The first time I beat a woman to death with my bare hands in Gangstar Vegas she was wearing nothing more than her underwear and a pair of high heeled boots. She collapsed onto the floor, dropped a parachute, then slowly dematerialised into a pool of blood.

After that I went on a rampage, punching and kicking the same bloated, moustached man in a Hawaiian shirt over and over. Each time he dissolved another would appear nearby and I would take out my frustrations on his stupid, immortal face.

I tell you this not because I'm proud of my actions, but to set the tone. This is a squalid game of violence, hatred, clichéd dialogue, and one-dimensional characters.

It is often unpalatably misogynistic, always poorly paced, and ships with a raft of glitches, bugs, and shoddy control schemes that just aren't good enough.

What happened in Vegas

You play as MMA fighter Jason, a burly man with a snake on the back of his jacket who starts the game by spectacularly failing to throw a fight.

After some brief preamble and a few missions that explain how things work, you're left to your own devices in the city of sin.

A stick on the left of the screen moves Jason around like a drunk with his shoes tied together, while a collection of buttons on the left lets you swing punches, shoot people, and, when the time is right, steal cars.

A map in the top-left of the screen shows displays the places of interest. Some are story missions, others are side-shows designed to pad out the game and introduce you to the different mechanics.

Kick, punch

More often than not, missions are about violence. You'll punch people, kick people, shoot people, and all because you owe a vague debt of loyalty to an alcoholic woman portrayed as unsympathetically as possible.

While Gangster Vegas has tried to shed the nonsensically gritty overtones of its predecessor, it's failed miserably to strike a balance between chaos and empathy, hindered at every turn by a control system that flaps about uselessly when you need it to be strong and reliable.

Fights are little more than button-mashing competitions, with no 'block' button or dodge available. Firefights are simple shooting galleries that lurch from one location to the next. At least a simple tap-to-aim system keeps things quick.

You'll inadvertently leap off the edge of bridges you're trying to sprint over, or drive unwieldy cars into tight corners and spend minutes trying to coax them out. And not once will you smile at the meaningless, hollow destruction you've wrought on a city that seems more than capable of regenerating itself.

Old hat

Where its inspirations - the likes of GTA Vice City - are filled with exciting set pieces, interesting characters, and fun gewgaws, Gangstar Vegas is a sloppy, empty experience full of hollow-eyed caricatures.

The content here might be more plentiful, and there might be a few new ideas too - like the ability to skip the open-world sections and jump straight into the missions - but it's a false promise.

Sure, you can buy up new properties in Gangstar Vegas and earn money from them, as well as using them as fast-travel points, but this means very little when the missions and areas you're fast-travelling to lack the spark, wit, and variety necessary to keep an ageing template like this relevant.

Sin City

If shooting and mayhem are your cup of tea then you might find Gangstar Vegas an interesting if mindless diversion. But even at its craziest it feels too safe and small, happy to wallow in the squalor of violence rather than revel in the spectacle of chaos.

Gangstar Vegas wants to be the neon lights of the strip, all noise, cash, and bravado - the American dream in clenched fists and gleaming guns. Instead, it's more like a particularly raucous night out in Blackpool. On a Wednesday.

Note: For some reason, this review initially claimed that the protagonist of Gangstar Vegas is called Chris. We've corrected the error.