I confess, I missed the explosion. If there’s one thing Gangstar Rio likes to do, it’s talk, and it was during one of these low-key (albeit sweary) moments that my main character Raul got ‘hit’.

But which set of punks made the move? Gangstar Rio certainly gives you a lot of options during its tutorial missions, with Raul pretty much offending everyone as his cocksure attitude gets the better of him.

So in traditional Gangstar/GTA fashion it’s up to you to go through each of the various criminal and political masterminds, whacking them with a few well-timed explosions of your own across 60 story missions.

Got game

There’s been no increase in city size over Miami Vindication, which sounds a little disappointing at first until it becomes clear that the extra time and effort has gone into making the environment look and feel consistent.

The ramshackle shanty town on the hill, for instance, slowly curves into the opulent bay area, with flash cars and women in incredible small bikinis. Rio is a city of contrasts, like Miami and LA before it, albeit one with a distinctly brighter sun.

Adding to the sense of place this time around is the increased volume of traffic and NPCs milling about on the pavement.

There wasn’t a moment during my hands-on when the city seemed empty. There's always somebody to beat up and rob (if you like that sort of thing).

Rollin' rollin'

Once I’d set up the driving controls to my liking (which took a relatively long time, given how many options there are to choose), I was dashing about the city, running down goons, and employing the generous auto-aim to whack foes with ease.

It also wasn’t long before I got a glimpse at Rio’s other major new feature - indoor missions. At specific points during the story you’ll be able to enter buildings such as a hospital or ‘banging’ nightclub.

Talking of music, the soundtrack is sounding even stronger than the Ninja Tune centric Miami, though that may be because raps in Portuguese or the sounds of M.I.A. seem to fit the mood of the game a little better.

Footbaaarrgh!

The missions themselves don’t look to have strayed from the familiar GTA template as far as I could see, with the first few concentrating on getting you up to speed on the concepts before taking all your toys away (including your fast car).

There are, however, quad bikes and motorcycles to commandeer alongside the usual selection of cars, boats, and helicopters, while your personal arsenal is bolstered by the addition of an explosive football (which, sadly, was locked for my playtest).

Gangstar Rio isn’t likely to sway those who found the first two games overbearing - it’s hardly the most subtle of Gameloft’s library when it comes to both gameplay and how closely it follows its console inspiration - but fans of the series should be pleased with this latest outing when it launches later this year.

Subscribe to Pocket Gamer on

Want more? Check out our growing collection of Gangstar Rio: City of Saints articles!