. The real challenge is getting your aim right, especially when you're in a major firefight with enemies in all directions. The inability to peek around corners means you'll be heading into rooms blind, and hoping to god that your aiming is right. This makes the game extremely frustrating at times, especially in the stealth missions when you have to sneak up on enemies before performing a stealth kill.

There are plenty of additional game modes to keep you happy when you've had enough, or completed, the main story mode. These include the previously mentioned Free Roam, London Tourist which allows you to view the city highlights, Cause Havoc where you cause all manner of disruption, Riot Control where you have to quell violence, Speed Trap which sees you driving around maintaining a speed, Getaway to evade police and a couple more. It's fairly impressive, but most are small diversions from thne main game. More fun are the pub games which include skittles (average), 8-ball pool (excellent), darts (excellent) and arcade games similar to snake (average). These are all quite entertaining in their own right, and worthy of some of your time. Also worthy is the Gang Battle, a mode which is more like a turn based strategy title - and one which will have you hooked for considerable time.

What I can't comprehend is how Sony Europe, one of the biggest and best developers in the world, and a developer with the complete backing of Sony's technical teams has only managed some lame game sharing to transfer a map from one PSP to another, but failed to add a single hint of multi-player. This is the perfect game for some multi-player action, but there's nothing. Pathetic.

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Graphically Gangs of London is a mixed bag. On the one hand the levels can look quite spectacular - if you've played The Getaway then this game isn't too far off that with some wonderful texturing, plenty of traffic on the road, and some solid explosions. We've already mentioned the average cut-scenes which we're not to fond of, but the camera angles pose a major problem - even in some of the pub games such as 8-ball. They struggle to follow the action, don't allow you to peek around corners, or can't be manually moved to enough positions to be worthwhile. How many years is it going to take developers to make efficient cameras in video games?

Audio is equally unexciting. There's some music but it's sparse and becomes repetitive rather quickly. The profanity laiden speech is far too brief with its main use in the cut-scenes. Fortunately the effects are passable.

Gangs of London is a game ruined by terrible controls, poor cut scenes and a lack of polish. There are plenty of additional game modes however most of these are hampered by the issues from the main game. Sadly The Getaway clone can't even match the original, and still falls well short of Rockstar's GTA titles. One only for die-hard fans of the genre.

Review By: Dave Warner

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GRAPHICSEnvironments and characters are nice, poor cameras and cut-scenes.
SOUNDLimited range of music and speech, the effects are adequate though.
GAMEPLAYThe on foot sections suffer poor controls, the cars are only just better.
VALUEIf you didn't like The Getaway you'll hate this. It's hard to enjoy.
OVERALLGangs of London is a very average title that feels like a game set in The Getaway universe, but without the name. Sadly this game has more problems then the PS2 games and can only be recommended to die-hard action fans, or fans of The Getaway.

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